In Category: ‘Blog’

After an inn-filled, 2-week shooting trip through New England, we ended up shooting at one of our favorite places: Squam Lake Inn in Holderness, NH. We have been working with owners Rae and Cindy and their remarkable team for several years. It’s been exciting to see them grow and change…while doing everything perfectly in the meantime. Over the last 4 years, they have upgraded and expanded their restaurant, renovated and redecorated guest rooms and bought the local general store with an ultra-luxe lakeside vacation rental above. These gals are dynamos at all things retail–their new Squam Lake Marketplace is just another jewel in their crown of successes. I particularly loved their branded “home” t-shirts with the Squam Lake silhouette, but seriously, that is just one of the things that made Mark keep asking “how do you do everything so…perfectly???” And, yes, Mark (who once started crying in Dean and Deluca in NYC because everything was “so beautiful”) really did tear up when describing to Cindy how inspired he was at their achievements.

What really makes the whole thing sing is the indescribably warm-yet efficient-staff, the completely natural sense of hospitality and the overall vibe they have created and nurtured. It’s worth visiting the place just to soak up the vibe. And if you do, be sure to dine at the restaurant and order the fried chicken…and here’s the most important piece of advice: order the ice cream sandwiches.

Honestly, there are too many cool things to mention in one blog post…stay tuned. Mark says he could write a book…

 

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Macaroon ICE CREAM SANDWICH from Squam Lake Inn and Marketplace with coffee chocolate chip and sea-salted caramel ice cream (SEE RECIPE AT END OF POST)

 

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Lakeside vacation rental at Squam Lake Inn, located above The Marketplace, where they sell the ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

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The vacation rental has a dock right on Little Squam Lake–great for paddle-boarding or kayaking, AFTER EATING AN ICE CREAM SANDWICH

 

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The restaurant at Squam Lake Inn, where you can also get (guess what?) an ICE CREAM SANDWICH!

 

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Refreshed guest rooms at Squam Lake Inn…the new decor is clean and crisp with a ecclectic and whimsical twist

 

 

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Isaiah, Sarah and Taylor: part of the unforgettable team at The Squam Lake Marketplace, home of the ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

 

Coconut Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches from Squam Lake Inn & Squam Lake MarketPlace

 

We use local ice cream for these incredible treats from Sandwich Creamery located on the north end of Squam Lake in Sandwich, NH, www.sandwichcreamery.com. Our customers favorite ice cream flavors that complement the coconut macaroons are: Coffee Kisses (chocolate chip), Black Raspberry Chip and Caramel Sea Salt.

The other cool thing about these cookies is they are gluten free!

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Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookie:

1  can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

1  TBL  good vanilla extract

1/2 tsp    kosher salt

4 cups sweetened coconut, shredded

 

In a standing mixer or by hand, combine all ingredients.  Cover bowl and store in a refrigerator for at least one hour so that the ingredients can combine.  Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.

 

To form consistent cookies, use a scoop (I use a 1 oz. scoop) to drop onto the cookie sheet.  Spread out dough into an evenly flat circle using your fingertips.  Bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes and rotate.   They may need another 3-10 minutes depending on your oven (convection ovens bake faster).  Check often.  They should be a dark brown in color, which indicates the coconut has caramelized.

 

Allow the cookies to cool completely.   Remove the macaroons from the sheet pans and place into an 11”x13” or similar pan or container that will fit into your freezer.  You can stack the cookies between layers of wax or parchment paper.  Allow to freeze thoroughly.

 

To assemble, work quickly with the frozen cookies and ice cream.    Hand scoop the ice cream onto the cookie and pack it down by placing the second frozen cookie on top and pressing down firmly without pushing ice cream out the sides.  Cookies should have 1-1/4” to 1-1/12” of ice cream in the middle.   Immediately place assembled ice cream sandwiches into the freezer.   I wrap mine with wax paper sheets to protect them.

