Celerie Kemble’s Guide to Litchfield County, Connecticut

November 12, 2020

New York-based designer Celerie Kemble was recently tapped by The Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut, to lend her signature touch to its interiors. So we thought who better to give us a tour of her favorite spots around that neck of the Litchfield County woods than Celerie herself.

I consider the Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection to be one of New England’s most precious old inns. It’s perfectly aligned with my fantasy of New England country life. So when I got the call to refresh the Inn’s interiors, my team and I were ecstatic both for the project—and to spend more time at this idyllic 58-acre property just two hours from New York City.

Originally a private school for boys, the Mayflower was more recently a private home with an eclectic collection of antiques. So on top of its austere New England boarding school bones, there were overlays of personal curation and a woman’s sense of design. That meant there was no need to adhere to a certain period or style, which opened the project up to all possibilities.

We kept all of the real antiques, and evicted fabrics and trims that spoke more of fanciness or formality. The goal was to add life and a playful spirit to the house so it feels vibrant and cozy in winter, light and bright in summer. Luxurious and tailored, but never fussy.

The Mayflower’s lobby.Courtesy of The Mayflower Inn
One of the rooms recently updated by Celerie KembleCourtesy of The Mayflower Inn

My Picks For Fall In and Around the Mayflower

The Inn does an amazing job of bringing a dynamic mix of food, art, and the Connecticut landscape to its guests. I’d always heard the Mayflower referenced as the best spa on the East coast…but I actually have not laid naked belly on the massage table yet because there’s so much else to do! While there for the redesign, I lost countless free hours just in the dining room, bar, or out on the porch.

For their new “Friends of Mayflower” series, the Inn hosts renowned chefs and artists for events and residencies throughout the year. This summer while Victoria Blamey was the chef-in-residence, I drove up just to try her wagyu skirt steak with black garlic, which was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. Now I can’t wait to get back and see what chef April Bloomfield is cooking up for the upscale Garden Room and more casual Tap Room.

The Garden Room at The Mayflower Inn.Courtesy of The Mayflower Inn

But on any given day when I’m not hanging out at the Inn, you could probably just follow my trail of croissant shards starting from Ovens of France bakery in Woodbury to the treasure trove of flea markets and antiques shops throughout Litchfield County.

The Cornwall Covered Bridge.Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of Tourism

To soak up the vibrant colors of fall, take a drive to the old Cornwall Covered Bridge, a wooden lattice truss bridge spanning the Housatonic River. Meander through Litchfield and Goshen one way, then through Kent and New Preston on the other, to maximize your views of the New England countryside.

Stop by picturesque Averill Farm — a 10th-generation family-run orchard just minutes from the Mayflower — to stockpile autumnal farm stand treats like apples, pears, pumpkins, squash, apple cider donuts, and dry sparkling hard cider.

The garden at the Bellamy-Ferriday House.Courtesy of Journal Register Co.

To take a peek inside a traditional 18th-century colonial residence, barns, and formal parterre garden, visit the five-acre Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden.

Arethusa Farm in Bantam is a year-round favorite for old-school ice cream. In Fall, look for seasonal flavors like Pumpkin with Ginger Molasses Cookies.

Hiking options in the area are virtually endless, but Boyd Woods Audubon Sanctuary in Litchfield offers over 100 bucolic acres of picturesque trails, ponds, and brooks.

To me, vintage and antique pieces feel less “canned” when their provenance is local, so I went to Plain Goods for pieces that would add a playful patina to the Mayflower (including a vintage drain spout that’s on display in the parlor). I adore their curated collection of quirky vintage pieces, refined antiques, and sculptural objet like old Swedish glass, vintage picnic baskets, and antique locks. When you’ve got a good mix of old and new, the pieces with history become brighter—more important. They don’t have to be valuable to become luminous.

As told to Elizabeth Brownfield