If you ever stayed at the old Williams Inn you’d remember it, and not in a pleasant way.
Fussy wallpaper lurked behind every door. There were heavy drapes, chenille bedspreads, and rattling air conditioners. It was about as modern as the inn that Nellie Olsen opened in Walnut Grove on season six of “Little House on the Prairie.”
The now-deserted old Williams Inn will likely be demolished — much the way that Nellie’s eponymous inn was destroyed in the final episode of “Little House.” The new Williams Inn, a freshly-built large stone structure with an attached barn-like building, bears little resemblance to its predecessor, and for that we should all be grateful. It’s now best described as Berkshires deluxe.
This is the state of Berkshires lodging. The new, and newly renovated, hotels that have opened their doors over the past year are less chintz and more chic, with varying degrees of success. In the name of investigative journalism I packed a small steamer trunk and headed west to see what’s available in the way of new offerings in advance of leaf peeping season.
As always, these establishments did not know a Globe reporter was present, and the Globe received no special rates or freebies. Please be aware rates listed below can spike sharply during peak season.
Intended audience: The comfort-seeking leaf peeper.
The lowdown: This hotel was blessed with a fresh life, and did it ever need one. The pleasant euphemism for its previous look was “New England charm.” If anyone ever uses that phrase to describe a hotel, it means it looks like your great aunt Gertie’s living room. The new, 64-room Williams Inn is marketed as “reminiscent of a classic American farmhouse.” Let me tell you friends, this is better than any farmhouse. The rooms are spacious, spotless, and still have that delicious new hotel smell.
The experience: It entirely exceeded expectations. My room was filled with muted yellows and blues, along with tastefully placed wood accents. At the desk was a cherry spindle chair. The ice bucket was also wood, a unique and warm touch. There was local art placed throughout the hotel, and there was a handmade, glazed ceramic bowl in my room made by a local artist. The bed was comfortable, and the bathroom completely modern with an au courant sliding barn door. That was the only farmhouse reference to be found. To borrow an overused real estate term, it’s steps from shops and restaurants.
Coffee maker in room: No, but there is a coffee/beverage station on every floor.
Breakfast included: No.
On-site dining options: Yes. The restaurant is called the Barn, and I had a fantastic lunch on the patio.
Gym: Yes, a rare treat for a Berkshires property.
Published nightly rate: Rooms start at $169 a night.
What I paid: $256.
Worth the stay?: Absolutely. If you’re looking for a solid, comfortable option, I would place Williams Inn as one of your top choices.
101 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-9371. www.williamsinn.com
Intended audience: The hipster leaf peeper.
The lowdown: The hotel lives up to the hype it created when it opened last year. The former roadside hotel is now a vision in blond wood and concrete. There is something camp-like about it. Light filters through the abundant trees. It’s surrounded by 55 acres of woods (plus a Stop & Shop across the street). A footbridge was built over the Hoosic River behind the property. There’s also a swimming pool and hiking trails.
The experience: Is there such a thing as sleek/minimalist/rustic chic? If not, I’m stealing the term right now. I fell in love with the massive angular headboard. Also, I sank into the mattress and slept like a baby who had consumed a shot of whiskey. There’s an ample reading nook with a canvas-covered cushion. It’s more like a second bed than a reading nook. Each room has its own small deck with Adirondack chairs. I loved touches such as the mud cloth covering over the TV. When you have all that great nature, who needs TV? Of all the thoughtful features in the room, I most appreciated the stack of postcards from the turn of the last century. They were all Berkshires postcards sent to relatives and friends that served as beautiful precursors to text messages. The only thing I could find wrong was that the electric shades weren’t functioning.
Coffee maker in room: No, but the minibar is stocked with locally made treats and spirits and there’s an espresso machine in the Lodge.
Breakfast included: No.
On-site dining options: Yes. Chef Corey Wentworth has created an extensive menu covering three meals a day. There’s also a cool lounge and place for quick bites at the adjacent Airport Rooms. Room service is also available.
Gym: No, but there’s yoga and guided hikes, plus the aforementioned pool.
Published nightly rate: Rooms start as low as $180 a night.
What I paid: $245.
Worth the stay?: Absolutely. During prime peeping season, the prices here really spike, so consider staying other times of the year as well. If you’re looking for a more conventional lodging experience you should make like Dionne Warwick and walk on by, but otherwise this reformed motor lodge is dripping with cool and fun.
915 State Road, North Adams, 413-346-4933. www.touristswelcome.com
SEVEN HILLS INN
Intended audience: The bargain leaf peeper.
