Matthew Robinson (owner) and Phil Heitkamp (carpenter) have been working hard on spring renovation projects to make Swift House Inn fresher than ever. We were hoping for warm weather and sunny days this April. But this is Vermont’s infamous third winter! So we are making the best of the fluffy snow, appreciating it for what it is, and getting on with the important business of painting, cleaning, and fixing.
Matthew’s guiding philosophy is “making the new feel familiar and the familiar feel new.” “With that in mind, I’m trying not to do anything that would be inappropriate for the style of the building: Federal style and its later additions,” Matthew says. “The design philosophy is really about preserving what’s good about the bones of the architecture and switching out things that have happened in later renovations that might not be period appropriate or appropriate for our current way of using the building.”
If you’re curious about what Matthew and Phil have been up to and what they would like to begin, here are their top 7 spring work projects for 2021.
1. The Main Dining Room
In Jessica’s restaurant, we have repainted the porch, the library, and the main dining room. We changed the color from a spongey yellow to a sage green. As much as Matthew loved the floral chintz curtains that were hanging in the dining room, they felt a bit like they were from 1990.
Instead, we’re going with the bare window look which seems to look good in the bar. We may add curtains later just for sound absorption. We also changed out all of the lighting in the dining areas, including the cans, the recessed spotlights.
Matthew had been looking for fixtures that are period appropriate but contemporary. Everything should feel like it’s always been there. But equally it should shine like it was put in yesterday. The traditional forms of fixtures and tiles and lighting that he has been selecting have a little modern riff on them. For example, the new sconces in the dining room are a somewhat traditional candlestick sconce, but it has an elongated design that makes it feel more modern.
We changed out the art and hung up a beautiful painting by the late great artist Youngil Ahn, who is Serena’s stepfather.
2. Better Wi-Fi
We upgraded our Wi-Fi so that guests can have a more stable and more thorough Wi-Fi experience across the property. This is a really critical amenity because nowadays we rely on Wi-Fi for communication, for entertainment, for survival really. So we’re happy that the Wi-Fi has been working so well. Lots of guests have told us that they notice an improvement.
3. The Parlor
This room is still a work in progress. It’s an important room, because this is where guests wait to be seated at the restaurant or wait for their rooms. So far we’ve installed wainscoting which was engineered in Connecticut to match the wainscoting that’s already running up the stairs and in a similar style to the wainscoting in the dining room. (FYI “wainscoting” is the magic word for our drinking game.) Although both of the types of wainscoting are actually different. So now we have a third style of wainscoting in the house, which is typical of houses that evolve over time. We have also changed out a lot of the furniture in that room, including a different rug. And we’ll shortly be changing out the wallpaper around the parlor, up the stairs, and through the upstairs hallways. The bee wallpaper will be coming out and a natural ecru grasscloth will be coming in.
4. The Blue Bar
We started with the bar. We changed out the crown mouldings. We added some decorative overlays and changed the paint scheme to Williamsburg Wyeth Blue. We put some shiny gold paper behind the shelves. We switched out the art and some of the furniture.
We still have to switch out the lighting and bring back some bar stools as soon as the state will allow us. Ultimately we’re going to change out the bar top to make it more useful. But we’re waiting for the pandemic to be over enough so that we can remove the glass partition that’s there now.
Weirdly, just painting out the trim on the windows to one color as we did in the bar and in the porch is very traditional. In the Federal period they painted everything out one color without putting in contrasting window and door frames. It’s what Matthew likes: it is essentially traditional but looks surprisingly modern.
Near the Carriage House parking lot, there is a piece of sloping land that offers a nice view of the Swift House Inn lawn. There are also a couple Adirondack chairs there for reading and basking in the sun. We have commissioned Rocky Dale Gardens to convert that slope into a more useful area with cold frames, hedges, native perennial gardens, and deck space.
One thing we learned from the Covid pandemic is how critical it is to have increased outdoor dining space. We also know that our guests love to wander our vegetable and cut flower gardens during their stay. So we’d like to utilize the current slope and the area leading up to the current dining deck to have more areas where guests can chill and explore outside. Two Adirondack chairs overlooking the slope are good, but we are betting that half-a-dozen semi-private outdoor dining areas is even better!
6. The Gate House
Our regulars are familiar with the more affordable rooms in the Gate House which sits directly on Route 7 and is detached from the Main House and the Carriage House. It’s overdue for fresh exterior paint. We’re definitely going to put the traditional sky blue New England ceiling under the porch. That’s essential. It’s a strange building because part of it has shingles siding, part of it has clapboard siding. Part of the clapboard siding is made out of aluminum. So you’ve got aluminum siding which is another problem to paint. Some of the windows are newer than other ones. Some are made of wood and some are made of vinyl. It’s a mishmash of stuff that has evolved over time. And they all require painting slightly differently and sometimes with different materials. I would really love to focus on the Gate House more this summer. If you know any good painters, please call us!
7. The Carriage House
Thanks to the Browns, the previous owners, the Carriage House is in really good shape with nice new bathrooms and well-insulated windows. But there are some decorative things we’d like to do. And we’ve already done some of them. We are going to switch out some of the art. We’re going to move around some of the furnishings.
We’re deliberating over what to do with the conference room at the bottom of the stairs near the Mansfield Room (45). Ninety-three percent of the people we polled on Instagram preferred that it be utilized as a gym instead of as a meeting space. I think the current conference room is not being used as much as it should, and I think it would be great to have the amenity of a small high tech/ low tech gym with a Peloton, a Mirror, some free weights, and a yoga space. The room is already close to a shower and a sauna. So we are still in the planning stages of what to do with that space.
Thank you for reading about our seven spring work projects. The biggest challenge at Swift House Inn has been finding painters, tile installers, electricians, plumbers, etc. So if you know of any skilled craftsmen who would be interested in renovating this historic home, please let us know in comments or email us directly!