By Yvonne BetowtThe Huntsville Times
, Huntsville, Alabama
ATLANTA - Having never been a guest at a bed-and-breakfast, I was excited when I learned that my husband and I would be staying in Stonehurst Place on a recent overnight visit to Atlanta. It was more than I ever imagined. It will be difficult to stay in a traditional hotel room after the Stonehurst Place experience.
The 113-year-old home, built in 1896 by George Burch Hinman, became known as the "Hinman House." It belonged in Hinman's family until the death of his daughter, Ruth, in 1996. It was a traditional B&B for nine years before being purchased in May 2007 by Barb Shadomy, who has a home in Germany as well as Atlanta. After a 14-month refurbishing project, the exquisite B&B reopened Oct. 8. "Our contractors were leaving through the back as our first guests were coming in the front door," Shadomy wrote in an e-mail.
Stonehurst Place has been dubbed a "Hidden Gem" by Tripadvisor.com and voted one of 14 Favorite Romantic Bed & Breakfasts and Country Inns by iLoveInns.com. Shadomy - who has a post-graduate degree in design - invested more than $1 million in renovating the two-story Arts and Crafts-style home in Atlanta's Midtown. She said she spent as much money remodeling the home as buying it.
Stonehurst Place is just minutes from the World Congress Center, the Georgia Aquarium and The World of Coca-Cola (both must-see attractions), the Georgia Dome (for all you Alabama-Virginia Tech fans without reservations going to the game there Sept. 5) and many other entertainment venues. Marta, Atlanta's public-transit system, is just a four-block walk if you can stand the humidity and heat at this time of the year.
The host of the romantic inn, Trenell Smith, makes guests feel at right at home but treats them like royalty. She plays many roles as the innkeeper, including hostess, chef, historian, tour guide, maintenance worker and anything else to make guests comfortable. The front porch overlooking Piedmont Avenue is filled with comfortable chairs, tables and magazines for leisurely reading time. Guests must press a button to gain initial admittance to the home and are given keys for after hours when Smith retires to her own home at the back of the property.
It's a good thing she is nearby in case you lock yourself out of your bathroom at 11 p.m. (I did), but she came within minutes to unlock it, still smiling.
The foyer has a large, round table with a guest register and a place for comments. One visitor called Stonehurst "an oasis in an urban setting." A Facebook comment said: "Throughout Stonehurst Place you see Shadomy's unfailing eye for design and detail. Her vision is a fluid one and everything - each piece of furniture, all the artwork and all the lighting fixtures - have a backstory." Trenell is happy to share them with guests and visitors.
Snacks are always available for the asking, and a smorgasbord of candy, fruit and soft drinks is offered in the small front sitting room from 6 to 10 nightly. Adjacent to the foyer is a gargantuan dining room with a banquet-sized table. But you don't have to eat at any particular time or with anyone else. Just tell Trenell when you want to eat, and it will be ready when you sit down.
We had a scrumptious breakfast of berries and cream (with a touch of organic honey), a mushroom and spinach frittata, sweet buttered cinnamon toast, signature coffee, tea and juice. My stepdaughter and her husband, who live a five-minute drive away, joined us for breakfast.
The bedrooms (downstairs) and suites (upstairs) have immaculate wooden floors. The rooms are elegantly decorated with huge beds and chairs, tons of pillows, incredible artwork, including some pieces by Andy Warhol, beautiful fireplaces and oversized bathrooms with spas or multi-head showers. Each room and suite has a name: Piedmont, Farnsworth, Hinman, Gables and Master Suite. We stayed in the Gables Suite, which overlooks the front yard with its dancing-lobsters fountain. (You have to see it to appreciate it.) It was converted from the original nanny rooms and has two large rooms with designer pieces of furniture and artwork.
The house features the old and the new for its visitors. It includes artwork many museums would love to have, along with high-speed and Wi-Fi Internet access, electronics charging and iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and work desks. The house, on the National Historic Register, was built using EarthCraft House standards. It even received the EarthCraft and Southface Renovation Project of the Year award in February. Stonehurst Place has solar panels that provide hot water for the home and two 1,700-gallon cisterns that capture rainwater for landscaping purposes.
The B&B has been featured on several TV programs, including HGTV Home and Garden's "Ground Breakers." One of my favorite places in the house (besides the dining room where breakfast was served) was the sleeping porch with comfy chairs and tables for dining, lounging or working, if possible to work in such a relaxed environment. You also have the opportunity to meet other guests there, unlike at most hotels.
I especially like the fact that Stonehurst Place is pet-friendly, but my cats prefer to stay at home.
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