clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How a fashion designer transformed an 18th-century home into a dreamy inn

New, 6 comments

Former J.Crew designer Frank Muytjens turns a fantasy into reality

facade of federal style home Photography by Frank Muytjens

Welcome back to Period Dramas, a column that celebrates all things old houses.

Frank Muytjens isn’t afraid to reinvent himself. After nearly 10 years at the helm of menswear design for J.Crew, Muytjens left the brand in April of 2017, prompting many in the fashion industry to wonder what his next step would be.

It turns out, it wouldn’t be in fashion—or even in New York City. Muytjens traded his Brooklyn apartment for country life when he moved to the scenic Berkshires region in western Massachusetts and renovated an 18th-century house into a boutique hotel: The Inn at Kenmore Hall.

“Opening an inn was always a fantasy of mine,” says Muytjens. After he moved to his house in upstate New York in June of 2017, he and his partner, artist and entrepreneur Scott Edward Cole, began to seriously brainstorm about making the dream a reality.

“I knew I wanted to buy an older house,” adds Muytjens. “It’s similar to what I was interested in doing at J.Crew with fashion. We were always looking for a great story—a great history. It adds depth to what you’re doing.”

They found the house that would later become the inn rather quickly. It’s a Federal-style home that was completed in 1792 for a Revolutionary War minuteman turned successful merchant. In the mid-19th century, the house became a summertime arts school. “It has a wonderful creative energy,” says Muytjens.

View this post on Instagram

The center hallway, after and before.

A post shared by the inn at Kenmore Hall (@theinnatkenmorehall) on

But where the house truly impressed was its detail and condition. The clapboard house sits on 20 acres, has grand proportions, and retains all original details, from impressive woodwork and wide-plank floors to a total of nine fireplaces. “The woodwork wasn’t covered up with layers of paint and the plaster walls were in remarkably sound condition. The floors didn’t even creak!” remembers Muytjens.

They embarked on a renovation process that addressed more behind-the-scenes elements than anything else, like bringing the electrical and heating systems all up to modern standards—a process that Muytjens was not fully acquainted with.

Photography by Frank Muytjens

“I came from a one-bedroom rental in Williamsburg—I had never done anything like this before,” says Muytjens. “But we had a great general contractor who came in and fully took over the house. By the time that we started to reclaim the rooms, we were deciding on furnishings.”

Photography by Frank Muytjens

Sourced from garage sales, antique shops, and even their own apartments, the furnishings for the inn are eclectic. “I approached furnishing the parlors and rooms with a similar sensibility to how I worked in fashion: I wanted different pieces from different eras together,” says Muytjens. “I wanted period-appropriate pieces to honor the building, but we also wanted some midcentury and industrial. The mix creates a sort of tension that you need, but most importantly, the furnishings had to make the house shine.”

The worn-in pieces with patina that fill the common spaces and five guest rooms are meant to create a comfortable but still elevated and polished atmosphere. Cultivating a homey atmosphere for guests is their top priority.

“We make breakfast, and it’s fun to think about little details that our guests notice. It could be as small as how you cut a fruit salad and the way a pillow rests on the bed, but we never want to be uptight and clinical. We strive to be inviting. There needs to be an ease to everything we do.”

Muytjens and Cole opened the Inn at Kenmore Hall this past August. The clientele, some of whom found the Inn through its well-curated Instagram account, ranges from Bostonians and New Yorkers to tourists from Italy and France.

“We’re lucky that the types of guests that we attract sought us out because they love the building and the way we have renovated it. It speaks to them,” says Muytjens. An added bonus for guests is its location: Richmond, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires, is a short distance from music venue Tanglewood and within a reasonable drive from the new art center MASS MoCa in North Adams.

Photography by Frank Muytjens
Photography by Frank Muytjens

And as for what’s in store for the inn, Muytjens and Cole are taking things slowly. “We’re laying a strong foundation for this business—it’s still only the first year,” says Muytjens. “We sit on 20 acres and we have a few ideas. Maybe we’ll open a farm stand! There are just so many possibilities.”