First look: How the Pacific Northwest inspired the W Bellevue

Marriott International’s ultra-hip W Hotels brand has opened its newest property in a suburb of Seattle on the shores of Lake Washington. Designed by Mary Alice Palmer, HKS' associate principal and design director of hospitality interiors, and HKS architect Tom Sprinkle to reflect the area’s lakeside culture with cabin-like architecture and traditional décor, the W Bellevue is the brand’s first new-build in seven years.

In a webinar before the official opening, Greg Stobbs, senior director, global design strategies at W Hotels Worldwide, said that the hotel had “no single theme” in terms of design, but instead used “multilayered storytelling” for its narrative. “The ideas of shape and form sit well with the idea of Bellevue,” Stobbs said.

Public Spaces

The hotel’s entryway, meant to evoke a “deconstructed” Native American longhouse, is dominated by a reclaimed wood staircase surrounded by colorful street art from international artist Gaia. Stobbs said Gaia’s work celebrates both the region’s technology reputation and its natural landscape. Additional original artwork from artists Lady Aiko and Zio Ziegler are also on display throughout the property.

The hotel’s Living Room (the brand’s take on the hotel lobby) is meant to evoke a log cabin with A-frame beams that line the ceiling. Mirrors contour the interior edges of the room, creating the illusion of open ceilings that connect with the open-air porch area (and adding a modern feel so guests can always be on view). Deep sofas and lounge chairs, modeled after ’70s vintage furniture that one would find in a lake house, are mixed with rustic plaid throws and plush pillows.

The “Welcome Pods”—the hotel’s check-in desks—reflect traditional Northwestern totem poles, divided into three pieces.

Just steps off the Living Room, The Porch is an open-air lounge that evokes a traditional lakehouse. The Library is a quieter spot where guests can relax with books (none of them serious) or play board games. The wall artwork in the library depicts two local owls chatting. “We’re never losing our sense of humor,” Stobbs said of the room’s design.

The 4,400-square-foot Great Room has deconstructed docks that float just below the ceiling. The carpet has layers of tribal tattoos with archetypal house shapes referencing the native cultures of the Pacific Northwest overlaid on a stylized lake background. Both Strategy rooms and six Studios (both of which are meeting rooms) continue the theme of lakeside living with window-like mirrors and dock light sconces.

Room by Room

The 220 guestrooms at the W Bellevue have design elements like side-table lights that mimic traditional dock lamps and inflatable tufted headboards, a nod to historic dockside décor. The beds themselves have pillowcases painted with pulp poetry reminiscent of a summer escapist novel.

Created to be as open as possible, Stobbs said that the guestrooms were designed with social media and “Instagrammable moments” in mind. A glass-enclosed shower divides the room into two zones—wet and dry—and the wardobes do not have doors so that guests can show off their purchases, aided by a trifold mirror. “It’s a cue taken from a boutique fitting room,” Stobbs said. “It gives us a well-rounded suite that belongs to both the area and the brand,” he said. The carpets in the rooms were designed with tattoos (“it harkens back to grunge,” Stobbs said) and with fake “wine” stains to reference the region’s growing vineyards.

The hotel’s 25 suites are decorated with a “forest” on the wall and have picnic tables for socializing. There was a good reason for this feature, Stobbs explained. “The W suites are rented more for events than for sleeping, so we wanted lots of social spaces,” he said. Playful elements like a foosball table offer a “foil” to a long day, and framed photos—sourced from people who worked on the hotel, including the construction teams—line the walls. “It’s like a summer holiday, so we have corny photos from the family vacation,” Stobbs said.

The 2,300-square-foot, two-bedroom Extreme WOW Suite (the brand’s version of a traditional Presidential suite) has top views of Lake Washington. One of the suite’s two king beds is suspended from the ceiling, and hanging porches let guests “ feel as if they’re floating over Bellevue.”

Wining & Dining

The hotel’s main restaurant, The Lakehouse, has a Northwest farmhouse vibe, with a dining room described as “wild primitive,” a private dining room ("wild modern") and chef’s counter seating. Details include a counter-height bar, porcelain antler sconces, a column of living greenery, trestles and interspersed charred wood, inspired by Bellevue’s past Japanese farmers who preserved wood in the authentic shou sugi ban method.

Civility & Unrest, meanwhile, is a modern speakeasy-inspired lounge with plenty of plush seating to evoke the Prohibition era and a hidden space off the side.