Sunday, 28 October 2012

Weekend Life....The Wheatleigh Hotel, Lenox, Massachusetts

The Wheatleigh Hotel, Lenox, Massachusetts, September 2012.

On a humid afternoon in early September, we found ourselves meandering along a forest-lined road in Lenox, Massachusetts, in the heart of the leafy Southern Berkshires. Eyes peeled for the first signs of Autumnal colour in the foliage (alas only a few leaves had taken on a glorious golden hue), our destination was the Wheatleigh hotel, a member of The Leading Hotels of The World group. Built in 1893 during the Gilded Age by a wealthy New York financier as a wedding present for his daughter, Wheatleigh is described as a “Florentine palazzo atop a Berkshire knoll overlooking mountains and lake…”. My initial thoughts on the idea of an Italian palazzo-style building in the New England countryside were one of quiet skepticism: would it look starkly out of place? A poor imitation of “the real thing” in Europe? As we pulled into the sweeping circular driveway punctuated by an imposing fountain, all thoughts of an eccentric monstrosity were cast aside. A grand Italianate mansion awaited us.

Greeted with the offer of a glass of champagne in the parquetry-floored Great Hall (which is dominated by a wonderfully ornate fireplace, Tiffany stained glass windows and a soaring ceiling), we were promptly shown to our Junior Suite on the upper floor of the palazzo by one of the friendly staff. Decorated in refined, understated tones of chocolate, toffee and cream (I know, I know, food is never far from my thoughts!), the two things that caught my eye apart from the oversized king bed, were the fireplace (filled with candles on our visit as it was too early in September for a crackling fire) and the bank of windows framing the majestic view of the woods and rolling hills which surround the Wheatleigh estate. Stepping onto our private balcony, complete with elegant arches and columns, we were only persuaded to leave the beautiful view by a soft knock at the door. A question: Would we prefer Bvlgari, Thierry Mugler, Clarins or aromatherapy toiletries, and still or sparkling VOSS water? I ummed and ahhed so much over the prettily wrapped cellophane packages of toiletries (presented on a silver tray) that, encouraged by the service attendant, we ended up with both the Bvlgari and the Mugler! A plate of still-warm chocolate cookies was discretely delivered along with our bottles of water – it is the small, thoughtful things like this which distinguish and set apart a luxury, boutique hotel.

A stroll around the 22 acre estate revealed the full extent of the wonderful craftsmanship of the some 150 artisans who came from Italy to build the palazzo: Intricate carvings, grand columns, Renaissance balustrading, elegantly curved windows and imposing porticos all set on an expanse of immaculately terraced lawn. The décor throughout the hotel was elegant, subtle and tasteful: glass bowls full of crisp green apples, light-caramel coloured velvet couches, discrete lighting, vases filled with fresh flowers, and candles which were lit as night fell. Drawn to the secluded pool area (complete with fire pits and padded lounges) we spent the late afternoon lazing in the heated pool watching squirrels dart from tree to tree and contemplating whether we would have a bottle of red or white wine over dinner (the red won out!). After a dash back to our suite, a soak in the freestanding Czech & Speake Edwardian bath helped warm me up while serving to wrinkle my fingers and toes just a little bit more.

Things to Do:

Wheatleigh is situated about 2.5 hours drive from either Boston or NYC. We flew from London into Boston where we spent the night (loved it!) and then one night in Cape Cod before driving to The Berkshires. I highly recommend a stop at White Electric Coffee for a refuelling latte stop if you are travelling through Providence, Rhode Island on your journey to The Berkshires.

Apart from tennis (there is a tennis court on site…unfortunately it was too rainy on our visit to use. Well, that is my excuse anyway!) and relaxing by the pool, there are a number of things to do in the area (a car is required):

Tanglewood, which is situated within walking/biking distance of Wheatleigh (the hotel provides bikes), is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately we arrived a day after the summer season had ended so we missed out on a concert and picnic under the stars.

Apple peeping (joined by Autumnal leaf peeping later in September, early October) at any of the orchards in the local area. We visited Hilltop Orchards and spent a morning wandering about the orchard and admiring the different varieties of apples ready for picking. The reward at the end? A bag of delicious, warm, sugary apple cider donuts! So, so good! Even if you don’t like apples, you will love these cinnamony rings of goodness.

Norman Rockwell Museum. A visit to the museum and Rockwell’s Stockbridge studio is a must if you appreciate art as is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

There are also hiking trails in The Berkshires as well as skiing in winter.


