How do you declutter and refresh a 114 year old country Inn in under a week on a shoe-string budget? With a clear intention and lots of focused, hands-on work. Last spring I spent four fast-paced days with the magnificent Melissa Levis, Innkeeper of the family-owned Wilburton Inn in Manchester, Vermont. Melissa asked me to help freshen up the Inn, with a special focus on unifying the Inn’s nine main properties to help refine the Inn’s brand.
Melissa crafted a wonderful post on our week together. And I’m delighted to share a bit more about our fun and productive process and the projects we accomplished.
Melissa and I kicked things off with a conversation about goals, and a shopping trip to the floral and decor department of Michaels, as well as a look-see at flowers in the Chelsea Flower District. The idea was to tone down some of the eclectic busyness at the Inn by unifying furniture and decor, while retaining pops of color and life throughout with the use of simple, decorative faux flowers.
Once on site, a quick trip to the Inn’s basement revealed dozens of glass flower vases at the ready for use. And so we took a handful of vases with us along with our favorite decorative flowers and embarked on a tour of the rooms. To our delight, a simple sprig of white flowers, and in some rooms a pop of purple or fuchsia, added just the freshness Melissa desired.
The Inn is home to an extensive art collection, and it had been some time since it had been curated. So next up was a room-by-room review. We looked at hundreds of paintings with fresh eyes to ensure that the art in each room enhanced and elevated the space.
In the end we got out our trusty hammers and nails and did what good, hands-on Vermont women do, we got to work. When all was said and done every piece of art in every room tied into the story of the space from ‘Newlywed Romance’ to ‘Country Casual’ to ‘Cozy Family Getaway’.
Our days were spent going room to room and house to house, discussing decluttering, space planning and interior decor. As we worked we swapped cluttered tables for clean ones, tucked away electrical cords, replaced lampshades, and dusted nooks and crannies. We also lightened the volume of family memorabilia without compromising the property’s unique charm as a family owned Inn.
As we worked I borrowed from Feng Shui, as well as my own intuitive abilities, and I guided Melissa along on an energy flow approach to space planning, decluttering and decorating. At every turn we had with us the delightful Jetson, who tested couch positions and gave us a paws up when rooms fell nicely into place.
We covered The Wilburton Mansion, the Battenkill Valley Mansion, and the Equinox Views Villa, with special focus paid to rooms honoring Wasserstein Family relatives, including Melissa’s grandparents Morris and Lola, and Uncle Bruce and Aunt Wendy. And of course a bridal suite and mansion common rooms dedicated to the memory of Melissa’s mom, the gorgeous Georgette.
Melissa worked tirelessly and around the clock, getting a head start with her team before our days began. And behind the scenes the Wilburton Inn staff moved couches, armoires, tables and lamps from house to house. Melissa became an overnight expert on how to put ‘like with like’ and impressively kept the Inn’s massive inventory of furniture and decor in her mind as we went.
Bringing Down The Books
On our final day we tackled the library, heart of The Wilburton Inn and home to family photos, guest wedding albums and a rich array of books, from sheet music to a copy of The Heidi Chronicles by the Levis Family’s Aunt Wendy Wasserstein. While always a cozy spot to be, the library had grown busy over the years. Items had collected but had not been reviewed or curated. And the shelves had not seen a good dusting in years.
Melissa and I created a staging area in the adjacent living room and began a rapid-fire sort of books. We then reached for the story of each book and Melissa came up with categories such as books featuring the Inn, books written by guests, and books written by members of our family or team. As we worked the Wilburton Inn staff got busy dusting high and low, and then together we reassembled the library, now pared down to its core.
Building balance across a large property takes time, but once the ball got rolling Melissa and I could see how easily our no-cost solutions were making a big impact on the Inn, and it spurred us on.
And best of all, throughout the transformation Melissa and I were able to retain the unique family spirit that defines The Wilburton Inn, while still creating clean palettes in rooms and common areas for guests to create their own personal memories and stories.
Thank you Melissa, we had fun!
Photo Credits: Maeve Richmond, Melissa Levis
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