Washington, D.C. dwellers or passersby know that K Street is the place to be. But what does it take to succeed as a hotelier on such a successful and boisterous lane? We chatted with Katherine Lo, founder and president of Eaton Workshop, and Sheldon Scott, director of culture at Eaton DC to get the scoop on the latest hot spot for meetings and events.
Tell me about Eaton DC and the hotel’s unique vibe on K Street.
Scott: Eaton DC is Eaton Workshop’s flagship location and aims to be a hub for journalists, changemakers and activists who seek to change the world and make it a better place. The hotel and its public spaces were all designed to inspire conversation and spark ideas by creating a safe, communal space for communities to come together. With our design, Eaton DC utilizes environmentally friendly materials, both in the physical structure and in the guest amenities, and we’ve designed each guestroom to provide a natural, down-to-earth vibe with midcentury influence. K Street was formerly known for its exclusive, high-end club scene. Eaton DC’s social landscape is calibrated for a much more inclusive vibe, creating spaces for broader communities that historically had no social spaces on K Street.
How does the hotel compete with the mass market of hotels in the DC area?
Lo: There’s nothing like Eaton DC here in the area. With the strong support and positive response from the community, it’s clear that there is a strong desire for intellectual conversations touching on today’s most pressing issues in an environment that’s also fun and lively. Eaton DC is not only a hotel for travelers to rest and recharge, it is also home to a wellness center, radio station, cinema, private working space and delicious F&B offerings from Chef Tim Ma. From travelers passing through, to those who call D.C. home, people are engaging with our wide-ranging calendar of cultural programming, which elevates the traditional hotel experience into a collaborative and inspiring space for changemakers and creatives.
What does your position as director of culture entail?
Scott: As Eaton DC’s director of culture, I work with the team to curate meaningful experiences and create a connection between the hotel and the local community, while weaving social progress seamlessly into the brand experience. I help identify D.C.-based artists and changemakers and give them the opportunity to push their storytelling in ways that inspire change and allow them to express themselves and their narratives through permanent exhibitions and seasonal installations at Eaton DC. In addition to curating art, books, films and other programming, I also helped curate the founding members of Eaton House, the property’s private workspace and members-only club. We want Eaton House to be a space where socially conscious leaders and entrepreneurs spanning a variety of industries can connect, collaborate and form new relationships and bonds that can deepen their respective work.
How does Eaton DC cater to the professionals in the meetings and events industry?
Lo: When I first built out the design for the property, my vision was to create a fluid, communal space for thought leaders and innovators to brainstorm and create. Eaton DC offers the perfect venue for companies and teams who are looking to host their events and meetings in a unique and productive way. The hotel offers more than 15,000 square feet of meeting and event space, all outfitted with hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and customizable catering and banquet menus by Chef Tim Ma. In addition to our meeting rooms (Beverly Snow, Crystal, Barnett-Aden and the Salons), Eaton DC is also home to a cinema that seats 50 people for any film screenings or presentations.
What would surprise visitors to DC about the city’s culture?
Scott: DC’s vibrant and dynamic culture is both a long and strong one. Often times buried in the shadow of “Washington,” visitors to DC are surprised to find rich, emerging scenes of visual arts, theatre, dance, music and more.
Eaton says it wants to be a regenerative catalyst of positive impact. What does that mean/what do you do?
Lo: Every Eaton Workshop location is deeply rooted in the local community and provides local leaders, organizations, artists and activists a platform to make the world a better place. Beyond the eco-minded design and community-oriented offerings at each Eaton Workshop location, we’re creating a space where we can catalyze productive, positive change through conversation. At a time when this country is so divided, the need to preserve a place where meaningful change and conversations can take place is more important than ever. I hope that Eaton DC can play a small role in creating a more just world, and be a place where those who are fighting for real progress can rest, recharge and organize.
Are there any memorable events the hotel has already hosted you can share?
Lo: When Eaton DC first opened in September 2018, we hosted a multiday human/progress festival that celebrated the women who are leading the fight for gender equity, those on the frontlines fighting for environmental justice, equality, immigration rights and more. Another impactful moment that took place at Eaton DC was when the members of the Piscataway Indian Nation guided staff, guests and community members through a ceremony recognizing the land upon which Eaton sits and honored the Piscataway ancestors of the land. We have also launched a robust schedule of cultural programming, which includes weekly vinyl listening and storytelling sessions called “A 2 B” and a monthly series “My Friend Wrote This Book,” which is our take on the traditional book talk. So far, we’ve welcomed poet and author Cleo Wade, noted activist DeRay Mckesson, and Senator Cory Booker, among others.
What is the biggest struggle for hotels in the DC looking to make it?
Lo: As travelers continue to look for more unique experiences when visiting the city, hotels in D.C. are striving to offer guests new takes on the hotel experience. This is Eaton DC’s sweet spot. We created our spaces with an intention to be purpose-driven for the community by creating a different type of guest experience that inspires people to do more good in the world. Our physical spaces are designed to be hybrid and mixed-use. For example, Eaton DC houses artist and activist residencies in dedicated guest rooms and workspaces, a radio station and cinema with programming from the local community, as well as emerging and established talent, hosts activist workshops and much more. Additionally, finding great staff is crucial to executing our vision here at Eaton DC. We've been fortunate in bringing on staff that are not only passionate about the hospitality industry, but are passionate about our mission and vision for Eaton DC.
What is the ideal customer for Eaton DC? (what kinds of people, businesses, etc. are you looking to specifically attract?)
Lo: Eaton DC is an inclusive gathering place that we hope appeals to a wide and diverse range of guests, particularly those who are striving to make the world a better place and care deeply about important topics including the environment, race, gender equity and LGBTQ rights. Eaton Workshop originated from a desire to merge hospitality with progressive social change, and through its five distinct pillars—House, Media, Wellness, Culture and Impact—we want to provide an environment for today’s artists, visionaries, activists, entrepreneurs, healers and changemakers that brings together like-minded individuals who are focused on doing good in the world.
Your social media and imagery used in marketing is very deliberate. What is your strategy and how did you come about choosing it?
Lo: My original inspirations for Eaton Workshop as a platform for progressive and radical creativity and social change come from the social movements and the countercultural writers and thinkers who have led us to question the status quo and fight for a more just world. I find the imagery from historic eras such as the 1960s, global social change movements and contemporary documentary photography very inspiring and relevant in their truth telling and in their portrayal of struggles around race, gender, class, environment, immigrant rights, personal portraits and more. My greatest dream would be for Eaton to become a small part of planting the seeds for a 21st century social movement (combining the worlds of the arts, travel, hospitality, activism and ethical business) and it means a lot for our imagery used in our storytelling and creative materials to reflect this.