Admittedly, the words “boutique” and “Vermont” make strange bedfellows. In fact, most locals show far more pride in a sturdy pair of shit-kickers than sexy stilettos, or a bushy beard over a silky chin, or efficient insulation over a dynamic color scheme. The state tourism industry plays into this ruggedness with images of hiking, hunting, mountain biking, and the like, while accommodation generally sticks to the tried-and-true formula of quaint, country inns and Alpine-flavored chalets.
So when the ribbon was snipped at the Hotel Vermont in May 2013, it was a definite departure. It may not have been Vermont’s first foray into the boutique hotel world, but it’s undoubtedly the most realized—and most fully Vermont. Named in tribute to the original Hotel Vermont, which operated in a still-standing redbrick Colonial Revival building from 1911 to 1970 a few blocks south, this new version is 21st-century from the get-go.
A Vermont project from conception, the design, construction and management teams are all local, as is much of the material used inside, from the black granite in the walls, and marble in the counter tops, and from the reclaimed red oak and lake shells in the flooring.
Stepping inside to the lobby last October, I was immediately impressed at how perfectly the elements were blended and balanced by the interior designers TruexCullins, yet creating something altogether new. The centerpiece of it all is to the right of the lobby, in the hotel’s lounge and Juniper Bar restaurant.
In the former, a burning wood fire blazed from back wall, while people congregated on the comfy sofa and chairs by another Vermont company, Beeken Parsons. Some were plugging away at laptops, while another group was engaged in a knitting class. Still others were simply relaxing with a drink and enjoying the view of Lake Champlain out the corner window.
It was mellow, however, compared to the more energetic scene just a few steps up in the adjacent Juniper Bar. Itself a draw for locals, the restaurant offers an exceptionally delicious menu drawn from local, organic, seasonal sources. The spruced up regional fare includes venison chili, Juniper-roasted quail, and poutine with oxtail gravy. The “farm-to-bar” cocktails are also some of the most creative in the state, like the WhistlePig—double barrel-aged rye whiskey and Vermont apple cider. When the weather is warm enough (and even when it’s not), you can take your drink outside to the attached terrace and enjoy more views of the lake. In late fall and winter, the hotel adds a fire pit to entice customers outside.
Upstairs, 125 room spread across six floors, with my corner King room located lakeside on the top floor. Although not exceedingly spacious, it was designed and laid out perfectly with what was available. The bed to the left was backed by a wood plank wall, and a banquet and desk sat below the large windows (which open) on the other side. The view of Lake Champlain made it a great place to enjoy the welcome platter of Vermont cheeses, fresh fruit, charcuterie, and sparkling wine. It should be noted though that despite the hotel’s close proximity to Lake Champlain, only some rooms can claim a view, and sometimes just a sliver, due to the obstruction of the Marriot just next door.
Another nice feature of the room (especially for couples) was the separation of the toilet and shower to opposite sides of the entryway, thereby negating potentially awkward moments not meant to be shared. The shampoos and soaps by another locally-based Lunaroma were another treat. The last touch of Vermonty warmth was rolled up on the bed as a portable Johnson Woolen Mill blanket.
Hotel Vermont encourages fraternization of guests by setting up coffee and tea stations in the pine-scented corridors. The beans are by Green Mountain Coffee and leaves by Vermont Artisan Tea Company. Should you require something more to help you sleep, the hotel offers a bedtime menu that includes aromatherapy, flannel pajamas, a hot toddy, and, of course, a Vermont Teddy Bear.
With such accoutrements, it really is hard to get out of bed and leave the hotel. It’s in this truth that Hotel Vermont shows its greatness. In a city as beautiful and dynamic as Burlington, that’s saying something. Few visitors spend much time in their hotels at all, preferring to get outside as soon as possible and enjoy the wealth of beauty and activities. Some locals may complain about the elevated prices that keep them from going in, but all agree that the Hotel Vermont offers an exciting view of the 21st century. Make your reservations at the hotel website or you can check rates at Priceline.
Lead photo by Hotel Vermont with permission. All other photos by Mike Dunphy
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of Hotel Vermont