We’ve been in this crazy business for 8 years, and every now and then we discover a new inn we’ve never heard of—and we think HOW is this inn not universally known??? We recently had this experience shooting the spectacular Inn at Abeja in Walla Walla, Washington. In our pre-production meeting with the owners and innkeepers, they kept repeating “it’s all about the details here”. We hear that all the time…and frankly it’s become a bit of a cliche. At Abeja, though, it rings true. The inn is full of one-of-a-kind textures, surfaces, architectural elements, whimsical features, and sensitive touches. Everything at this beautifully-restored farm is steeped in love, care and thoughtfulness. Innkeepers and owners Ken and Ginger Harrison, partner Molly Galt and chef/innkeeper Mary Besbris are a great team; they offer hospitality and food to match this premium property and its gorgeous setting in the beautiful Palouse Hills of Walla Walla Wine Country. By the way, did I mention they also run an incredible winery with some of the best Cabernet were ever tasted?

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The vineyards and magical rolling hills that surround the property

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The winery at Abeja, their vineyard and the hills around Walla Walla

 

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The Locust Suite at Abeja. The ceilings are never an afterthought at Abeja

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The Locust Suite Bedroom

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The exterior of the large barn which contains The Hayloft Suite. Inside the cupola is a sitting room.

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The dramatic interior of the cupola in the Hayloft Suite

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A couple enjoying one of the terraces overlooking their perfect herb garden

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Locally-sourced morel mushrooms that Chef Mary uses in breakfast dishes

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More wonderful ingredients that make breakfast truly special

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Individual strawberry-rhubarb tarts were on the menu when we visited. Amazing!

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Who else has a wood-burning pizza oven outside their kitchen? Chef Mary uses the oven for inspired breakfast inventions, like this flatbread

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We’ve seen a lot of fruit over the years. Love these mini-melon balls and the presentation.

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Flowers grown right on the property fill a beautifully composed and themed arrangement on the dining room table. Its all about the details!

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Abeja offers in-room breakfast, naturally…the presentation is wonderfully farm-themed and beautiful

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The old chicken coop, reborn as the Chicken Coop Suite, has chicken-wire embedded in the glass. This is the stuff that makes this place so cool–thoughtful surprises at every turn

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A very early morning (early, like 5:00am! ) garden scene with wonderful fragrances and a singing bird…perfect moments like these abound here

 

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A couple outside the Bunkhouse Cottage at sunset with a visit from Abeja’s resident cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We just completed a “southern swing” through Virginia and North Carolina, to shoot primarily for clients we’ve shot for before. It could not have been a more beautiful time to travel through that area, as a long-awaited spring was just beginning. It was a blast to see what  our old friends were up to–lots of new construction, renovation and redecoration. We have always believed that these types of changes, while disruptive and costly at times, are key to keeping your inn fresh and alive. Past guests are re-energized and excited to return to see the improvements. These changes often create buzz, garner press, and get more new guests to come and stay. We think it’s really worth it, and the numbers almost always bear this out.

First on our trip was Middleton Inn in Washington , VA. We shot this inn about 6 years ago and this was a follow up. As we arrived at the property we kept saying how we forgot how beautiful this part of Virginia is – especially in spring.

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The Middleton Inn’s hunt country-inspired parlor in Washington, VA

 

 

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A major advantage of Middleton Inn is the rolling pastures that surround it…this image highlights that advantage

 

 

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The breakfast at The Middleton Inn is memorable. Chef Sylvie keeps it local, organic and very tasty.

 

Next on the line was Goodstone Inn and Restaurant in Middleburg, VA. This was our first time shooting this inn, but we hope not the last. The property is magnificent. The inn is comprised of about 10 separate out buildings, situated on 265 acres of rolling wood and farmland in Northern Virginia horse country.

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The restored Carriage House houses the award-winning restaurant at Goodstone Inn in Middleburg, VA.

 

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The Dining Room at Goodstone features enormous windows overlooking rolling hills and woodland

 

 

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A hammock with a view, near the Manor House at Goodstone Inn

 

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This signpost helps you find your away around Goodstone’s 265 acres…but getting lost is more fun!

 

Our next stop was Iris Inn in Waynesboro, Virginia–a return visit. Dave and Heidi have made enormous changes, most notably the addition of six ultra-luxe “cabins”. We detailed it all in our last post from the road. Here is one picture, but be sure to check out the whole post:

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Bedroom in the cabins at Iris Inn, Waynesboro VA. Be sure to read our recent post on this project and see more of these awesome accommodations!

