The main floors of many hotels are beautifully designed but stale — just something to be passed on the way to and from your room. Not so with the newly reopened Keswick Hall in Charlottesville. The exquisite public spaces are inviting and lure you to stick around and have your morning coffee in the cozy library, enjoy the enormous window views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Garden Room or sip an elegant cocktail at the bar overlooking the infinity pool.
“What we loved about Keswick Hall was the power of place,” says co-owner Molly Hardie, who with her co-owner and husband Robert Hardie closed down the classic Virginia getaway for two and a half years to give the 1912 property a thorough renovation. “When I first starting visiting the property years ago it was only a short drive but when you got there you felt like you had gone somewhere miles away. We wanted to keep the elements we loved, but improve and update the others into the 21st century for the modern traveler.”
The renovation expanded the hotel to 80 rooms, added a new building for its restaurant Marigold by Jean-Georges and another building for the Spa, redesigned outdoor spaces for wedding and events, upgraded the tennis facilities and built a stunning dual-level infinity pool surrounded by cabanas. “The old pool was one of the most photographed places on the property,” says Hardie. “As beautiful as it was though, we thought if we don’t do something now we’ll never be able to do it.”
The flow between the outside and inside spaces of the hotel was one of the most important considerations of the redesign. “We want to connect our guests with nature. A lot of design elements incorporate natural colors and themes,” says Hardie. “My pollinator art collection has the same types of butterflies, moths and other creatures you might see populating the native plants in our meadow. On our main event terrace we put down grass and built large staircases, from the main level because we want our guests to get out there.”
For the new restaurant, Marigold by Jean-Georges, Hardie knew she wanted to move it from the former space inside the main hotel and into its own building next door. “We had a concept of rustic chic and were connected with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and everything fell into place,” says Hardie. “If you do formal dining then it becomes only a special occasion restaurant. We wanted to tone that done, but maintain the highest level of food and service.” The revolving menu sources the majority of its meats, fish and produce from local, organic and sustainable farms and suppliers.
Keswick’s balance between sophisticated and inviting comes from a very carefully considered design process. “You have to have an eclectic mix of art and objects and contrasting elements,” says Hardie. “If you have a traditional leather chair then mix it up for guests with a pop of modern art. We have people coming in from tennis and golf and we want them to be able to dress for those sports and then come in for a cocktail without feeling out of place. We sprinkled select pieces that have always been in the building but combined them with the new. You can’t make every object so precious.”
Along with the tennis courts and pools, Keswick also hosts the Full Cry Golf Course, designed by Pete Dye. Even if you’re not a player you can enjoy a golf cart trip over the beautiful grounds with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop. The hotel is a perfect base to explore Charlottesville — be sure to check out the new food hall Daily Market, built inside an old dairy factory — and the surrounding area. For history buffs, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Madison’s Montpelier are easy drives away. And there are plenty of wineries to do tastings and food such as Barboursville Vineyards and Early Mountain Vineyards.