There is a restaurant and bar at Wheatleigh as well as room service but if you don’t feel like eating in, Lenox has quite a few restaurants and cafes. For breakfast/lunch, we tried Haven Café & Bakery which seemed very popular with the locals (the huevos rancheros was delicious).

If you are driving back to NYC, Stone Barns Center is well worth a detour. We were pushed for time so only had time for a coffee and fresh heirloom tomato salad (delicious). I could have spent the day photographing the farm!

Our stay at Wheatleigh was compliments of the hotel.


  1. these are so incredibly beautiful. do you shoot with film?


  2. This looks so beautiful Vanessa! Have always wanted to go apple picking...


  3. You would not want to do anything else other than relax at such a beautiful place. Great photographs.

  4. omg Vanessa, you should work for Conde Nast Traveller, this visual diary post is an epic read!!!! x

  5. @Kit- ha ha! Yeah, me and about 1 million other photographers that want to work for Conde Nast Traveller! But thank you for being so kind :):) Hope you are well! p.s. Does the light in these photos remind you of London at the moment?!!

    @Collections - thank you!

    @Liebesgeist- agreed. It is the sort of place where you just want to sit with a good book and enjoy the beautiful view. During Fall, it must look absolutely spectacular with all the reds, oranges, yellows against a blue sky.

    @Talisa - me too! This was my first time (although I went strawberry picking when I was little as I think most Aussie kids do!). I think I might try and find a place to do it in the UK now :) Hope you are well xxx

    @Nearly Old Friends - thank you! And yes, always :)

  6. I want these printed on matte paper to go through every day! So amazing, Vanessa x

  7. I love these weekend life posts, they are fantastic!

  8. @Aldrich Mendal - thank you!

    @Margaret - ha ha! Pity there wasn't some blue sky though to offset all that green :) Thanks for your lovely comment, Margaret xx

    @The Slow Pace - thank you very much!

  9. I love these pictures so much! The one of the desk makes me want to write a letter... while eating a chocolate chip cookie. Fall is my favorite season and you've shown in pictures exactly why. Beautiful!

  10. I possibly love your travel photos even more than your street style. They always come across so natural and romantic.

    Also - Hannah Rose speaks so very highly of you and I'm actually moving to London next month - hopefully we cross paths in Feb.


  11. No way. Is this real? It's like a film setting. Oh I wish I;d get invited. (I can do the maundry, you know!)

  12. I am a fan of your blog, so I was surprised such a globe trotting blogger in my neck of the woods (literally) in the Berkshires! I run a Tumblr dedicated to all things Berkshires, I prefer mostly beautiful natural photographs. I was wondering if I can use some of your images on the Tumblr (with proper credit of course)? Feel free to contact me with specific permission instructions at anna . korniyets at gmail . com Thanks!

  13. @Anna - Of course Anna! I would be honoured :) How did you go last night/this morning with Hurricane Sandy? Was it dreadful? I can imagine it would have been terribly frightening with so many trees around....

    1. Excellent - these are such great shots! We made out okay, it looks like the storm just barely grazed us up here - some people lost power and a few trees came down, but nothing like what I've been seeing from NYC, oh my goodness.

    2. That is great news that you weren't too affected. I have been glued to the news all last night and today - it looks truly terrifying. We have friends from Sweden who are staying in Tribeca and they have been without power all day. The emergency services did such a great job of keeping so many people safe.

  14. @Jane - they were damn good cookies! although I did have to share :))I bet that New England looks absolutely spectacular right now (although before Hurricane Sandy came through yesterday).

    @Jessie -thanks Jessie! Yes, I think travel photographs are easy to like as everyone loves to travel and explore! And yes! Love to meet you in Feb! Hannah Rose will be here as well I think xx

    @Irene - all real :))

  15. Hi Vanessa,

    I so LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your work to the Nth. power! I visited The Wheatleigh years ago, when they first opened. It was the most adoring and romantic weekend ever with my now husband. Unfortunately, all of the photos taken then were lost/misplaced. Seeing these DIVINE images truly took me back. THANK YOU so much for making my memories come alive.

    You are the bees knees!

  16. @Hautezone - ahhhh so happy you saw this! That is such a shame that the photos are gone - no doubt they are sitting on a harddrive somewhere like most of our travel memories :) It really was a lovely place to relax before fashion week and the staff were wonderfully professional. The Berkshires really is a beautiful place in the world (and so close to Boston and NYC). thank you for your lovely comment :)