 

Next up was Afton Mountain Inn, just down the road from Iris Inn and near all the great sites of Charlottesville and the surrounding countryside. We returned to Afton to shoot a room redecoration and some food. The food was great (we got to taste everything we shot), but the room redecoration was a real show-stopper. What a difference it made when they removed the wallpaper and matching canopy, changed the bedding and painted the walls a soothing neutral…The room feels larger, more inviting, and less frilly…and we know it will start to sell more right away. Here’s a great example of updating w room without completely abandoning your inn’s overall aesthetic. It can be done–and it’s not that expensive!

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Before (left) and after (right) of the Goodwin room at Afton Mountain B&B. What a difference!

 

 

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A breakfast souffle at Afton Mountain Inn. Oh, how we love chasing those souffles before they fall!

 

Pinecrest Inn in Tryon, North Carolina, was next on our list. It’s just a short drive from Asheville, one of our favorite places to visit. It has been over 3 years since we last shot for Carl Caudle and his team. It was great to see all the changes and upgrades. Many of the rooms feature country-style knotty-pine walls and trim (it is PINEcrest, after all!) but it is interesting to see how they are now counterpointed with contemporary elements . We think it really freshens up the rooms while maintaining the vintage charm of this historic property.

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The verandah at Pine Crest Inn in Tryon NC is a great place to take in a spring breakfast surrounded by all those lush gardens

 

 

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The Devon Room at Pine Crest Inn in Tryon, NC near Asheville

The final stop on this whirlwind spring swing through the south was Whitegate Inn in the heart of Downtown Asheville, NC. This was our third time shooting for Frank and Ralph. Whitegate is a fabulous inn by any standard, but when you add the stunning gardens into the mix, it takes it to extraordinary. You have to see what Frank and Ralph have done with a relatively small plot of land–nothing short of incredible. We shot some garden images as well as a few rooms that have been refreshed and updated.

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A rambling stream, and various waterfalls can be discovered in the city gardens at Whitegate Inn in Asheville, NC

 

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The “white gate” at Whitegate Inn in Asheville, NC

 

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One of the many paths that meander through the enchanting gardens at Whitegate Inn in Asheville, NC

 

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Color is not limited to the gardens at Whitegate Inn in Asheville. This is the first room you see when you walk in the front door

 

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The facade and gardens of Whitegate Inn in Asheville, NC on a perfect spring evening.

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Recently we had the opportunity to photograph the new cabins at Iris Inn in Virginia, a 12-acre retreat overlooking the Shenandoah Valley between Staunton and Charlottesville. We had heard these new accommodations were modern, well-appointed and perfectly sited. They are all that and more…much, much more! Each cabin (somehow that word just does not do these gorgeous accommodations justice) is practically all glass, with floor to ceiling views of either the forest, the valley, or both. They have full kitchens, fireplaces, hot tubs, heated floors, and fantastic screened in porches cantilevered over the hillside. The bathrooms are super-sleek and are outfitted with a tiled shower which is adjacent to a sliding glass door with direct access to the porch–essentially an outdoor shower. And nothing seems more luxurious than showering while looking out over the treetops. Owners Dan and Heidi are calling them “adult tree houses”, which is a pretty apt description.

The six cabins are actually pre-fab buildings (this hot trend is big and growing, so get that sheet metal trailer image out of your mind). They were assembled on site, then upgraded with top notch finishes. If you’re thinking of adding cottages, take a look at these. I think they’re destined to be a big, big hit.

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One of the new cabins photographed at sunset, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley and the town of Waynesboro, VA

 

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Interior of a cabin that faces the forest;  we both actually preferred the forest view

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Custom-built king-sized bed with built in side tables and desk

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A shower with a view–the ultimate in luxury!

 

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Bathrooms feature beautiful marble and granite finishes and a heated floor

 

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Mark kicking back in the cabin after a hard day’s work, enjoying fantastic late afternoon sun

 

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Having shot SO many beds during the last 9 years (literally thousands) we’ve found that beds and bedding styles are as individual as the property and the innkeeper. Don’t discount their importance–the bed is often the first thing a guest sees when walking into a guest room and a potential guest sees while looking at guest room photos online. Both the bed style and the bedding immediately make a powerful impression and connection–and that can be good or bad. We thought we’d review the many beds and bedrooms we have styled and photographed and show you our favorites. In this post we highlight style, structure, and “architecture”. In an upcoming post, we’ll cover mood, color and texture. The goal is to inspire you by sharing some of the best beds we have seen. Here’s hoping you see something interesting and may even want to incorporate some of these ideas into your own guest room decor.