Woodhaven Food 13 X3 The Winners Circle: The Only Drink for Derby Day

Mint Julip, Inn at Woodhaven, Louisville KY

 

We are working in California* today, but since it is Derby Day, we are reminded of those great Mint Juleps we photographed (and gladly drank!) with Marsha, the innkeeper at Inn at Woodhaven a couple of years ago. Here is a recipe for for this classic drink if you are celebrating today:

  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) club soda
  • 2 heaping teaspoons superfine sugar or simple syrup
  • 15 fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) high-quality whiskey or bourbon
  • 2 cups crushed ice

Stir together club soda and sugar in a julep cup, until sugar just begins to dissolve. Add mint leaves and–this is very important–using a muddler or back of large spoon, gently press leaves into the liquid until bruised but not completely crushed. Add your booze of choice, then fill cup with crushed ice and stir briefly. Add mint sprigs and a short straw and head out to the verandah!

*Home of “California Chrome”, favored to win today, by the way…

 

 

 

 

 

We recently did an “update shoot” for one of our favorite inns, the grand Saratoga Arms, in downtown in Saratoga Springs, NY. Innkeepers and Owners of this family-run business, Amy and Kathleen Smith, have made some really smart updates to this property, carefully blending the traditional style with an updated new look. Because we’ve been shooting for them for years, we have some SaratogaArms Exterior%20%286%29 S Great Ideas for Blending Traditional and Contemporary Styles from Saratoga Armsinteresting before and after shots showing the decor changes. Instead of tearing out all of the classic (and pricey!) wallpaper and discarding great-quality furnishings, they made more modest changes that make a huge impact—all without breaking the budget.

The big changes they DID make:

  • * They eliminated many large armoires  which had previously held televisions, replacing them with contemporary wood pieces with a dual function: they contain a refrigerator and provide ample clothing storage (with a great top surface to boot!)
  • * Wall mounted flat screen TVs throughout
  • * They chose all-white bedding, a more contemporary pillow styling, and reused the old traditional custom bedspread as a pop of color and pattern at the foot of the bed. It just happens this whole look is super photogenic and clean!

Smaller Changes:

  • * Some wallpaper removal and fresh paint
  • * Many new lamps with a more contemporary flair
  • * Some smaller, more updated chairs in some rooms in solid white or bold colors

We did our part in styling, lighting and composing the photos to make them feel more 2014 and less 1999. It was a joint effort for sure!

 

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In Room 201, they painted the walls this fresh green color, along with the other changes mentioned above; this was our favorite!

 

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This room is on the lower level and has a lower ceiling than the upper level rooms. The color and furnishing make it bright and cheerful

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The simple white style bedding and pillows make the traditional wallpaper less busy, more restful and more contemporary.

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Girlfriends enjoying a drink in the newly redecorated parlor-turned-lounge

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Before and after of Room 218. Just the bedding changed yet it feels so much brighter.

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Dramatic before and after of Room 205. The bedding and light fixtures have changed…and the patterned loveseat was replaced with 2 re-purposed solid chairs.

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In Room 303, Amy and Kathleen simply added new lamps, the white bedding and contemporary style chairs.

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They also brought a fresh look to their breakfast offerings–cleaner and more modern presentation. These Lemon Ricotta cakes are TO DIE FOR

 

We’ve always wanted to go to Chile, so we blocked some time off in November to fly down and explore the country. November is spring in Chile and that was welcome, coming from the November gloom of Philadelphia. We really only explored the bottom half of Chile, but that was a 2000 mile chunk of this long (REALLY LONG) skinny country sandwiched between Argentina and the Pacific Ocean. We fell completely in love with one hotel in particular, really a country inn style accommodation on a point in Lake Villarrica,  called Hotel Antumalal, near the town of Pucon, which is about 500 miles south of Santiago. We chose to fly because it was a 14 hour drive! Here is a quote from the hotel’s website describing the property:

“On a wooded point overlooking the lake, between gardens, terraces and waterfalls sits the Hotel Antumalal. Meaning “Corral of the Sun” in the Mapundungun language, Antumalal’s vibrant and modern architecture fits harmoniously with its setting. The main rooms extend above a cliff with an entire wall of glass overlooking the lake. Wood-paneled walls, soft white carpets and an immense fireplace create an elegant yet simple ambiance. In a modern twist on 1950s style, the furniture uniquely blends native wood, iron, and rope. Recent additions, such as the pool and spa use wood, rock and cement to remain true to the original architecture and to integrate with the surroundings. Each bedroom is furnished with a wall-sized window so that the calming landscape is perfectly framed.

