A variety of quartz surfacing colors and patterns were weaved into the design of the new Omni Viking Lakes hotel in Eagan, MN, to create a fresh, inviting Scandinavian-themed resort
Omni Viking Lakes is a 300+ key hotel set in a mixed-use development in Eagan, MN, which includes the headquarters and practice facility of Minnesota’s NFL team, a sports medicine center, corporate training locations, running trails and a lake. Minnesota Ventures and ESG Architecture and Design partnered with Cambria to bring an American Nordic theme to life in this invigorating indoor-outdoor space.
The challenge was to create a locally inspired personality while meeting the distinctive requirements of each space and the demanding operational needs of a four-star hotel. By creating layers, variation, contrasts and nuance, the designers created fresh experiences within the strong theme. Durable quartz delivered a highly practical solution. The design team successfully infused the American Nordic theme throughout the property -- from the entrance to the shower surrounds. Cambria delivered innovative, varied and practical solutions on time and on schedule.
“The Omni Viking Lakes Hotel was envisioned as “an American Nordic-themed hotel,” according to Donald Becker, executive vice president of Minnesota Ventures. “We wanted it to be about the culture of Minnesota.”
Bridget Hale, senior interior designer with ESG Architecture and Design, elaborated, “There’s something very resilient about people from this part of the country. We wanted to embody that relentless spirit in materials that stood the test of time.”
With a thematic approach, the challenge was to keep it fresh and subtle while meeting the operational demands of a venue with multiple spaces. In addition to over 300 guest rooms, the hotel encompasses a huge events center, multiple meeting rooms and gathering places, a full-service spa, bars and restaurants. Ann Fritz, ESG director of interiors, noted that each of these distinct spaces “must be rooted in the same story.”
“For hospitality, the materials need to be beautiful and fit the design brief, but they also need to be durable,” Hale said. “They need to hold up to the wear and tear of multiple people experiencing them. We need surfaces that can take that level of wear and tear and still look really sleek and polished.”
The American Nordic theme infuses every aspect of the property, which also includes a lake, sports medicine facilities and the practice facility for Minnesota’s NFL team. The theme begins with the angular Scandinavian architecture and continues through the hotel’s unique relationship to the outside. The hotel celebrates all four seasons, including winter, by facilitating indoor-outdoor experiences. It opens onto skating ponds and running trails.
Interior spaces carry forward the same thinking. An expanded workout area further emphasizes ruggedness and resilience. Reimagined concierge lounges ring the edge of the hotel; the flames from their two-story fireplaces stand as beacons in the night. The theme even applies to details such as hallways and carpeting, which suggest a walk through a trail in the woods.
The materials boldly embody the theme. “I think when we talk about Nordic design, there are some key materials that we wanted to use through a hospitality lens,” Hale said. “And that means using materials that convey strength and resiliency, including forged metals or rough-hewn woods, and then stone and quartz slabs, that large-scale veining that conveys that fractured ice kind of Nordic landscape design that we were going for.”
The ESG team worked with the Cambria team to accentuate the American Nordic look and feel -- mixing matte and gloss textures, varying install patterns and heightening edge details. The distinctive materials make the most spectacular impression in the entrance.
“The entrance sequence is the most important aspect of the guest experience,” Hale said. “And the centerpiece of that is really the custom concierge and reception desk. That was designed to look like a grouping of boulders that represents a cairn. They’re found all along Minnesota’s North Shore as trail markers, or kind of the beginning of a trail. That was a great metaphor for the front desk.”
The lobby island and the reception desk feature Durham Matte. It was just one of 20 designs used throughout the property. “Every location where we decided to put Cambria, it needs to speak to the design of that area,” said Becker. “Fortunately, we could draw on different Cambria designs.”
If the entrance makes a first impression, guest rooms make a lasting one. To exemplify the American Nordic design, Hale created a light, airy, residential feeling. “We want people to feel comfortable like they’re at home,” she said. “But these spaces do need to perform for a hospitality environment.” Cambria’s expansive palette facilitated the design of the rooms because each base design is supplemented by a family of patterns. So it’s possible to install a veined design in the shower, a quiet design in the vanity and a simple design in the luggage drop.
Cambria was able to complement the Northern Lights theme which ESG applied to the guest suites. The theme included purple noir, blue noir and white noir patterns in different types of suites. “The key is layers and nuance, so it’s not overly themed,” said Fritz.