 

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Rich, Royal and Gothic. At Garden Gables Inn in Lenox, MA, they have created some of the best-dressed beds we’ve ever seen. Here they did a great job of coordinating the dramatic gothic-inspired canopy bed with the Persian pattern of the bedding. The overall impression is rich and royal–this bed is your castle!

 

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The Allure of Old Mexico. In the San Miguel Room at Four Kachinas B&B in Santa Fe, the iron bed, bold colors and the dynamic patterns of the pillows conjure up colonial Mexico. Sometimes the bed makes the room; what would this room be WITHOUT that great bed?? See more pictures of this room on their website.

 

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Opulent Newport Style. Innkeepers Dennis and Grant of Hydrangea House asked us back to shoot their recently-renovated Oak Suite last year. In typical Newport style, these guys really went over the top on this renovation! The bed is like a “room within a room” with that incredible canopy, the built-in lighting and all the rich carved oak. This is the perfect room to stay in while soaking up all that Newport glamor. Where are the pillows you ask? They’ll arrive at turndown, naturally…so Newport!

 

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West Indies Romance. Port D’ Hiver Inn in Melbourne Beach, FL artfully mixes West Indies-inspired architecture and furnishings with some traditional and contemporary styles and color.  The Windward Suite features a mahogany barley-twist bed and an airy canopy with a tropical mosquito-net feel. This bed makes such a statement and beautifully supports the West Indies/Old Florida theme.

 

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Oversized Drama. We love the way this bed at Old Monterey Inn in Monterey CA is scaled for this room and the way it interacts with the timbered architectural elements. The Garden Cottage’s bedroom footprint is not huge, but the ceiling volume is very generous.  The bed-timber relationship “elevates” the space and makes it feel grander.

 

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Exotic Flavors. Rip’s Room is a charming room at Mt Merino Manor in Hudson, NY, but not one of it’s larger accommodations. This middle-eastern inspired hand-carved headboard is a great choice on so many levels. On a practical level, it packs a ton of punch in a small space, because it has no siderails or footboard. On a thematic level, it speaks to a local cultural institution, Olana, the home of the great American painter, Fredrick Church. Olana features a eclectic mix of Victorian, Persian and Moorish styles.

 

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Simple, but Telling. At Embassy Circle Guest House in Washington DC the style throughout the property is super clean and crisp with traditional touches in the furniture and gorgeous rugs. Original contemporary art adds pop and a modern flair to each room. It’s a consistent theme so if you like one room, you’re apt to like them all. This room is typical: an uncluttered bed in a simple but warm arts and crafts style and great original art, all wrapped in a warm paint color you’ll see throughout their guest rooms.

 

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Playing dress-up with the bed. When couples escape for romance or adventure as they do at The Old Monterey Inn in Monterey CA, they are looking for a little drama and fantasy. This bed in the Chawton Suite fulfills the fantasy.  Although this would not work as well for an inn with a strong business clientele, it’s right on target for this classic country inn.

 

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The Bedding Makes the Bed. This ocean-front room at Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Amelia Island, FL is not large, nor is there a great deal of inherent architectural interest to the space. To keep things airy and uncluttered in this room, they wisely chose a very simple bed with no footboard, yet this room feels very luxurious. The secret is in the bedding. Its layers, patterns and colors make the space really special. Imagine this room with just the white bedspread and a couple of pillows: not very interesting. Also, the wallpapered accent wall behind the bed makes the room feel less “boxy” and also pulls in the bedding scheme.

 

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Double Bed Dilemma. A guest room with two double beds often feels very “Holiday Inn”–neither luxurious nor distinctive. We love the way Vendue Inn in Charleston, SC added these elegant partial canopies which accentuate the ceiling height and make the room feel more grand and elegant, more…”Charleston”. The choice of using crisp white bedding keeps the room from feeling too frou-frou or stodgy.

 

Keep your eye out for more “Dream Beds” in the next blog post….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LAubergeGrab Inspiring and Innovative:  An Exceptional New Website for LAuberge Provencale

Be sure to check out the remarkable new website for L’Auberge Provencale in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, recently  launched by our friends at White Stone Marketing. We collaborated in the art direction and concept with Innkeeper Celeste Borel and the team at White Stone, so this project is near and dear to our hearts. L’Auberge is a long-time client and friend and it’s such an unqualified pleasure to shoot and to work with them, on so many levels. For years we have been impressed by the way the Provencale theme is executed so beautifully and so consistently at this gracious inn, from the gardens to the decor to their renowned dining experience.

