Counterintuitive Chic: A New Palette at the Red Lion Inn
“I wanted people who are allergic to wallpaper to feel welcome at the Red Lion Inn,” owner Nancy Fitzpatrick says with mischievous glee. She is talking about the 17 new rooms that the landmark hotel (circa 1773) has just added, which have been rigorously designed (and painted, not papered!) to appeal to a demanding, luxury-oriented clientele. But they’re also idiosyncratic, reflecting the inn’s eclectic history and the quirky aesthetics of the owner herself. “I wanted the rooms to have a bohemian quality yet feel totally contemporary,” she says.
Fitzpatrick—a Smith College graduate, Peace Corps alumna, Boston Symphony trustee and Tanglewood habitué—has put her history, heart and soul into the new Maple Glen building (right) on the Red Lion’s campus, which is a village within the village of Stockbridge. “I did a lot of shopping on eBay, and I got a lot of inspiration from Pinterest,” says Fitzpatrick, who decorated each room individually with help from her in-house design team led by Carla Child. “I bought a lot of the artwork on my regular rounds at flea markets and we did a run to Brimfield last summer. I was very clear in my mind about what I wanted to do. I wanted off-beat colors. I did not want this to be wimpy.”
As the daughter of Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick, the legendary couple who founded Country Curtains in 1956 and rescued the Red Lion from the wrecking ball in 1968, she has respect for tradition even though she’s an iconoclast. A decade ago, when she reallized that North Adams needed a first-rate place for MASS MoCA visitors to stay, she created Porches, which has the charm of a New England bed-and-breakfast but the service and amenities of a top-flight boutique hotel.“Maple Glen is really a cross between the style of Porches and the Red Lion,” says Fitzpatrick, who allows that she wasn’t planning on expanding the Red Lion, but her hand was forced when the old sweater shop property adjacent to the inn (on the corner of Route 7 and Maple Street) was put on the market. “We hemmed and hawed, but we didn’t want anyone else to buy it. General manager Bruce Finn did a business plan that justified the investment and we got a small business loan through Lee Bank.”
Fitzpatrick, the former chair of the Berkshire Creative Economy Council. made Maple Glen a local stimulus project. “We hired architect Pam Sandler because she is a Stockbridge person and drives by that corner every day,” says Fitzpatrick, who ordered all the rugs from Annie Selke’s Pittsfield-based Dash & Albert. Furniture maker Peter Thorne of West Stockbridge was commissioned to design the bases for the vanities in all the bathrooms, which have white subway tiles, deep soaking tubs and slate radiant heat floors. The handicap accessible bathroom (above) is a stunning Shaker-esque design that is bound to win awards. All the new furniture was purchased through Paul Rich & Sons in Pittsfield, and the bedspreads, naturally, came from Country Curtains, which has had its flagship store at the Red Lion for more than 40 years.
Besides the unprecedented use of paint instead of wallpaper, the Maple Glen rooms are the first at the Red Lion to have coffeemakers and minibars. But, more interestingly, every room has a “tchotcke box” hanging on the wall; each one contains a random assortment of collectible items like a Pez dispenser, a shell and a vintage postcard. “It’s an idea I borrowed from Burning Man,” says Fitzpatrick, referring to the psychedelic new-age desert festival she attends every year. “There’s a Burning Man tradition that you leave something and you take something, and I hope it catches on here.”
One of the unintended consequences of staying at Maple Glen is that you must wander around behind the main building, which is how I stumbled upon the beautiful swimming pool and hot tub (left) that are discreetly hidden by a picket fence; they’re kept open year-round which makes the Red Lion an improbable in-town resort. The location also led me to have breakfast at the nostalgic Elm Street Market with its lunch counter that looks like it’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. “I hope Maple Glen will make people who think they wouldn’t like staying at the Red Lion feel at home,” says Fitzpatrick.“It’s pretty wonderful, isn’t it?” Yes, it absolutely is. —Dan Shaw
The Red Lion Inn
30 Main Street, Stockbridge MA