One of the more imaginative and whimsical resorts in the country, Winvian, in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, is also a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property. That means it has all the bells and whistles of a grand inn, as well as topnotch food and amenities. But Winvian also has a lot of fun.
Its owners and creators, the Win Smith family, are the descendants of Winthrop and Vivian Smith, who owned the farm which they called Winvian after a combination of their two first names. But the farm encompassed 113 acres of woodland and meadows, much more than the little home and lot in the charming town of Warren, Vermont, which the younger Smiths had earlier turned into the Pitcher Inn, designing and decorating each of its 11 guest rooms with a different theme. Schoolhouse, for example, has chalkboards and school desks in addition to its bed and bath.
So they hired 15 different architects for the much larger Winvian property in Connecticut and let them each design a cottage, telling them the only rule was that the cottage must reflect something about Connecticut in its decor and materials. The result is a group of 18 cottages that resemble some creative fantasies. There's Treehouse, a two-storied rendition of every child's perfect hideaway that you must climb to reach, but once inside, is more elegant than the usual child's thrown-together structure. Charter Oak, named for the oak tree that hid Connecticut's charter during the Revolutionary period and which of course is built around an enormous oak tree.
Secret Society's theme is Yale's famous Skull and Bones....but we can't reveal what's inside.
Industry Cottage harks back to the individual mills and forges that housed the industries of old New England, featuring a bathtub situated under a windowed wall similar to a clerestory. Beaver Lodge's bathroom sinks are hollowed-out tree stumps. Connecticut Yankee, named after the Mark Twain book "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" has a four-poster bed fit for a king and a bathroom with pillars designer after the stones of Stonehenge. Helicopter is built around a real helicopter made by Sikorsky of Stratford, Connecticut. In Artist you can paint by oil or watercolor on an empty canvas and in Golf you can practice putting and chipping on the undulating floors designed for the links-addicted.
All of the cottages are spread out on the 113 acres so that each is very private, and guests gather for meals in the most historic looking building on the property, the 1776 Seth Bird House, named after its first owner, a local physician known for the coffin he dragged behind him on house calls....just in case. The Bird house is filled with wonderful antique furniture, and you can dine in one of the small rooms before a blazing fire on cuisine that has garnered Winvian five stars in its five-year-old existence. Executive Chef Chris Eddy brings not only produce from farm to table in a matter of hours from his garden, but fresh honey from his apiary as well.
Winvian has an enormous spa geared to romantic couples' treatments as well as individual beauty procedures. There's also a large building on the grounds for private gatherings, bicycles for every guest to explore the countryside on two wheels, facilities for games, picnics, teatime and cocktails and miles of nature hiking trails in the 4000-acre White Memorial Foundation grounds next door. Some of the cottages are dog friendly.
As expected, Winvian is expensive; nightly rates for two start at $650, breakfast included. But for a special treat or occasion, after a pleasant 2 1/2-hour drive from Boston, you will not forget that night.
Winvian, 155 Alain White Road, Morris, Connecticut, telephone 860--567-9600, www.winvian.com.