Construction began in 1945 on what once was a graceless piece of rocky outcrop. Influenced by the Bauhaus style the design was conceived by the owners themselves along with the Chilean architect Jorge Elton. Within five years they had successfully transformed the space into the magnificent building and stunning gardens that we enjoy today. The hotel represents a tribute to the Pucón area: nature came first and the complimentary linear design was designed to frame and honor it. The Antumalal remains an architectural jewel.”

The dining was spectacular in every way, with views over the lake and mountains, and featuring vegetables from their garden.

It was so lovely that we plan to return…if only to Antumalal. Yes, it was that good. Good enough for Queen Elizabeth, who visited when it first opened in the 1950s.

(Hoping to put some more pictures up from the Chile trip soon, Patagonia, etc…)

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Hotel Antumalal ensconced in 12 acres of gardens and woodland on Lake Villarrica near Pucon, Chile

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The lounge in the Hotel is surrounded by glass and has a wood-burning fire, constantly glowing

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View from the grassy gardens of Hotel Antumalal over Lake Villarrica at sunset

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Flowers are growing out of every nook and cranny in the gardens at Hotel Antumalal

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The simple and elegant dining room at the hotel. In Chile, a “natural” style for lampshades is in vogue. You see crooked lampshades everywhere, intentionally .

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The pool and spa is partially subterranean with a waterfall flowing through, a wood-burning fireplace and more great views

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A trickling, mossy waterfall flows through the pool area, next to the indoor hot tub

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November is spring in Chile so the hotel was decked out in spring flowers from their gardens

 

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Mark taking in a view over Lake Villarrica from the hotel’s dock

 

 

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Bauhaus-inspired furnishings and details are one thing that make this hotel distinctive

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Our bedroom was a simple affair; we reserved a basic room. We had a killer view and the room was beautifully appointed. Great textures.

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The Gardens at Hotel Antumalal are studded with mini-waterfalls cascading over indigenous plants. In a word: LUSH!

 

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A walk near the hotel with a view of still-active Vulcan Villarrica

 

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View on our drive from the hotel to Huerquehue National Park for a killer hike.

 

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A stand of Araucaria or “monkeypuzzle” trees at Huerquehue National Park

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Close up of those Araucaria trees

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A well-earned view after hiking at Huerquehue National Park over Lake Tinquilco and Vulcan Villarrica

 

 

1) Bed and Breakfast…and COFFEE!

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Italian-made Cappuccino / Espresso machine at St Francis Inn

We’ve always thought coffee represented “low-hanging fruit”–easy to improve upon and impress guests at inns (and hotels for that matter). It’s obviously a big part of our culture (especially among young people), so WHY is the coffee so completely boring at 99% of the inns we visit? Sadly, the quality is so poor we often secretly bring our own. Typically, we’ve found the  quality of the coffee and brewing techniques deteriorate the further you move away from The Pacific Northwest or New England. Generally speaking, the coffee in the South is the weakest and least interesting. (Who are we–the coffee gods?) During our shoot in December of 2013, it was great to see what Joe Finnegan and his team at St Francis Inn in St Augustine have “brewed up”. They offer delicious cappuccino and espresso to guests, using their sparkling new cappuccino/espresso machine–a serious machine which the staff operates. We loved the fact that the specialty coffees are complimentary, and everyone LOVES them! Joe says it has been an overwhelming hit with his guests. Read a guest comment on Trip Advisor.

