Behind the Whimsical Design of Winvian Farm

Founder Maggie Smith highlights the woodland hotel's 19 unique offerings

As soon as the front gates of Winvian Farm open, outside worries and anxieties disappear. Season depending, a toasty fire, along with a drink, greets you on the first floor of the main house, with an exquisite, five-star seed-to-table restaurant bustling through the night’s meal above. A 5,000-square-foot spa sits just across the property, flanked by Winvian’s organic gardens. But the cottages are what makes this 113-acre Relais & Châteaux property in Morris, Connecticut—just a short, two-hour drive from New York City—undeniably unique.

Nineteen accommodations dot the carefully laid out New England scene, and each is themed a different way: there’s Secret Society, a temple-like abode straight off the campuses of Dartmouth or Yale; Helicopter, a cabin built inside of a restored 1968 Sikorski chopper; and Treehouse, a two-story, tree-top paradise that transports visitors into the world of Swiss Family Robinson. No one individual understands the site’s design better than founder Maggie Smith, whose insight affords us inside access to more of our favorites.

Beavers are a common sight in Northwest Connecticut, so it’s only right that there’s a Winvian cottage, the 1250-square-foot Beaver Lodge, dedicated to them. A wonderfully-rounded (and fully-stocked) bar greets guests as they walk through the front door, with a wooded spiral staircase circling above it. Faux tree branches flank the master bed on the first floor and a twin sleeper sofa sits upstairs with views of the nearby Beaver Pond. Smith tells us “the rocks and other stonework on the interior came from the surrounding forest and the tiny beaver den above the bed was meticulously rebuilt—stick-by-stick—by designer John Carino.”

As for Woodlands Cottage, measuring 1050 square feet, “Designer Troy Osborne wanted to make this cottage ‘of the land,’” Smith says. Here, a waterfall rushes just behind the bed and the sinks are hallowed-out tree trunks—some still sprouting roots. The pebbly bathroom floor and stone throughout the living quarters were brought down from Warren, Vermont, near Winvian’s sister property, The Pitcher Inn.  A dual-sided fireplace heats both the bed and living room and a steam shower brings the coziness to another level. “It’s a very peaceful, riverside feel,” Smith adds.

“On his way back from gathering materials in Arizona’s airplane graveyard for Helicopter Cottage, architect Malcolm Appleton dropped down to New Mexico to pick up some ‘chunky’ furniture for Connecticut Yankee,” Smith explains. Oversized wing chairs, a double-headed shower and a standalone bath surrounded by a swath of stone make up the 950-square-foot ode to Mark Twain’s King Arthur’s Court. The bedroom is the crown jewel: a high-beamed bed, herringbone fireplace and a slew of medieval antiques will make you feel like royalty for the night.

Architect Mac Rood—who also did a room at the Pitcher Inn—came up with the idea for the 920-square-foot Library Cottage. Double-story bookshelves take up most of the wall space, with a swinging ladder that guests can scale to peruse literary classics. You can also simply hang out in your king-sized bed and watch, in wonder, as a flat-screen TV rises from the bookcase at your feet.

“One of my favorite pieces of furniture is in here,” Smith says. “A double-sided, sumptuous leather couch nestled next to a stone fireplace. Absolutely perfect for reading.” A skylight also sits at the top of the Library, allowing natural light in during the day and a chance for finding the next new galaxy at night.

Of all the wonder on site, there’s really nothing quite like the aforementioned 780-square-foot Treehouse. As Smith explains, “Vermont architect John Connell’s idea for the Treehouse was ‘you’re supposed to feel like a kid again.’ He used bright colors and various lengths of wood to make it look like it was built by a group of children. It’s also the most green cottage of them all, using 100 percent recycled materials.” She adds that the “counters in the kitchen are made out of grains and beans and other natural substances. The sofas pull out into beds for families or friends and the view, 35 feet off the ground, is terrific.” It’s the perfect perch for any season.

Images courtesy of Winvian Farm