In the mid-19th century, engineer Henry Farnam was pivotal to the rapid development of Omaha, Nebraska advocating for the newly conceived transcontinental railway to set its eastern terminus in the Nebraska city. It is that enterprising spirit, mirrored by Warren Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway tycoon and Omaha native, that infuses the Farnam, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Opened in 2021, the 120-room hotel comes courtesy of the Gettys Group, and the design, says Ben Nicholas, former senior director of interiors at the Chicago-based firm, is meant to “set the stage for the next entrepreneurs.”
The Farnam, straddling the leafy Gene Leahy Mall and the Old Market, the city’s most historic neighborhood, is the vision of first-time hoteliers Jason and Angie Fisher. Jason, who works in commercial real estate, swooped up the Landmark Center, a 15-story office tower built in 1991, recognizing that “this was a gem that needed to be rejuvenated,” he says.
But a simple revamp wouldn’t do. Instead, explains Angie, the goal was to “raise the bar to a level Omaha hasn’t ever seen” by inserting a hotel that reflects both the city’s welcoming vibe and its layers of sophistication and culture into this mixed-use building. The Fishers are avid travelers and design lovers, adds Angie, so it was “a passion project to be able to put all that we think is great about Omaha into this beautiful new package.”
Presenting guests with a surprising narrative was important to the Gettys Group. “There’s a perception of Omaha being plain, and our concept was anything but,” explains Nicholas, noting the interplay of old and new and unexpected details.
At arrival, for instance, is the striking front desk, fashioned out of reclaimed beams salvaged from the former St. Agnes Church, that recalls railway ties and is paired with contemporary works made by local artists. A handtufted wool area rug from Durkan emblazoned with the abstract black and white feathers of a western meadowlark, Nebraska’s state bird, grounds the Farnam in its location, as do Durkan’s other custom creations. These include the carpets covering corridors in a fluid pattern referencing the Missouri River and the goldenrod, Nebraska’s state flower, as well as the ones depicting flooded fields of crops in the guestrooms.
Above the bar, curves mimic those of railway cars, gradually leading visitors into Dynamite Woodfire Grill, the restaurant that Nicholas describes as a profusion of “smoke and explosion.” Dynamite, adds Matt Swope, the Gettys Group director of interiors, is characterized by a “darker, grittier, moodier” palette. One highlight is the private dining room that is prominently placed at the front to maximize views of the park and draw in passersby through the large expanse of glass. Other standouts are the smoke ring light fixtures and the assemblage of charred flooring panels on a wall, nails still intact, that were rescued from M’s Pub, an Old Market institution that suffered from a devastating fire in 2016.
Beyond the 24 apartment-style suites are the guestrooms, airy lairs outfitted with high ceilings that posed a challenge for the Gettys Group. Determined that each one convey a sense of intimacy and coziness, the team brought the ceilings down to scale by painting dark datum lines around the perimeters of the rooms. The thrill of Omaha’s boom years is also reinforced by the pieces of art hanging from pulleys and the televisions suspended from rails. “They are nods to the industry of Omaha,” says Swope.
This HDTV episode—a video series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into designing and developing hospitality projects—is sponsored by Durkan.