September 11, 2000
Willows Lodge guests to experience the refined elegance of the Northwest
by Deborah Stone
Willows Lodge, an 88-room Northwest style boutique hotel, opened in Woodinville Sept. 12.
his elegant hotel, located on five landscaped acres bordering the Sammamish River, in the heart of the town's wineries, features a 2,000 square foot spa, garden courtyards, a fitness center, herb garden and 3,300 square feet of meeting space.
The Lodge will also be home to The Barking Frog, a casual bistro featuring fresh Northwest cuisine from the land and the sea, and the Herbfarm (to be open after the first of the year), well known for its distinctly prepared meals using seasonal Northwest ingredients.
The property has taken fourteen months to build by developers Philip Sherburne and Tony Puma and is operated by MTM Management, L.L.C. with General Manager James S.W. Simkins, a partner in the development.
Simkins came to the project after a long, successful career in project management and operations with Westin Hotels and Resorts.
"It has been a reasonably smooth construction process this past year," comments Simkins. "There have been some problems, for example with the site, which was difficult to work with, and we have had a labor shortage, too, but the weather has been kind and everything is now coming together well, especially the style of the lodge. The community has been very supportive and that has been incredibly helpful. We see ourselves as part of Woodinville and we want to be active with the local community."
Willows Lodge is the first hotel in Woodinville and according to Simkins, it will be marketed as a destination, not as a property.
He says, "Woodinville is a great destination that has so much to offer visitors. There are the wineries, the Brewery, the Sammamish River Trail, golfing, specialty stores, horseback riding, festivals, etc. What the city needed was a hotel. That was the element lacking here. We will be pushing Woodinville and its offerings, to the traveler looking for the ideal romantic weekend getaway, to businesses looking for a place to hold conferences and to the corporate traveler. I see Willows as being almost two different hotels. During the week, it will be filled with groups of business people and the independent business traveler, as it's so close to the 'Silicon Forest' and within this hi-tech corridor. On the weekend, it will be an in-city resort and used for the ultimate leisure experience." Simkins hopes that the community will use Willows to hold weddings, parties and other social gatherings, as it is the perfect spot for special events. The spa and the on-site restaurant, The Barking Frog, are open to the public seven days a week. With both the Herbfarm and The Barking Frog operating on the same site, competition might be an issue, but according to Simkins, the opposite is true.
He explains, "The two will be such different places and I see them feeding off each other, not competing against each other. The Herbfarm is a total experience in which people have to book very far in advance, but The Barking Frog is a much more casual dining experience at a lower price scale."
Throughout the hotel, much use is made of Northwest elements, including reclaimed timber and Native American artwork.
The landscaping will eventually be a series of dips and valleys with various stone sculptures and fountains for clientele to discover as they stroll the grounds.
At the entrance to the property, there is a large cedar snag, symbolic of the old world, and the main lobby boasts a massive ceiling high stone fireplace, inviting visitors to relax, get comfortable and cozy up to on those gray Northwest days.
The guestrooms average 500 square feet and feature brick fireplaces, oversized soaking tubs with separate shower, personal bars, French Press coffee, laptop sized safes, DVD and CD players, 27" stereo TV's, complimentary high-speed Internet access, slate desks (from recycled slate pool tables), old Douglas Fir coffee tables and balconies or patios.
Each has high ceilings and let in much light to compliment the soothing color scheme of Oriental green and natural wood.
At the end of the day, guests climb into quality overstuffed beds with lambswool pads, Frette Italian linens, soft goose down pillows and European style duvets.
"The bedding is magical and one needs to experience it to believe it," comments Simkins.
The rooms are suited for the ultimate in relaxation, but also offer an ideal setting to do work, without distractions. At the spa and health club, staff is on hand to provide further pampering through a variety of body treatments.
Room rates start at $220 per night and include a full European continental breakfast.
The hotel's Fireside Lounge will offer light lobby dining, cocktails and weekly wine tasting showcasing Washington wines.
Simkins predicts that Willows Lodge will be a definite success within the next two years.
He says, "It has the potential for being at the top end of hotels in Washington because of its unique elements and service concepts. I believe that people will spend money for the experience that we offer. It won't be just another hotel night. We will have exceptional levels of service to match this magical property. Our goal is have people leave here totally satisfied and very happy."