by Rae Bryant
“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
Upon entering this circa 1900, spliced town home on Dupont Circle, the “public haunts” of pavement and traffic dissipate, replaced with flowing water, oils on canvas, murals, antiques, and a 1925 Steinway baby grand. It is a 21st century salon, christened in 2007 as the Artists Inn Residence Bed and Breakfast, a multi-disciplinary study in by-gone eras, a tribute to nature and artistic greatness. This, mon ami, is the perfect writer get-away.
Located in the historic section of Dupont Circle, the Artists Inn Residence hails as “An Embassy for the Arts in Washington DC,” and so it is. Renovated from two separate residences, this conglomerated gathering house for artists, writers, musicians, and travelers is a green inn with literary appeal for the most eclectic and discerning of aficionados. Regal and clean-lined with a sense of old-world iconography, this oasis in the city brings together Parisian/Scandinavian antiques with a dash of Tuscan ambience. It combines brush and pen in a way that only a true artist could compose, and our artist is Terence Gerace, Jr., proprietor and host. He along with his parents, Holly and Terence Gerace, Sr., have brought a vision of the Parisian drawing room to D.C. With a tasteful and comfortable library and a private gallery exhibiting local artists, Artists Inn provides a place for the humanities, a salon of which Madame Geoffrin would be proud, and all within Smithsonian and National Zoo walking distance. For a writer looking to research national archives in luxury, this is the place to stay.
As guests step into the Inn and onto the tiled foyer, they hear fountain sounds drifting through the first floor gallery, which showcases an Odyssean stairway, complete with a cascading quote from “Book One” that runs down the risers, painted by Matthew Willey.
But come now, stay with me, eager though you are for your journey, so that you may first bathe, take your ease and, well rested and happy in your heart, then go back to your ship with a present, something prized, altogether fine, which will be your keepsake from me, what loving guests and hosts bestow on each other. (The Odyssey of Homer)
In this quote, Telemachus invites a disguised Athena to join him in his father’s suitor-riddled house. Mr. Gerace may not be overrun by suitors, nor is he in need of a goddess’ touch, but he is every bit as hospitable. He has created a serene and characterized setting, enveloping his guests into an enchantment only detail and a true eye for composition can create. Each room sets an artistic scene, a rejuvenating experience for the most weary of travelers. Athena, herself, would feel pampered, in any of the characterized suites, each set off in its own private entryway: Da Vinci, Dali, Hepburn, Ellington, Mozart, and yes, the Bard himself – William Shakespeare.
The William Shakespeare Room
Upon entering the Shakespeare room, there is no doubt that the guest has stepped back in time. Tudor inspired, the queen-sized solid oak bed, 17th century English replicated, was designed and hand made by Nicholas Berry in Sussex, England. The suite boasts antiques, antique replicas, and a wheel chair accessible, marble bathroom complete with an effervescent air tub. Crowningthe bed is a tapestried canopy, adorned with Shakespearian quotes.
“There sleeps Titania something of the night,/Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.” A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
“Sleep dwell Upon thine eyes/Peace in thy breast.” Romeo and Juliet
“We are such stuff that dreams are made on.” The Tempest
Several wall prints depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s Tragedies, Comedies, Tragicomedies, and Histories create a sense of reflection. Every detail is a muse, a reminder of the 17th century and the Bard’s genius. It is a space for creating, while keeping the best of 21st century luxury. From mood lighting to several hidden conveniences, such as a television set behind a mirror above the fireplace mantle, Mr. Gerace tended to every detail, even the environmentally responsible.
Shakespeare was never so green. The suite floors are made from antique reclaimed American white oak. Arched doors are reclaimed from a second hand architectural shop. Perishables and linens also follow the environmentally conscious standard of the Inn: Seventh Generation 100% recycled toilet paper; CFL bulbs in bedside and desk lamps. The shampoo, conditioner, soap and body wash are all by Avalon Organics. Bed linens, pillows, and bathroom linens are 100% organic cotton, and though they are changed with each new guest, daily service is offered only upon request. Mr. Gerace has taken in-depth measures toward minimizing the Inn’s carbon footprint.
The Leonardo Da Vinci Room
Stepping through the wood and iron chained doors, one might expect to see the Renaissance man himself sitting in the suite, writing in his journal, inventing wings, or painting a masterpiece. The decor is 15th century Tuscan countryside, but the amenities are far from old world. The Da Vinci room has heated, tiled floors, a reclaimed king-sized bed made from antique mansion doors. Antique Italian marble sinks and a reclaimed stone fireplace. Enjoy a Jacuzzi for two or a sky-lighted shower. Linens and service follow the same green service as the rest of the Inn.
