WEB EXCLUSIVE: Blackburn Inn Blends History, Locale Into Design
October 18th, 2017
STAUNTON, VA—The Blackburn Inn has deep roots. Going as far back as 1828, it was designed by master builder Thomas Blackburn. Today, it is breathing new life as a boutique hotel set to open in spring 2018.
While its modern design will cater to today’s traveler, glints of the past remain at every turn in this Jefferson-style building—original architecture, heart pine flooring, antique-style drafting tables and hallway arches, to name a few.
Led by Merrit Jackson, interior designer and owner of A Concept 2 Design, the goal from the outset was to respect the original architecture and pay homage to the hotel’s namesake in nuanced ways.
“Because it was built in 1828, there are so many beautiful and architecturally significant features in the space. It was important to us that we provided a clear delineation between what exists and what we would be adding. We worked with vendors to create custom casegoods, soft goods, millwork and artwork that would complement, but not compete, with the building’s architecture,” said Jackson. “The hotel’s namesake is the architect Thomas Blackburn who was Thomas Jefferson’s protégé. In our design process, we focused on finding unique ways to pay homage to Blackburn by incorporating subtle references to him that speak of his historical significance in present-day language.”
It was less about forcing a particular design theme or point of view and more about letting things flow.
“The space tells its own story with grand architectural features like a spiral staircase, arched passageways, a cupola, soaring ceilings, original heart pine flooring and exquisitely crafted trim work,” said Jackson. “We know that when guests walk through, these features will be the focus. We crafted our design style to serve as a background to this story by utilizing clean lines and comfortable furnishings. We also incorporated modern day amenities and technologies like ample places to plug in, oversized bathrooms with barn-style glass doors and rain showers accompanied by soaking tubs in some rooms.”
Jackson kept the color palette mostly neutral with pops of lightly saturated colors, incorporated a mix of textures and played with furniture scale in some areas to create interesting focal pieces.
“We also had some fun tying in surprises for the guests by including features like custom artwork that reinterprets elements from Blackburn’s architectural drawings in an abstract way, and a drafting table-style welcome desk in the reception area,” said Jackson. “There will be ample terrace seating, a bistro, a gift shop offering candies, sundries and retail merchandise and a mobile cart to host breakfast goods in the mornings and used for wine tastings/happy hours in the evenings.”
To give the interiors a sense of place, Jackson brought the locale into the design and tapped into its independent shops, art galleries and historic attractions for pieces to help frame the design narrative.
“We know it’s important to give the guests a sense of place, so we will be incorporating regional art and accessories in the interiors. Some key areas of the public space will be set up as miniature galleries to display works by local artists,” said Jackson. “Although the building will serve a new purpose, these regional influences will ensure that The Blackburn continues to be extension of the unique local culture.”
Looking back on the project, Blackburn is grateful to have been a part of the hotel’s transformation and future.
“It’s pretty special to be a part of a project that allows you to see such a layering of history and use over such a large span of years,” said Jackson. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating a design that, we hope, will be a worthy addition to the story of this historic building’s next chapter.”