In 2000, Sarah Christie Rydell graduated from Portland State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine and studio arts without much direction for what she wanted to do next. Her parents wanted her to work in insurance, but her aunt connected her to a manager at The Westin Seattle, where she was hired to work as a front desk agent. 

“I was like, ‘I’m going to keep doing this until I stop having fun,’” Rydell said. “I do that check right before I’m going into an interview for a new role. ‘Am I still having fun? Am I still engaged? Am I making a difference?’ That’s been my guiding force.”

Nineteen years later, Rydell still is having fun in hospitality, which has taken her to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and back to Washington, where she manages W Bellevue. In her role, she simultaneously juggles the bird’s-eye view with the micro details and jumps in to help with everything from cleaning rooms to tasting cocktails. 

We met with Rydell recently to tour her eclectic office, a physical manifestation of her fun, engaging personality.

Not Your Average Candy Dish

This ceramic beauty was discovered by Rydell during a 15-day trip to Spain with one of her friends. She likes to travel frugally, often with just a backpack. When she stumbled upon a quaint ceramic shop in Granada, she decided the extra weight was well worth it and bought four bowls. She had to carry them around in her pack for the remaining seven days of her trip, but they made it back unscathed.

The Most Unlikely Birthday Present

Ever since Rydell moved away from her home state of Montana, her aunt has been sending her quirky birthday presents — anything she thought would make Rydell smile. This charming feline arrived at her doorstep 15 years ago in an unmarked box, and as soon as she opened it, she knew it was from her aunt. Rydell named him Frau, and he’s been with her ever since.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame 

Rydell was a Mariners fan long before she moved to Washington and has likely gone to every bobblehead game in the years she’s lived here. When she moved out of state, her friends collected the missing bobbleheads and shipped them to her. She has several more at home, but a handful reside in her office. 

Prepared for Every Occasion

Under her desk is a rack of color-coordinated shoes for hectic days when she has to throw on a pair of flats and help out her team or slip on some heels for a client meeting. Rydell even keeps a pair of slippers for especially difficult days. Her favorite, though, are block heels she has in a variety of colors, which are comfortable enough for even those 10-hour days.