After staying in more than 100 hotels, motels, resorts, B&Bs, and inns over my 10 years in the travel writing biz, I admit a lot of them blend together in a mish-mash of pillow mints, hand creams, Nespresso machines, and cheap artwork that can no longer be distinguished by property. But I’m confident Made INN Vermont will remain fixed in my mind for decades to come, thanks to the acumen and savvy of owner Linda Wolf, who in the four years the inn’s been open, has already racked up awards including Editor’s Choice “Best New B&B” by Yankee Magazine and honorable mentions in Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, and Huffington Post, not to mention the coveted #1 spot on TripAdvisor for bed & breakfasts.
Indeed, I’ve long coveted the elegant Victorian building on Willard Street, in the hill section of Burlington, dominated by the former manor houses of 19th-century lumber, shipping, and banking barons. Erected in 1881, the inn exhibits more lightness in design and material than its often thickly brick and stone neighbors, although, I must admit, I prefer the previous light blue paint to the now darker brown.
It was Wolf’s artist-daughter Shelly Voorhees who first spied the for sale sign in front of the building a few years ago and immediately called her mother with the idea for the inn. Together, the two set out to transform the building into the unique, quirky, and definitely cheeky take on the classic Vermont inn and opened it in August 2012.
It’s immediately clear the moment you step through the beautifully rounded entry way into the foyer and are greeted warmly with a welcome sangria by Wolf. Turn left into the parlor and library, and it all but explodes in an eclectic panoply of colors, shapes, textures, and vibes, augmented by vinyl records spinning on the turntable—a feature that extends to all bedrooms. A sea of knick-knacks among the vintage-style sofas, chairs, and tables make each turn of the head a moment of discovery: a View-Master, Christmas bulbs, a sculpted up-turned palm, white orchids, dolls, glass chess set, electric guitar and amp (if you’re in the mood), bright graffiti style paintings by David Hinnebusch, and on and on.
The design sense, which the inn describes as “Downton Abbey meets Uptown Funk,” continues in the dining area on the far side, which is laden with sweets, fruit (dried and fresh), nuts, pastries, tea, coffee, drinks, and like—available all day and night long—not to mention balloons, bronze busts, plants, among other flair. This is also where breakfast, included in the price, begins with a buffet adds yet more. Eggs, pancakes, and French toast are also made to order, as are very generous mimosas.
Out the back door is the garden, which revolves around a six-person hot tub. Among the nearby chairs and tables are yet more elements of quirk—a hanging guitar, Buddha statue, fountains, light strands, infrared sauna, and benches made of snowboards. It’s only competition for an outdoor hangout is the front porch, which is an excellent perch to watch the comings and goings of Burlingtonians, particularly the students on the campus of Champlain College, just across the road.
The views only improve the higher up you go in the building until the widow’s walk itself. The tiny space, big enough for two, looks over nearly the entire city and out to Lake Champlain and Adirondack Mountains, which form the western backdrop of the city and one of the finest sunsets in all of New England. It’s romantic as all hell and will no doubt fuel passions with anyone you are with. Indeed, the subtle sensuality that permeates the inn encourages this.
Should the passion take you into any of the four bedrooms, you’ll find much to stoke the flames. Room 904 (starting at $249 per night) comes with Herb Albert albums to spin on the record player, a wall-sized chalkboard to scribble on (or read the praise of previous guests), lava lamps, lipstick red bar chairs, full length mirrors, flowers, plush robes and slippers, a TempurPedic platform bed (with adjustable neon mood lighting underneath), an Eames mid-century lounger and ottoman, antique brass chandelier, and more views of the lake and mountains out the front window. There’s even a free can of the coveted Heady Topper beer in the fridge along with a basket of sweets, again with no charge.
The one thing the rooms don’t have is their own attached bathroom, but they are only a few steps away down a short corridor, and each guest gets their own (with a separate key). Which one, however, depends on who arrives first. Inside, a sign reads, “Save Water, Shower with a Friend.”
But whatever order you arrive in, Wolf and the staff make sure that you are well-served and do so better than many of the big-name luxury hotel chains and resorts in the big cities. Yes, it costs a bit more than most other hotels and B&Bs in Burlington, but it’s a steal compared to the room rates in New York, Boston, and Montreal, where many of the guests come from. What isn’t factored into it, however, is the exceptionally fun, positive, and embracing character of Made INN Vermont that not only instantly cheers you up but fills you with joie de vivre.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of Made INN Vermont. All Photos by Mike Dunphy