Attention to detail helped to create unforgettable spaces worthy of the most deluxe suite in a four-star hotel. “The showpiece in our purple noir suite is the Brittanicca Gold fireplace surround,” Hale said. “Not only is it using a mitered edge, but it also bevels. So it’s really sculptural. We also carry that into the suite bath, and that is using a bookmatch that aligns the veins, and it really adds a beautiful backdrop to the freestanding tub.”
The challenge with hotels is that they require aspirational design that is highly durable and easily cleaned. Cambria was able to provide materials that met these unforgiving criteria, in both private and public spaces.
The design team quickly chose Cambria for the bathroom vanities in every guest room, because they would be experiencing wear and tear. While luggage drops are often wood, they frequently don’t wear well over time. Natural quartz luggage drops proved to be durable, as well as stylish. The process for specifying the showers was less immediate. Becker told the story of how that happened. “Because we were building a 300-key hotel, we built a mock guest room first. We put everything in, the carpet, the floors, the bathroom, everything exactly. We even had a working HVAC system so we could listen to the air handler unit to make sure it wasn’t too noisy. Cambria walked in one day and said, ‘The grout in that tile over time is going to build and mold gets in. It’s going to be hard to clean. The best way to do this is if we could design a surround, a Cambria product to surround the shower on the three walls and it’s seamless and doesn’t have the grout in it.’
“So Cambria went back and figured out how to design the slabs, cut the slabs and make them so they fit beautifully,” Becker went on to say. “The Omni team then ripped out all the tile out of the mock-up room. We put the Cambria surround in, and when I walked in and could see the quality, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really stunning.’ And it didn’t have the same grout; it didn’t have the same long-term operational maintenance issues.”
The public spaces
While the guest rooms played subtle variations on a theme, the public spaces made more distinct statements. One of the most important was Kyndred Hearth, the main restaurant, a space that embodies the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced “hooga”), a coziness shared with friends which makes the winter pleasant.
“Kyndred Hearth is really about warmth and community,” Hale said. “That comes not only through the warm wood tones and the amber lighting, but the showpiece of that
space is the wood-fired pizza oven. Visitors really get a front-row seat to that culinary experience, being able to be in that deconstructed display kitchen and see the cooking happening right in front of them.” To emphasize the natural raw materials, ESG chose a matte finish on the surfaces. They also knew the surface would hold up to food prep and heat.
The Idlewild Spa expressed a very different aspect of the American Nordic theme. It is “one of the most organic spaces in the property,” Hale said, “It’s so different than everywhere else that has a lot of this fractured ice design. It’s much softer, much more organic with curved flowing walls that almost tie back to, kind of, the tributaries of a river. And so everything has a little bit softer edge, a little bit lighter finish, but with that, we need to make sure that these materials stand up to staining and perform well. That includes the oils and serums that are used in the treatment rooms.”
In projects of this magnitude, the partnership is as important as the product. The partnership with Cambria began at the design stage. “It helped that we had long-standing relationships with our sales reps,” Fritz said. “It helped having someone that we could ask questions of, who could help with mock-ups, and who we could get samples from quickly.”
The ESG team joined Summer Kath, Cambria’s executive vice president of business development, in the Cambria design studio. “We were really able to push boundaries, especially on scale and color and getting some things that felt a little more earthy and a little less manufactured,” said Hale. “We focused on a lot of larger veining patterns, doing more of a matte with a leathery earthy finish. We had a lot of fun butterflying some of those.”
According to Becker, the installation process was equally seamless. “They took care of the overhaul of the design to fabrication, which we didn’t have to oversee and go out to the plant and say, ‘How are you doing? Are things getting done right?’ We knew they were taking care of it. We knew they’d have it installed on time.”
The Omni Viking Lakes team set ambitious goals for itself: a 300+ key hotel which delivered a four-star experience in an American Nordic–themed setting. The strategy of boldly using natural and native materials was carried through from the entrance to the many meeting rooms and gathering spaces, as well as restaurants, bars and a spa. The American Nordic theme further infused the guest rooms and defined the luxury suites. The natural quartz surfaces looked striking -- and will continue to look striking long after other materials are in landfills. The use of a wide variety of Cambria surfaces helped create variations within the American Nordic theme in both public and private spaces. “Working with the Cambria design team and our ESG design team, they figured out what Cambria product would fit each room,” said Becker. “Everyone is different and the product, the countertops, the bar areas, the serving areas, the food and beverage areas all have a different look and they’re stunning.”
Omni Viking Lakes Hotel
Hospitality Group: Omni Hotels and Resorts
Interior Design Firm: ESG Architecture and Design, Minneapolis, MN
Quartz Manufacturer: Cambria, Le Sueur, MN