2) Adding a Contemporary FLAIR

In 2013, we saw many inns adding a contemporary twist to otherwise traditional spaces. It’s amazing what a little paint, new furnishings and bedding can do to make a room feel fresh and new. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new way of making the bed or arranging the pillows.

 

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At Lucille’s Mountaintop Inn in Georgia, they blend contemporary and traditional styles with finesse. The bedding, lampshade and color-palette make the room feel fresh.

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This traditional room at Blacksmith Inn on the Shore in Wisconsin employs timeless geometric patterns, and seems  a bit more fresh and new with a contemporary pillow arrangement

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

3) Re-Thinking Breakfast

If one word could sum up breakfast trends at inns in 2013, it would be CHOICE–regarding where you eat, what you eat, and when you eat. Early, more health-conscious buffet offerings and increasing dietary requests are on the rise. The age-old debate of THE ONE BIG BREAKFAST TABLE vs individual tables was addressed by many this way: “lets do both!” Hard-core socializers can hang out at the big table while folks who crave privacy have the individual option. Still think that menu choice is a luxury applicable only to large inns? Well, five-room Greenlake Guest House in Seattle offers a hot entree of the day as well as eggs to order, oatmeal or granola with fruit and yogurt, plus a fruit course and fresh bread offering. Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in P-Town, MA, serves breakfast in your guest room,on your private deck, “fountain-side” in the garden, or at an individual table or a large communal table inside. In New England, lots of innkeepers do a buffet with cold/quick items and also offer a full hot breakfast. This is one of my favorite approaches as it caters to guests that might want something quick and then get on their way.

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At Garden Gables Inn in Lenox, MA they offer choice, New England style: the buffet as well as a full menued breakfast

 

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At Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s on Cape Cod, reviews on Trip Adviser rave about the good times at the communal breakfast table, while individual tables offer more privacy

4) Innovations in the Dining Room

Speaking of dining, we loved the breakfast experience at Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For one thing, the room was over-the-top comfortable and elegant with soothing colors and banquettes around the perimeter, highlighting a view of the pool. They beautifully integrated a flat screen monitor in the wall, where they display gorgeous photos of local sites and activities–a great way to stir up breakfast conversation about the possibilities for the day. As an added bonus, the monitor makes the room effective for conferences, small parties, etc.

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The elegant breakfast room at Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, MA – the monitor inspires guest to see more of the beautiful spots in the area

5) Expansion Ideas: Think PREFAB

Iris Inn in Waynesboro, VA wanted to expand their inn by adding new accommodations. While there on a shoot a few years ago, we told them about our experience adding cottages at our former inn, The Woolverton Inn and how that transformed our business into a truly profitable enterprise. Dave and Heidi decided to expand and took a very interesting and cost-effective approach with pre-fab construction. They customized these pre-fab units with high end finished to create something new and exciting with tons of appeal. To see more pictures and read all about what they did, check out this blog post we wrote last summer.

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Think of adding rooms at your property? Before you do, take a look at what the Iris Inn did in 2013.

6) Oatmeal is Hot

As we mentioned above, CHOICE in breakfast offerings is a trend we’ve seen a lot this year. An easy way to offer choice is to provide a hot breakfast cereal like oatmeal as an option. In our experience, the best oatmeal we’ve encountered is actually made in advance (once or twice a week) and warmed to order, adding milk or water. The Swag in Waynesville, NC does just that, as does The Sayre Mansion and Settler’s Inn both in Pennsylvania. Oatmeal, especially long-cook Irish Oats actually taste better after being warmed up. Another fun thing about a hot cereal is you can get really creative with different whole grains…Irish oats, faro, wheat berries, quinoa…you name it. Then add another layer of customization by providing a choice of toppings–brown sugar, maple syrup, currants, candied walnuts, dried cherries…use your imagination. Here is our favorite recipe, “Rustic Grains”  from the Genzlinger family which owns and operate three fabulous inns: Settlers Inn, Sayre Mansion and Ledges Hotel, all in Pennsylvania:

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“Rustic Grains”, a great hot cereal recipe from The Settler’s Inn and Sayre Mansion in Pennsylvania

Rustic Grains

1 Cup Steel cut oats (Irish oats)

1 Cup Rolled Oats (such as Quaker Old Fashioned Oats)

1/4 Cup Wheat Berries

1/4 Cup Barley

1/2 tsp salt

4 Cups water

4 Cups milk

Soak the dry ingredients overnight in the hot water. Cook the next day in the milk for 1 hour at a simmer. Stir frequently. Add more salt to taste. Thin as desired with water or milk.

