August 13, 2001
Woodmark Hotel - a jewel of a property
by Deborah Stone
Nestled on the shores of Lake Washington, with sweeping views of the city skyline and the Olympic Mountains, lies a well-kept secret - The Woodmark Hotel.
Many area residents are unaware of the hidden charms of this special treasure, whereas others nod knowingly when they hear its name. In its 12th year at Carillon Point in Kirkland, The Woodmark has quietly been building up a reputation for quality and distinction among upscale properties in the state.
Recently it was one of four hotels in Washington to receive the Four-Star Award from the 2001 Mobil Travel Guide.
Selection was based on the hotel's overall service, décor, setting and ambiance, and it was given an "outstanding - worth a special trip" recognition from the travel guide.
"We were very pleased to have our hotel recognized with such distinction," says Tom Waithe, general manager of The Woodmark Hotel. "Being one of only four hotels in Washington awarded four stars defines the commitment of service and quality we provide for each guest."
The Woodmark is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, among a collection of 102 independent luxury properties throughout the world and is run by MTM Management (who also operates Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, the Resort Semiahmoo in Blaine and Freestone Inn in Mazama). It is the only hotel on Lake Washington, set on a prime piece of property in a 31-acre waterfront community.
Surrounded by specialty shops, restaurants and a marina, along with the hotel's own spa, full-service restaurant (Waters a lakeside bistro) lounge and numerous meeting/banquet rooms, The Woodmark strives to satisfy the needs of both its corporate and leisure guests with a wide range of available services.
"Our philosophy is to try and make our guests' experience positive and special," comments Waithe. "We're constantly asking ourselves how we can make their visit better. The staff has a relaxed and friendly manner that goes along with the setting for this property.
"There's a Monterrey, California feeling here and the staff picks up on this and sets the tone for the hotel. The reason The Woodmark is so special is because when you're here, you have this feeling of being somewhere else."
Beginning with the lobby, one immediately gets the impression that comfort is the main goal of this property. Decorated in warm, soothing tones, with a hearth and several cozy chairs, the lobby welcomes travelers with the charm of a private home.
A grand circular staircase with large, sweeping windows overlooking Lake Washington, leads down to an intimate fireside library bar that serves up afternoon tea, espresso, light fare and cocktails.
The place has an Old World club feel to it and begs to be used, whether as a spot for quiet conversation or as a nook to curl up in and read a good book.
Further down the hallway, facing the waterfront, is Waters, the hotel's bistro, serving its Northwest signature specialties such as peppercorn salmon, pan seared sea bass, Thai steamed clams and mussels and Dungeness crab cakes (a recent meal here earned high marks from this writer!).
Waters serves breakfast and lunch daily and dinner, Monday through Saturday evenings.
"I think this is our best kept secret," says Waithe, "but we really want to spread the word to the local community and encourage people to come in and try a meal here. It's not your run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant.
"The menu offers something for everyone and the food is excellent, plus who could want a better view? Our problem has been in getting the word out and the fact that the restaurant is in the hotel and people have to walk through it to get here has been an obstacle. Once they find us though, they are delighted and usually become repeat customers."
Another touch-of-home feature at The Woodmark is its unique "raid the pantry" option to late night guests who have the munchies.
Complimentary plates of desserts, fruits, cheese and complimentary sandwich fixings, along with juices and milk, are set out from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Waters bistro theatre kitchen.
According to Waithe, this amenity is popular with guests, allowing spontaneity and informality in a hotel setting. He comments,
"Many guests enjoy the camaraderie and conversations of other late night snackers and savor their food fare by pulling up a chair in the dining room. Other guests prefer to enjoy a late night snack in the comfort of their room."
Getting pampered is easy at The Woodmark with its elegant full-service spa, offering a wide array of services guaranteed to relax and turn even the most stressed individuals into putty (just the idea of a "Bliss Massage" - two therapists working in complete synchronicity on my body - had this writer salivating!).
The 100 rooms at The Woodmark are also tastefully decorated and emphasize personal comfort, complete with many personal care amenities for both the corporate and leisure traveler.
There are 21 suites ‹ each characterized by a distinctive residential style, making them cozy enough to be intimate, yet roomy enough to host a small group. During the week, corporate clients mostly occupy the rooms, but on the weekend, the hotel switches hats and becomes a getaway destination for leisure travelers.
"We do over 100 weddings per year," explains Waithe and serve as a place for special occasions of all kinds, including anniversaries, family reunions, retreats, birthdays, etc. It gets quite busy here, especially in the summer. We have a tent outdoors for weddings, as well as for meetings and it is constantly in use. We also have a banquet room that is perfect for receptions."
With the opening of one of its sister properties, Willows Lodge, in Woodinville, as well as the proposed Ritz Carlton at Palladium Center in Bellevue, The Woodmark faces some competition on the Eastside. Plans are for the hotel to undergo a renovation, beginning this fall, to give the hotel a new facelift.
The hotel was last renovated about five years ago, but according to Waithe, upscale accommodations usually get a new look every five to seven years.
He says, "We're looking at a $1.5 million dollar redo of the guest rooms, as well as the public spaces. We're giving the place an even more soft and easy luxury feel to it, using soft greens and velvets, framing the windows to get better views and replacing furnishings. It's going to have a British East India feel mixed with Asian influences. It's going to be fabulous! We're going to take everything up a notch."
The Woodmark consistently gets high marks from its guests who laud it for its personal, intimate touches, good service and restful atmosphere.
"We get lots of repeat customers," adds Waithe, "and we want to keep it that way, but we also want to attract new faces. We think we have something special at The Woodmark and we want to share it with others."