HUME, VA—Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where inspiration—much like family—is found and nurtured. Here at the Marriott family’s country retreat, affectionately called Fairfield Farm, the Fairfield by Marriott brand was born.
The verdant landscape of rolling foothills and shady old trees in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains was enticing to founder J. Willard Marriott Sr. as it reminded him of his childhood in Utah. In 1951, he purchased the property and, over time, continued to buy more land, accumulating some 4,200 acres. It served as a respite from the busy life of a hotelier.
Today, the brand marks a significant milestone—its 30th anniversary. The Inn at Fairfield Farm at the Marriott Ranch is now a bed and breakfast—the only one of its kind in the Marriott portfolio—and mainly hosts small corporate retreats, weddings and other large groups, offering a three-course breakfast and Wild West-style activities.
Hotel Business was invited by Marriott to see where it all began—to see where the Fairfield by Marriott brand’s inspiration was born. Sitting at a farm table with a handful of journalists, social media influencers and Marriott executives, it was elbow meets elbow and there was lively chatter over down-home cooking that sticks to your ribs as well as a genuine sense of togetherness. There was a lot of laughter and wine glasses raised to toast new acquaintances, as well as the heritage of this unique place.
It’s like you’re family when you’re at the farm, and that is exactly what the team at Marriott wanted to portray in the launch of its newest interior design prototype, which encompasses all areas including the lobby, dining area and guestrooms. It not only commemorates the 30-year legacy of Fairfield by Marriott, but also pushes forward the notion of chic, farmhouse style for the modern, everyday traveler.
Simple, warm and peaceful with a subtle nod to its country roots, the design evokes the farm through rugged elements like wood and stone. There are also softer textures, some inspired by the animals here in the form of horsehair-style pillows; a neutral color palette punctuated with an earthy rust red and grass green pulled from the landscape; and carpets with organic-shaped patterns to mimic the blue sky seen from any vantage point on the farm. And, a hearth helps to underscore that feeling of warmth and hospitality, serving as a gathering spot for friends and family alike.
Debbie Huguely, VP of design for select-service/extended-stay, Marriott International, served as the design principal. To draw inspiration, Huguely and her team descended on the family ranch a couple of years ago to take in the picturesque landscape, roaming cattle, mud-splattered Jeeps and the interiors of the Marriott family’s 200-year-old manor house.
“We started the design work at the end of 2015. Not only did we spend some time here, we did some trend spotting. What is so great is that we have such a strong heritage for this brand. We said, ‘Let’s tell a story about it,’ and so that’s what we’ve done,” said Huguely. “We also know our guest. This guest is a busy traveler and they’ve got a lot of productivity they need to focus on. So, what type of homey environment can we create? One of the things that the Marriott family always says about the farm is ‘It was our vacation house.’ When you think about that, it was a place to get away and de-stress, too. We asked ourselves, ‘Who are our consumers and what are they looking for in a stress-free type of environment?’ Having the heritage of the farm was perfect.”
For this project, the design team eschewed traditional hotel art for moments in nature illustrated through photography that was blown up on wood-backed panels that will appear in the public spaces and guestrooms of every Fairfield hotel.
“I am most proud of the photography, how we put it together and presented it in a unique way. That is photography that is truly ours; it’s from our heritage. It presents such a calming, beautiful and peaceful environment,” she said. “A lot of people talk about hotel art—whether it’s good or bad—and, in this case, it’s about how the art relates to us. This art, to me, really speaks to the brand and has a story.”
After 30 years, how fitting it is for the brand to return to its birthplace to recall the past in order to meld it with the future. The design will roll out property-wide in the coming months, with Boston among the first cities to receive the new treatment.
To learn more about Fairfield by Marriott’s new look, check out the Oct. 21 issue of Hotel Business magazine.