Leftover may be reheated. Will keep for three days for reheating. Serves 10.

*Note – we make ours dairy-free (just substitute water for milk) and just added dairy the day we reheat. This will extend the shelf life a few days in the fridge.

7) Re-Branding a Country Inn Restaurant 

Innkeepers Celeste and Chef Alain Borel have been at the helm of L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, Virginia for over 20 years…but instead of becoming complacent, they constantly embrace

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Al Fresco dining at newly re-branded La Table Provencale

change. Case in point: during their recent website re-design process, the White Stone Marketing team suggested renaming and re-branding 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 more 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.

Dan and Michelle Brown at Swift House Inn in Middlebury, Vermont made a similar move several years ago, when they re-branded their fine dining restaurant “Jessica’s”. They added lower-priced menu selections, jettisoned the white table cloths, added a deck for dining, and offered craft beers. Now they get reservations they might never have gotten on sites like Open Table.  Dan reports that the result has been a 40% increase in gross dining revenue at the Inn. They also created a stand-alone restaurant website – Check it out here.

8) Delicious Alternative to Maple Syrup

When we shoot for Deb Mossiman at Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast in Lancaster County, we look forward to breakfast. In August 2013, we visited again and fell in love with her signature syrup–a sinfully delicious alternative to pure maple syrup. Maple syrup is classic, but expensive, and perhaps even a little pedestrian. Deb’s brown sugar and butter based syrup is rich and AMAZING…and surprising! She gets constant rave reviews about it. When was the last time your guests “raved” over simple maple syrup??

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Swiss Woods justifiably famous brown-sugar syrup over blueberry pancakes

Swiss Woods Syrup

“This is a rendition of my mother’s sticky bun syrup which, as kids, we ate on everything from corn fritters, ice cream and French toast to actually using it to make sticky buns.  This version is somewhat tamer with less butter. The guests continually rave.. someday I may try to bottle it!” Deb Mossman, Innkeeper, Swiss Woods

This recipe makes a bunch, but it keeps forever in the fridge. Warm it up to serve.

46 oz Old Barrel Dark Syrup OR light molasses

3 cups brown sugar

6 Tbsp butter

¾ cup boiling water

Mix all the above ingredients together and bring to a boil. Boil for 7 min.

2 Tbsp Vanilla*

*Add to the syrup as it is cooling

Let the whole mixture cool. Pour into a large container and store in the fridge. Reheat portions as needed.

If you like this, check out another recipe we posted from Deb’s kitchen this summer - Parmesan Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

9) Outdoor Showers

In 2013, we made our annual pilgrimage to The Swag, near Waynesville, NC to shoot three new private outdoor showers…and rumor has it they are adding more in 2014. It’s a fabulous amenity at inn…there is just something very exotic and fun about showering outdoors in a beautiful place. Check out our post on The Swag’s outdoor showers and pictures from the shoot. 

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Shower with a view at The Swag in NC…This is a hot new amenity

10) S’mores Package

Ideas like this are what really separates inns from hotels, and truly makes them “a better way to stay”. On our recent shoot at St Francis Inn in St Augustine, Florida, they asked that we shoot their s’mores package. They have a gas-fueled outdoor fire pit in their courtyard and pass these packages out (complimentary) to their guests during cool winter evenings. These are the things that make memories, make guests return and make for great stories back home. It also minds us what a fun industry this is and how lucky we are to be asked to document it!!

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The S’mores amenity at St Francis Inn in Florida.