It’s worthwhile spending a few minutes to look through the site, to learn and to be inspired. Here are a few items of note:

Pictures first. We love that the pictures are HUGE and the site looks great on everything from an iPhone to a 27-inch monitor. As you move through the site, the pictures continuously sell you on the incredible experience the inn offers. There’s still plenty of fact-providing text–which is key for good SEO–but it’s tucked neatly away if you want to see it. A prime example of this is the verbiage on each room page: the text is keyword-rich, but accessed through scrolling, rather than right in your face.  We’ve shot many times for the inn over the last 6 years and the new site really features the richness and sweep of what we have shot over the years.

Pushing the theme. We conceived  the “50 Ways We Transport You to Provence” page to celebrate the way the innkeepers have carried this theme through so richly. At this inn, the Provence theme is far deeper than just decor. The “50 Ways” page is teased on the homepage and then linked and teased throughout the site. Also, the passport stamp graphic and Celeste’s excellent new tag line “Escape to Provence. No passport required.” help carry through this unique marketing message. Even small details like the hand-washed color behind the menu subtly whispers “Provence”.

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A complicated site made simple and clean. L’Auberge Provencale is a complex business with many facets and services to communicate: lodging, in-room dining, fine dining, alfresco dining, special events and weddings, gardens with European-style orchards…and the fact that a portion of the lodging options are located two miles from the main building. White Stone implemented a “mega-menu” to clean things up and make the site much more user-friendly. For example, just one click on the “Weddings” menu and you have an informational sub-menu. where you can order a wedding info packet right away. This is a massive site and this structure helps people find the info they need FAST. White Stone does property visits to each design client to iron out the site map strategy. We can’t help but feel that this complex and technically-challenging site in the hands of many other website-designers would have been a hot mess! White Stone executed it brilliantly.

Bold new branding changes. Innkeepers Celeste and Alain Borel have been at L’Auberge for over 20 years…but instead of becoming complacent, they constantly embrace change. Case in point: during the website design process, the team suggested renaming and rebranding their nationally-known restaurant, formally known simply in conjunction with the inn, L’Auberge Provencale. The restaurant was relaunched with a new name, logo and stand-alone website, now known as “La Table Provencale”. This major change offers great new synergies and internet marketing opportunities for both the lodging and dining aspects, allowing for “cross-pollinating” when folks search on either the inn or the restaurant. A major benefit of this separation is that it will help to drive local restaurant business. Oftentimes, country inn dining can fly under the radar of locals who have little reason to search on lodging right down the road…or it can be associated with less-than-full-service or a less professional restaurant experience. Giving the restaurant a stand-alone presence and identity will elevate the visibility and perceived quality of the restaurant experience. This is a trend we have been seeing quite often in the city hotel, cruise ship and resort worlds, and we think they will see great benefits from marketing and branding with this new strategy. Check out the new stand-alone restaurant website for La Table Provencale.

Farm to table. Long before (almost two decades!) “Farm to Table” became a trend and moniker in the fine dining world, Chef Borel’s kitchen had been using fresh ingredients from local sources. You’ll find this phrase throughout the website, celebrating and bringing to the fore something L’Auberge has been doing for over 20 years.

Inspiring longer stays. L’Auberge Provencale is not really in a destination town or in an area that tends to see mass tourism. Getting potential guests to understand all the riches of the area, from wineries to river rafting to farm tourism, was a major challenge for the new website. The amazing “Plan Your Stay” feature is a large and robust part of the site. Be sure to check out their 3-day itineraries in outdoor adventure, cycling, local history, wine touring and history. This will not only encourage and inspire longer reservations, but will provide a great guideline for staff and innkeepers to assist guests in planning their stays while they are actually at the inn. All of this is pulled off with a fantastic visual menu–very, very image forward. Get teased right from the mega-menu with great images that inspire you to spend more time in the area. Kudos to Celeste for the incredible work on this part of the site. We have seen hundreds of websites over the years, and NONE has come close to this level of depth and care put into helping guests plan their stays. It’s is awe-inspiring. Hotels: consider yourselves served!

Want to see other web-design projects for which we have contributed photography? Check our “projects” page on our website for more inspiration. We’d love to have your feedback and comments below!!

 

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