By Marti Mayne
Recently, walking up to the Sugar Hill Inn’s porch, replete with wicker furniture beckoning a “sit-and-take-in-the-view”, I could not help but go back to 2006 when I first came to the Sugar Hill Inn after innkeeper and owner, Steve Allen, purchased it. New to innkeeping, and fresh out of the French Culinary Institute, Steve gathered a group of B&B veterans in the industry to offer insight and direction. He was a master of food, but knew he needed guidance when it came to innkeeping. Immediately I knew that Steve “got it”, but little did I know how talented he was. Steve defied the usual learning curve for new innkeepers, and went right to work creating an impressive inn, award-winning restaurant and vacation destination. It took guts, insight, patience, financial reserves and a tenacious devotion to quality. Throw in a little romance, a great design sense and a knack for finding just the right people to fill in where he needed them, and it’s no wonder the Sugar Hill Inn is a media darling and a favorite for inngoers from Boston to Bermuda!
When I first discovered the Sugar Hill Inn, it was a lovely rambling historic farmhouse that had been tenderly loved for decades by its former owner. It was cozy, quintessential and….well, the views were a highlight. Let’s just say the inn and the surrounding cottages were in need of a face lift. Steve understood this and went right to work updating and recreating his idea of the perfect inn. The dining room was refurbished to create an intimate and contemporary dining experience. A beautiful and welcoming bar/tavern room was built to create a place for the culinary demonstrations Steve envisioned. One of Steve’s early priorities was the addition of a pool, which surprised me. Yet, it was accomplished in the first years he was there, and it turned out to be a true selling point for the inn. The pool and its manmade waterfall are a highlight of the inn, especially on a hot summer day.
One by one, Steve went about updating rooms and cottages. New furniture, linens, wallpaper, drapes, air conditioning, and updated appliances were the beginning. Many of the rooms kept their historic charm, and Steve’s uncanny sense dictated that the legacy of the farmhouse was maintained in many of the inn’s rooms, while contemporary updates were added to others. The wide pine flooring was uncovered and restored, and Bette Davis’s room – named for the very room where the actress stayed when she visited here – was preserved. Yet whirlpool tubs, innovative glass showers and gas fireplaces were added to rooms as fast as they could be updated. I-pod docking stations were put into to all the rooms and flat-screen TVs were added to some rooms (for those who want to stay connected) yet not others (to offer those who want the chance to unplug). Wi-fi was made available in the inn.
Next, Steve moved one by one through the cottages. The Dream Cottage came first, with a total reconstruction. It was Steve’s plan to create the most romantic place anyone could ever imagine, and he didn’t miss a detail. From the commanding mountain views on the Dream Cottage’s porch swing, to the deep whirlpool tub overlooking an enormous stone fireplace and the shower big enough for a crowd plus a private sauna, this is one dreamy cottage, lacking not a single thing. A contest to title the cottage resulted in its appropriate name.
And he didn’t stop with his first dream cottage. One by one the cottages were updated with modern, chic and elegantly romantic décor and appeal. The Garden Room has a cool cylindrical glass fireplace, the Forest View sports a nautical boathouse look and beautiful artwork, and yet the Wildflower room has more of a traditional cottage appeal; each cottage and room has been recreated with built-ins, contemporary artwork created by local artists, and an eye toward the Gen-X and Gen-Y traveler.
All of Steve’s creativity is working to draw first-time inngoers into the B&B scene. Accustomed to staying in hotels, Sugar Hill Inn guests are enthralled by all the complimentary extras they find here. Expansive common areas, beautiful grounds, refrigerators bearing chilled spring water in rooms, and the inns signature surprise – espresso machines in each room – not to mention a hearty and delicious breakfast to start the day impress the guests with added value they are not accustomed to finding in hotels. Add in a spa room for massages, an elegant dining room and culinary prowess earning a Distinguished Restaurant of the America (DiRoNA) designation and Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence for the 100-options wine list from around the world, and this begins to explain why the Sugar Hill Inn has become a favorite romantic getaway destination for New Englanders over the past few years.
Romance is in the air here, and no story about the Sugar Hill Inn would be complete without mention of Steve’s own romance. Five years ago, Karen Cail moved to New Hampshire from Georgia. Karen’s Father was from Lincoln, NH and every summer the family would travel North to visit the Grandparents. Karen loved New Hampshire and it was just a matter of time before making it her home. Within her first week of arrival in New Hampshire, she began her new career as a part-time front desk and laundry person at the Sugar Hill Inn. It became quickly obvious that the inn couldn’t live without Karen, and eventually it was clear to Steve that he could not either. According to the inn’s website “For two years Steve and Karen attended conferences together and drank wine together (Karen was a non-drinker before meeting Steve!). Steve’s daughter threatened to disown him if he did not make the nice lady his girlfriend. It’s all very Sleepless in Seattle/New Hampshire.” Karen and Steve were married in April, 2013 at the Sugar Hill Inn, and recently returned from their honeymoon to Italy.
Karen’s had her hand in helping to create a contemporary new look at the inn. She sews bedspreads and drapes and has held competitions with Steve for who can create the coolest room.
If you’re looking for the ideal “Sleepless in Seattle” destination or simply want to relish some romance, Sugar Hill Inn is the place. Whether it’s the lure of yesteryear or more contemporary surroundings that mean romance for you, it’s here at the Sugar Hill Inn, with plenty of extras on top!
When You Go:
Sugar Hill Inn, 116 New Hampshire 117, Sugar Hill, NH 03586. Toll free: 800-548-4748 or 603-823-5621. Book online, review rooms, learn tons more at www.sugarhillinn.com.
Less than two-and-three-quarters hours from Boston, simply go North on Rt. 93 to NH Exit 38. Go left, then right onto Main Street. Go a half-mile, turn left on Sugar Hill Road, proceed up the road less than a mile and you can’t miss the Sugar Hill Inn on the right.
Click here to read all about the Sugar Hill Inn's events during the 20th Annual Fields of Lupine Festival.