Tulalip Resort: Vegas glitz, native style | Five years in the making

A seating area in the resort features an elevated fireplace. - Lori Matzke Ehrig/Mercer Island Reporter
A seating area in the resort features an elevated fireplace.
— image credit: Lori Matzke Ehrig/Mercer Island Reporter

It has been a five-year journey, but last August the Tulalip Resort and Spa finally opened its doors. Just a 50-minute drive from Mercer Island, the destination is practically in our own backyard and features a world-class spa, pool, meeting rooms, ballrooms, six restaurants and 370 guest rooms. The resort and casino are a balance of Las Vegas style glitz with Northwest natural elements evocative of earth, wind, fire and water.

At first glance, you might not think that the new Tulalip Resort and Spa has much in common with Mercer Island. That is, until you discover that Interior Design International, Inc., the award-winning firm owned by Island resident Shirley LaFollette, did the work. Her son, Randy LaFollette, is the director of marketing and a 1980 Mercer Island High School graduate. Two other MIHS alumni also worked on the project: Sean Hatch, the purchasing agent, and Bill Kent, of Mortenson Construction, from the classes of 1980 and 1982, respectively. Steve Bosetti, of Ruhl-Parr Associates, one of the project’s architects, happens to live on Mercer Island; as does Troy Longwith, the resort’s director of sales. Brett Magnin, another ’80s MIHS graduate, is Tulalip Resort Casino’s executive vice president.

While it may be close, upon entering the new resort, you get the feeling that you are somewhere far away. Greeting you inside are three 25-foot-tall house posts, or totem poles. Each house post is intricately carved by Tulalip artists and all three came from a single fallen 989-year-old cedar tree.

Just around the corner is the indoor Oasis Pool that opens to a beautifully landscaped patio during warm weather months. This area is designed not only for recreation but cocktail parties, fashion shows and weddings. The pool itself is tucked up against a dramatic 25-foot rock wall with a cascading waterfall adjacent to an open Cinderella staircase, perfectly situated to stage stunning bridal entrances. Covering the entire pool area is a pyramid skylight that allows sun to flow in during the day and evening views at night.

A cornerstone of the new resort is the T Spa. The concept was developed by IDI, Inc., under the guidance of one of North America’s leading spa designers to create a destination retreat in its own right. The reception desk is illuminated river rock set in resin and framed in wenge wood veneers. Interior spa spaces intentionally flow like a river with curved walls, birch branches and stones leading to 16 treatment rooms which include five massage rooms, five facial rooms, three doubles massage rooms, two hydrotherapy and one mud massage room. The spa also offers manicure, pedicure, make-up and styling services.

Corridors with vibrant carpet in Tulalip Tribe signature colors of red, black and white are lit with carved sconces that illuminate woven gold walls and rich red door insets that define the entrance to the spacious guest rooms.

The smallest is a generous 500 square feet and offers queen-sized beds, complimentary Wi-Fi and local South Coast Salish artwork. Elegant bathrooms are adorned with Italian tile, granite countertops and have showers with adjustable body sprays. Each is separated from the sleeping area by a sliding Ecoresin translucent screen door inset with Northwest bear grasses and bright splashes of recycled glass chips. Their 18 Orca suites are 800 square feet and feature in-room stereos, jetted tubs, flat-panel televisions and fireplaces, enhanced by a natural and native atmosphere.

One of the most spectacular features of the hotel are the five themed penthouses. The Pan-Asian and Grand Asian suites combine eastern hues of gold, red and black with Northwest earth tones, rich fabrics and shoji screens.

The Tulalip suite is done in the tribe’s native color palette and stretches out 2,500 square feet with an ebony baby grand piano, champagne chilling sink, a large dining area that can easily accommodate 10 or more, a living room with a double-sided fireplace, and views of the cascades. Double doors lead to the master bedroom with a natural stone fireplace and spa-like bathroom with a hydrotherapy tub for two, shower with dual rain heads and six body sprays. White vessel sinks sit atop the counter opposite the red-flecked glass vanity.

Postmodern design is the theme for the Tech Suite with its brushed aluminum panels surrounding the fireplace and concealing the latest in electronics for the 70-inch LCD flatscreen TV. Bright lime green cubes serve as a coffee table next to an orange lounge chair that doubles as a sculpture when turned on its side. The king-sized bed is dressed in chartreuse and electric blue, and around the corner a neon yellow glass sink hangs in the bathroom. Contemporary design merges with technology in this one-of-a-kind space.

The Players Suite is the ultimate bachelor pad with its own pool table, video golfing game, dartboard and sports-themed memorabilia throughout. (Rumor has it that Randy LaFollette had to surrender some of his own collected baseball cards for one of the framed displays.) Overall, the suite boasts five flatscreen TVs, two of which are in the bathroom and visible from the whirlpool tub or bright green mosaic tiled shower.

The Tulalip Resort and Casino was a spectacular project for Interior Design International, Inc., but the firm is no stranger to high profile work. Past projects include a Carnival Cruise Lines Casino, Snoqualmie Lodge, Legend City resort condos in China, Makkah Trident Hotel in Saudi Arabia, and the Trump Princess and Trump’s Harbor Casino Resort (for you know who). This most recent one gave them the opportunity to create their artistry locally.

Not only is it close, but the new resort offers something for everybody, whether you are a high roller, spa enthusiast, or are just looking for a quick getaway. At room rates starting from $135 mid-week, it is an affordable one, too.

Lori Matzke Ehrig can be reached at (206) 271-5550 or

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