The Charlotte Inn is not for everybody—and that’s exactly the way owner/innkeeper Gery Conover wants it. There are no computers, no children, no large groups, no t-shirts or hats, and no cell phones allowed on the premises (except in guest rooms). The owner says guests are more than happy to abide by the strict house rules to experience a truly restful getaway from their busy schedules.
“We don’t even have a computer at the reception desk, so when someone makes a reservation it is taken the old-fashioned way: written by hand, not by computer,” the innkeeper says. “We have the international symbol for ‘no cell phones’ posted on the front door, and if someone forgets the policy we gently remind them. We do not book parties of three or more couples; and at our restaurant, a party of 10 must sit at different tables so as not to be disruptive to other guests,” he explains. “But people keep coming back; some of our guests have been coming for 30 years. They tell us that it was exactly the kind of vacation they needed.”
The turn-of-the-century sensibility is fitting for the Edgartown, Massachusetts, inn as it was built by a sea merchant in 1864 as his private home and later became an inn in the 1920s. The Italian Romanesque-style architecture’s decor is a rich blend of traditional England and New England ambience.
“The inn’s decorating style is English Edwardian, from 1880 to 1900,” Gery explains. “Ninety percent of the antiques are English Edwardian. There is lots of wallpaper with red and green accents—predominantly jewel tones.” Original oil paintings, watercolors and English prints grace the walls. To achieve an authentic period look, Gery purchased most of the rooms’ furnishings in England—London and the Cotswolds countryside—as well as in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. He is particularly fond of the stately front desk in the reception area, which welcomes guests by instantly setting the tone for their visit. “It was a barrister’s desk from Edinburgh, Scotland, built in the early 1800s. I bought it from an antiques dealers in New York. We had to open the wall to accommodate the desk. I’ve had it for about 25 years,” he says.
To lighten up—both figuratively and literally—the rich colors and furnishings, Gery added accessories you might find in a classic New England home to give each room a lived-in attitude: a small letter box looks charming on a narrow wall, white wicker chairs invite guests to relax on the porch while brown wicker baskets and vintage suitcases are casually stacked against gleaming wood wainscot paneling, vintage egg cartons are displayed in a wire basket and a pair of old ice skates are hung from a chairback.
As a guest of the inn (which is not considered a bed-and-breakfast, as lunch is served as well), you have a choice of four buildings in which to stay: the Italianate main building, which sports a library, two living rooms and the main dining room; a clapboard summer house built in 1840 with eight guest rooms upstairs; a coach house, which houses the tack room and antique cars along with a guest suite; and the carriage house, with a suite on the second floor and two rooms on the first floor.
Gery has a passion for gardening, which is evident in the lush landscaping. “The gardens have lots of English boxwood, holly trees, ivy and summer flowers; they are very colorful in a subtle way,” he says. “There are lots of garden accessories: antique urns, fountains (including a three-tier Victorian fountain) and birdbaths. There’s a fish pond, lots of brick walks, wisteria and sitting areas for guests to enjoy the view,” he says.
The Charlotte Inn has received numerous awards and accolades from such notable travel sources as Fodor’s, the Tatler Travel Guide (which named it one of the top 101 hotels in the world in 2012) and The Boston Herald.
by Meryl Schoenbaum
Photos via The Charlotte Inn