Windsor Innkeepers Create Show House

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(Host) Two Windsor innkeepers have a plan they hope will attract guests, raise money for charities, and breathe new life into their town.

They’ve enlisted interior decorators to turn the rooms of their 100-year-old inn into a showcase for home design ideas and products.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story.

(Keese) The Juniper Hill Inn is a gilded Age Mansion, built in 1902 for the Evarts family, who lived in it through the 1930s.

The 28-room inn, with its gardens and pillared colonnade, sits on a hill high above the town.

Robert Dean runs the inn with his partner Ari Nikki.  They discovered it several years ago after an extensive search.

(Dean) "We had criteria for the place. It had to be historic. And we wanted a place that was big enough that we could do fundraising events."

(Keese) The two men knew that Windsor was a town with a lot of empty stores and shuttered industries.

But they fell in love with the town’s other story.  It’s a story of wealth and glamour, set around the turn of the 20th Century, when the famous Cornish Art Colony flourished in Windsor and across the river in New Hampshire.

The Evarts family, their urban friends, and this house were at the center of this rural renaissance.

(Dean) "Teddy Roosevelt actually stayed here numerous times, on this estate. President Wilson stayed here. His wife was a Cornish artist."

(Keese) If it happened once, why not now? Dean, a former interior designer, came up with the idea of opening the inn as a designer showcase, to bring style-conscious visitors to town. So-called show houses are increasingly a popular way to raise money for charity.

 (Dean) "Would you like to see the presidential wing?"

(Keese) Dean enlisted decorators from Queechee to California to redesign the rooms, as a way to display their skills – and create an updated, livable story about the house and its history.

A Massachusetts designer created a gentleman’s parlor in the presidential wing.

(Dean) "She did the wonderful woodwork in absolute black and chalk white walls and it’s all based on a welsh ponies for sale sign that we found in the carriage house."

The Evarts master bedroom is a mix of old and new:  a transparent acrylic chair in the horseshoe backed style of a 14th century Chinese dynasty.

(Dean) "The next room represents the art deco period of the house and was done by the same designer, Gail Lipman, who did the dining room and she created this room imagining the parties that would happen here."

The elegant room features a head board from Costco – one of many low-budget ideas Dean says visitors can pick up from the house tour.

The house also features work by contemporary local artists and products ranging from rugs to faux vintage bath tubs.

Dean would like to see some of them open up temporary stores on Windsor’s Main Street. So far there’s just one, a Welcome Center with some featured products for sale.

But the inn will be offering tours three days a week through the fall, and workshops for do-it- yourselfers.

And Dean says the excitement is just beginning.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese

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