The Salvador Dali Room
Salvador Dali is most known today for his whimsical, surrealist paintings – Persistence of Memory, arguably his most famous. However, Dali was not only a painter, he also published short stories and poetry: “Saint Sebastian,” “Two Pieces in Prose,” “Poem: To Lhydia of Cadaquas,” and others. The Artists Inn pays tribute to Dali, painter, author, and poet, in a unique room experience that can only be described as surreal. Set off behind a reclaimed 18th Century Spanish door, is a Dali-esque fantasy room, painted by muralist Matthew Willey. Both walls and bed, created by bronze artist Richard Bergen and Carpenter, Ray Smith, combine in a Peristence of Memoryexperience. The adjoining bathroom has all the amenities, including a Jacuzzi tub with water that falls from the ceiling and a wall free shower.
The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Room
What would the Artists Inn Residence be without Mozart, perhaps the world’s most famous composer? With sweeping white silk and subtle, gilded detail, this charming jewel box features a monumental 18th century limestone fireplace reclaimed from a French Chateau and a reclaimed antique French oak floor. Decadence and reclaim/restoration combine as a function and form, environmentally savvy guest room. An antique silver punch bowl seconds as a sink, and a television disguises as an 18th century trumeau mirror. French decadence with contemporary amenities offer guests charm and luxury.
The Katharine Hepburn Room
Katherine Hepburn, artist, writer, and one of America’s greatest actors on screen and stage, graces the Inn with subtle American charm. Most known for her multiple award winning performances, in 1991, Hepburn published her autobiography titled Me. She was an American Renaissance woman. The Hepburn suite features “mirrors and furniture from the actress home, and watercolors painted by the actress herself” (ArtisitsInnResidence.com) A claw foot air tub sits central to the adjoining bath.
The Duke Ellington Room
In Music is my Mistress, Ellington’s 1973 autobiography, he speaks candidly on his development as a musician. He described himself as a young man missing lessons, feeling that at the time, playing the piano was not his natural talent. How fortunate that he did not hang up his musical hat! In this black, white and tones of grey suite, the Artists Inn celebrates this D.C. born musician and Pulitzer Prize winner. With all the Inn amenities and green standards, this suite echoes an era of Jazz, an era of change.
“The Artists Inn Residence is committed to being as green as possible!” says Mr. Gerace, and he has certainly put the effort behind his banner. In addition to guest room green standards, the roof is covered with Sharp Solar Panels as part of a grid-tied solar photovoltaic system. Mr. Geraces office uses 100% recycled paper for the computer printer/copier and ball point pens made from recycled plastic.
A Breakfast of Champions
And now, the piece de resistance, breakfast! Mr. Gerace hosts a breakfast buffet for gourmet lovers with an organic twist. He uses as many certified organic foods as possible: eggs, granola, cereals, oatmeal, milk, coffee, tea, sugar, fruit preserves, and orange juice. Other certified organic ingredients are incorporated depending on availability, sometimes purchased at a local market just a few blocks away. Breakfast, served in two sun-filled rooms, complete with cheese souffle, coffee, and paper is a divine experience, leisurely and scrumptious. Afterwards, one might like to relax in the second floor library, read, write, take a walk through historic Dupont, visit a museum, or simply relax in the tub.
In keeping with the salon experience, Mr. Gerace is a gracious host, offering his private first floor gallery as a setting for book clubs and writers’ groups alike. Most recently, he hosted the Algonkian Reunion Writer’s Group, providing comfortable seating, drinks, and atmosphere, for five writers in a Salon setting that currently exhibits oils on canvases by Jo Lee Weiss, Dean of Faculty at the Washington Studio School.
Ms. Weiss has also shown her work in the Garver Gallery, Courtyard Gallery, and Montpelier Cultural Arts Center. A recipient of the MSAC Arts Grant award, Ms. Weiss works not only in oils but also in watercolors, and occasionally includes cross-medium and textualized studies. Ms. Weiss keeps with the environmentally savvy crowd by sometimes using recycled materials in her work.
This summer, the Artists Inn is hosting a private book launch for Cathy Alter, author of “Up For Renewal.” Ms. Alter, who was actually married at the Inn wrote a cameo of the space in her book.
Combing the flow of visual and written artistry, Mr. Gerace has developed a space for communing with the muses. Green, artsy, and full of wit, the Artists Inn Residence is the place to stay in Washington D.C. Until next time, let “Sleep dwell upon thine eyes” and “Peace in thy breast.”
Rae Bryant, short story author, novelist, and travel writer reviews short fiction for The Fix. She lives in a little valley just outside Washington D.C. Read more about Rae and her published works at www.raebryant.com or visit her at RaeBryant.livejournal.com
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