Tucked into the rolling foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains lies a place of escape: Fairfield Farm & Manor House. On a clear summer morning, beyond the manor’s red-brick exterior and white front porch, wisps of mist rise from grassy hills — the stillness only broken by the sounds of a creek and the chirping of birds.
It’s a place that makes you want to breathe in a little deeper, relax and leave city life behind.
It was the farm’s restorative, comforting nature and the simplicity it offered that inspired J.W. and Alice Marriott to purchase the property in 1951 as an escape from the rigors of their day-to-day life, a place to unwind together, as a family.
Yet the Marriotts were far from the first to turn the manor from house into home. The farm has existed for centuries and claims a rich history — it was originally owned by the King of England. Under the Marriott family’s ownership, the space has hosted friends, relatives and even business associates and dignitaries.
Decades after they bought it, Fairfield Farm & Manor House would inspire the family to develop the Fairfield by Marriott brand, marked by the Marriott’s unique take on hospitality.
Today, more than 30 years have passed since the first Fairfield by Marriott hotel opened in Atlanta in 1987, and as the brand continues to welcome guests to more than 950 hotels around the globe, it celebrates its roots — warmth, family and simplicity of life at Fairfield Farm.
To bring Fairfield back to its roots, the brand geared up to create a new decor package, one that honors the simplicity of life at the far.
“I always say that brands that have a strong heritage are easier to work on,” said Vice President of Global Design for Marriott International, Lionel Sussman. “You don’t have to make up a story. The story is already there. And because it’s a brand that has such a rich story, we wanted to take that seriously and really bring back that heritage in a modern way.”
Inspiration for the new design stemmed — not surprisingly — from Fairfield Farm and the surrounding nature of the Virginia foothills. Here, the design team honed a new aesthetic that felt as comfortable and inviting as the farm but with a modern spin.
“Early on, one of the things that we established was that we wanted to use artwork that tied to the farm. When we visited the farm for inspiration, we took it a step further and decided that the photography for the hotels would be taken on the farm itself,” explained Sussman.
The farm’s lush scenery, like the surrounding forests, is incorporated into the design through contemporary touches like a soothing, natural color palette and furnishings and decor that incorporate natural materials, like wood.
Images of the farm’s seren atmosphere are on display on guest room window treatments and in common spaces, such as the breakfast area. To capture the farm’s calming energy while avoiding cliches, Sussman hired a photographer to shoot in a way that made the farm elements more abstract and less literal. “It made it feel like the art had its own point of view.”
Keep an eye out for photographs that reflect autumn leaves and other glimpses of the natural world surrounding the farm. In other shots, barns are overshadowed by backlit wildflowers, and instead of frames, everything is printed on wood, with the grain of the material showing through on the image.
“We always said that we wanted to take the heritage of the brand and distill it to a point where we could use that inspiration but in a way that allowed the brand to go into all sorts of markets and locations,” said Sussman.