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What a Hotel Giant's Home Looks Like

Inside Marriott's Bethesda HQ complex on Fernwood Road, the hotel giant is buying into the paradigm shift in innovative office space. (Open office. Great. Open hotel room? Less great.)

We toured the almost 1M SF property last week, and snapped the firm's Jim Young, Daniella Mizrahi, and Karim Khalifa. Jim (who's speaking at our Creative Office Revolution event on March 31) is VP of facilities, services, and real estate, and tells us the firm is all in on making the Fernwood Road property as open as possible, to encourage collaboration among the complex's 3,000 employees. "Innovation doesn't happen when you're all by yourself," says Jim; Marriott isn't just ditching rows of cubes and getting greener with operations, but is also using tools like space booking app LiquidSpace.

Changing things up also included a massive re-do of the property's 13k SF cafeteria, snapped here. There's collaborative space in there, too. The inevitable result of meetings in the cafeteria will be five-star hotel restaurants adding Pizza Fridays. New custom-order food options will be provided by Gaithersburg's own Sodexo. Jim says team meetings, events, and social gatherings all take place down here, and eventually, 200 seats will be placed outside, in accordance with CEO Arne Sorenson's love of the outdoors. The idea is to create more "collisions," or random but productive encounters between employees.

In the test room in one of the property's two huge basements, Jim shows us new wallpaper for Marriott's Courtyard brand. All of the firm's brands have test rooms here with the most up-to-date designs, for franchisees and investors to check out while they're in towns—several were perusing them while we were on site. Courtyard, for example, is going for a "city look" with newer rooms, he says.

Every nook and cranny of a Marriott-branded room is worked out down here, from carpets to showers to light fixtures.

Inspiration is everywhere in the Marriott basements. Quotes line the walls and even elevators to fire up designers and other employees. (We saw a reassuring quote on an elevator yesterday: "Inspected March 2014.") You'll hear from Jim, LiquidSpace founder Mark Gilbreath, Vornado/Charles E. Smith prez Mitchell Schear, and more at our event in Crystal City on the 31. More info.