The lowdown: The 1911 classic gilded age Berkshires mansion, which was converted to a hotel in 1951, reopened this summer after an extensive makeover. Literature touting the reopening promised “A top to bottom renovation.” I hate to rain on this picnic, but I wouldn’t exactly call the renovation top to bottom — unless the definition of top to bottom means rusty baseboard heaters, moldy grout around the tub, and a tennis court that looks as if it was last used the year that Dick Savitt won the gentlemen’s singles at Wimbledon. There are some beautiful common spaces and a lovely backyard, but my room was a classic case of lipstick on a pig.
The experience: My room was located in a section of the hotel that I suspect was built in the 1950s or 1960s. At first glance I was impressed. It looked modern and fresh. The bed had a tufted velvet headboard and stylish accent pillows, but as I walked toward the back of the room to turn down the temperature on a very 1990s looking air conditioner, I started to notice a touch of rust. The bathroom had a new vanity, but the tub still had 1980s tiles and the caulking around the tub was peppered with mold. Why go to the trouble of putting in a new floor and vanity and not address some of the other problems? I spilled a bit of water on the floor, and when I grabbed a tissue to clean it up, it was evident that the laminate hardwood floor hadn’t been cleaned lately. I really wanted to like this hotel, and there were parts of it that I loved. There was a wine and cheese evening gathering with live entertainment (the singer also played the triangle!) plus a nice pool. But a few more changes would have gone a long way.
Coffee maker in room: No, but coffee and tea are available in the common area. There’s also a refrigerator in the room, but sadly no true minibar.
Breakfast included: Yes.
On-site dining options: Yes, there’s a restaurant and bar/lounge.
Gym: No, but there is a pool and a lawn where you can play cornhole. Does cornhole count as exercise?
Published nightly rate: Offseason rooms go for as low as $83.
What I paid: $120
Worth the stay?: If you’re looking for a bargain, this is it, especially if you don’t mind your hotels a little rough around the edges. I was picky about details, because that’s my job, but despite its flaws, the place has its charms.
40 Plunkett St., Lenox, 413-637-0060. www.sevenhillsinn.com
THE INN AT KENMORE HALL
Intended audience: The posh, urban leaf peeper.
The lowdown: The stylish, eccentric, 18th-century Georgian manor house set on 20 acres of field and forest was transformed into a bed and breakfast by Frank Mutyjens, the former creative director of menswear for J.Crew, and his partner, artist and restaurateur Scott Edward Cole. It was the only Massachusetts hotel to earn a spot on Conde Nast Travel’s hot list for 2019. It’s a sprawling old house built in 1792 for Henry Sherrill, a soldier in the Revolutionary War. There are just five rooms, plus a cottage, that are all quirky and unique. Staying here felt like staying in a Wes Anderson film, and I mean that in a loving way. It’s stacked with art books, vases of flowers collected from the grounds, and an 8-year-old Vizsla (that’s a breed of dog) named Dutch. It’s a bit like an Elle Decor spread come to life in the most casual way possible. Mutyjens greeted me when I arrived, showed me to my room, and basically let me have the run of the place. I was the only guest in residence (it was just past Labor Day), so I assume I was given more attention than most guests generally receive, especially from Dutch.
The experience: I’m not generally a fan of B&Bs, but Kenmore Hall was an exception to my ironclad, no B&B rule. The floor in my room sloped downward, yet it was an incredibly sweet space because it was filled with perfectly curated bric-a-brac, a fireplace, and an old chandelier. There was also a lovingly restored bathroom (are you listening, Seven Hills?). There were multiple parlors and landings with comfortable, time-worn sofas, and chairs in which to escape and relax. There was also a well-stocked bar where you can simply help yourself to whatever struck your fancy. Treats were laid out at cocktail hour. There were individual tables for breakfast — no small talk necessary with strangers — and the food was cooked to order. In other words, this place charmed the pants off me. It was all in the details. But charm does not come cheap. Even though Kenmore Hall is located in a town I’d never heard of — and I grew up in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts — the price tag is steep. I’d advise you arrive promptly at check-in and take full advantage to get your money’s worth.
Coffee maker in room: Absolutely not. I assume if you need coffee you can ask for it.
Breakfast included: Yes (order the blueberry pancakes).
On-site dining options: Only breakfast is served here.
Gym: No, but you can walk the grounds, which includes a craggy apple orchard.
Published nightly rate: Rooms start at $350 a night in the offseason, but run much higher at peak times of the year. Expect an average of about $450.
What I paid: $384.
Worth the stay?: This one is entirely a matter of taste. If you’re simply looking for a place to sleep while in the Berkshires, it’s probably not a fit. If you want an experience, Kenmore Hall is the kind of place you’ll remember long after you’ve checked out.
1385 State Road, Richmond, 413-698-8100. www.theinnatkenmorehall.com