Terry and Richard Anderson have always been “people people,” so it was easy to welcome guests to Chimney Hill Estate after they purchased the inn in 1994.
“We’ve always liked being around people, so becoming innkeepers was a natural extension,” says Terry. The key to their hospitality: “We make sure they understand that while they’re here, our house is their house.” So much so, says Terry, that guests have been known to put their breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink themselves.
Warm Welcome: The fireplace at Chimney Hill Estate is almost always lit in the common room—where guests are encouraged to linger. Plenty of reading material, comfortable sofas, and a glass of sherry for the taking help achieve that goal.
The Andersons have adopted a hands-off approach to innkeeping. “We do our best to provide a stress-free environment,” says Terry. “Our guests are here to be taken care of, to reconnect with one another. There’s no forced interaction, but we make sure they know what’s around. We guide them, then leave them alone.” Despite the low-key atmosphere—or perhaps because of it—guests tend to congregate in the common room: a large, sun-filled, stone-walled space filled with comfy sofas, plenty of reading material, and a glass of wine or sherry for the taking.
While the Andersons keep the common rooms open, they also understand the need for privacy. “We make the bedroom and bathroom your sanctuary but leave the rest of the house open to our guests,” says Terry.
Every room has a tea caddy so guests can prepare their own tea or first cup of coffee in the morning. They also put bottles of spring water in each room. “We try to do something so our guests say, ‘Wow, that was really nice’ when they leave,” Terry adds.
In keeping with the casual environment, the Andersons make the holiday decorations pretty, but simple. They trim the tree the day after Thanksgiving, calling upon guests who happen to be at the inn to help decorate. “Nothing is valuable or precious, but everything is personal,” says Terry. “We keep it festive but simple.”
Chimney Hill Estate
This historic country inn is nestled on a wooded hillside above the charming riverside town of Lambertville. Built of local fieldstone in 1820, the inn has twelve rooms, all decorated in period furnishings. Its light-filled common room is set up for reading and conversation. The restaurant serves a delicious homemade breakfast; the adjoining butler’s pantry is stocked with drinks and snacks for the taking.
A portion of the inn’s eight acres is dedicated to a working alpaca farm—the Andersons have thirteen of the lovable creatures. Guests are welcome to roam.
Barbara Bray Wilde likes to call her family’s inn a boutique hotel. She chalks up the inn’s success—it is booked year-round—to two things: first, the magnificent building and grounds, and second, the closed-door policy. “We try to give our guests more privacy than a traditional B&B. We don’t hover; we tend to leave our guests alone,” she says.
Grand Reception: Elaborate holiday decorations in Southern Mansion’s grand parlor change every year, but always include evergreens and velvet swags. Architectural details like the crown molding and an ornate mantelpiece have been painstakingly restored.
Upon arriving at Southern Mansion, guests are welcomed into a grand entryway and an adjacent grand parlor. It’s the scale of the rooms that makes the inn so unique. “Everything is large: large rooms, high ceilings, large furniture,” says Wilde. “It’s very masculine, not a bit frou frou.” In fact, while many guests come to the inn for a romantic getaway, there are many others who gravitate to the magnificent parlor to read, converse, and just relax on the oversized velvet sofas. “It’s a very welcoming room,” says Wilde. “There’s always a fire going, snacks to munch on, and guests hanging out.”
Another favorite gathering spot is the cupola, the signature room with a 360-degree panorama of Cape May.
The inn is especially popular during the holiday season, when the Bray family pulls out all stops with ornate decorations in every room. It takes two full weeks to set up the extravagant holiday decor. The innkeepers start in mid-November, so there’s plenty of time for guests to get into the holiday spirit. “Today, people just don’t have the time to decorate for themselves. They want to get into the holiday mood, but they’re in a time crunch. We give them that treat,” says Wilde. “Our guests really enjoy the decorations; they put everyone in a good mood.”
The lavish decorations include five indoor Christmas trees— each distinctly different—and several more outside. Each year there is a different theme—a unique color scheme or, as was the case one year, all peacocks. Much of the greenery, including the live trees, comes from the family’s vineyard, Willow Creek Winery, located a few miles away. Homegrown flowers, displayed in every room, are also from the vineyard.
“Every year we go overboard with holiday spirit,” explains Wilde. “And our guests keep coming back.”
The opulent Southern Mansion was built in 1860 and painstakingly restored—with much of the original furnishings, artwork, and heirlooms—when the Bray family purchased it in 1995. “It was absolutely dilapidated,” says owner Barbara Bray Wilde. “It took almost three years to get it to its current state.” Originally a private estate, then a boarding house, Southern Mansion is now a sprawling Italianate inn set on one and a half acres of award-winning gardens, just a few minutes’ walk to the beach. Among its features: 25 bedrooms, two ballrooms, a veranda, a solarium, and two grand circular staircases.
The front entryway of the inn, completely restored to its original grandeur, showcases the Italianate-style of the orginal building.Click here to leave a comment