In April 2022, the storied Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington—first opened nearly a century ago in 1924 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979—completed the final chapter of its grand restoration.
Designers from around the world worked together to infuse modern aesthetics with existing historic elements, creating an elegant, community-centric experience.
Elements of the original wood, steel, and metals reflect the hotel’s history and a graceful new era of its design. The soaring art installation, hand-crafted by designers in Spain, was inspired by the original ship logo and interprets Seattle’s nautical foundations and maritime history.
Throughout the process, the teams focused on reviving and reusing materials throughout the hotel versus removing everything that existed and starting from scratch.
The forty-year-old pinkish marble seen throughout was salvaged, restored, and carefully relocated into the rebuilt concierge desk and the redesigned perimeters of the lobby.
The original terrazzo and marble flooring were unexpectedly uncovered on multiple staircases and landings. Originally hand-laid by Italian artisans in 1924, this stunning material was hidden by carpeting for over half a century. With the help of a specialist, the flooring was repaired, refinished, and completed with an anti-slip finish using innovative technologies.
As crowning statements of elegance, grace, and glamour, it was critical the hotel’s historic 300-pound Georgian chandeliers were retained. Each one was carefully dismantled, removing, labeling, and wrapping every individual crystal. Following a complete restoration, the chandeliers were meticulously reassembled to their original brilliance.
The team also implemented a design with elevated yet integrated accessibility. This was a challenging feat: Fairmont Olympic Hotel is a complex labyrinth comprising multiple floors and mezzanine levels, which at the onset of the project were not easily accessible. Employing creative solutions, the team designed all-new ADA lifts and ramps meticulously crafted to complement new and historical features, providing seamless accessibility without adding negative sightlines.
The original 1920's wrought iron handrails, which were below code height, needed to meet current building code standards. Typically, the rails would be removed and replaced with new materials for speed of installation and simplicity. However, these historically significant elements would be impossible to replicate in the modern era.
To overcome this challenge, the team worked with subcontractors to create custom metal extensions so the rails would meet code height but still retain their original pickets and wood caps. This approach was 75% less expensive than replacing the rails and allowed the hotel to retain a critical historical feature.
“From the moment you walk in, you will feel it. New narratives. New emotions. A new era,” explains Sunny Joseph, Fairmont Olympic General Manager. “The Olympic’s stunning transformation is a tribute to the timelessness of this hotel – a living expression of the past, present, and future of Seattle. It sets the stage for a social experience that will bring forth deeper connections with our guests, our community, and this great city as we forge a new future together.”