Tour this historic hotel with holiday flair that feels preserved in time. Image by: Robin Stubbert; Styling by: Ann Marie Favot
This heritage building in Bayfield, Ont., gets a festive makeover with natural rustic touches that are in keeping with the region’s past.
The village of Bayfield, Ont., situated on the shore of Lake Huron, appears preserved in time. It’s a destination for many, but stumble upon it unawares and you’ll feel like you’ve time travelled to pioneer days. That was exactly what led Joanne Oliver to purchase and restore The Little Inn of Bayfield, a historic hotel in the centre of town. “The fact that it has been operating continuously since it was built in the mid-1800s as a coaching stop is such a wonderfully charming story, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the place,” she says.
Joanne hired local decorator Cynthia Weber, who had also fallen under the inn’s spell long ago, to gently restore the heritage building. “My husband and I have a history at the inn – we had stayed there over the years – so I had a few things in mind that I felt would enhance it,” says Cynthia. Her approach centred on a neutral palette that takes a back seat to the 19th-century architecture. She layered in all the creature comforts a traveller could desire. The result is a quiet beauty that’s welcoming year-round but takes on a special magic during the holidays, when a light hand is all that’s required to infuse festive cheer. Unadorned evergreens and brown paper packages boasting a pioneer spirit mixed with the glamorous glimmer of gold and bronze amount to a look we admiringly call heritage holiday. Here are the highlights:
1 Double down: A pair of wreaths with pinecones, berries and twine-bound bundles of cinnamon sticks sets an informal country feel at the front doors of the village inn. Hurricane lanterns with pillar candles are subtle nods to the building’s coach stop past but boast a more modern air.
2 Meet & greet: The front desk’s decorations tie tightly into the palette of taupe and black used throughout the inn’s principal rooms. A simple black grosgrain ribbon gives the wreath a touch of sophistication alongside luxe magnolia leaves in a brass bowl.
3 Hocus focus: An ornate brass mirror and sconces establish quiet old-world elegance in the taproom of The Little Inn of Bayfield in Ontario. The marble fireplace is a natural focal point and the perfect place to anchor the room’s festive flair – which needs nothing more than simple greenery.
4 Past perfect: The taproom’s blue wainscotting speaks to the inn’s history. “That hue was taken from a scrap of old hand-painted wallpaper we found under about seven other layers we stripped off,” says innkeeper Joanne Oliver.
5 Bar star: Planted with paperwhites encircled by magnolia leaves, the footed brass bowl offers a subtle festive touch to the bar area of the taproom.
6 Scented style: An arrangement in a cast iron urn lends period formality to the entrance of the inn’s restaurant and taproom. Filled with seasonal greenery and punctuated with tall cinnamon sticks, the display offers an appetizing classic Christmas scent that entices potential diners.
7 Runway magic: A eucalyptus garland casually draped along the dining table and dotted with brass candlesticks is a simple stand-in for a formal centrepiece and creates instant holiday magic.
8 Star setting: As an alternative to traditional name cards, a glittery twig ornament at each place setting adds a hint of sparkle that still suits the rustic theme.
9 Past presents: In the taproom, a burlap-wrapped miniature evergreen paired with kraft paper-packaged gifts calls to mind how settlers might have celebrated,achieving an authentic old-Ontario holiday vibe.
10 Banister beauty: A cedar, white pine and seeded eucalyptus garland lines the railing of the main staircase. Undecorated, it lends a rustic look while puddling on the floor for a touch of luxury.
11 Light fantastic: Another example of decorator Cynthia Weber’s deft mix of old and new, modern lanterns warm up the entryway’s traditional console. The bowl of black and white striped holiday crackers creates a fun festive welcome for guests.
12 Toile tales: The compelling juxtaposition of the traditional toile wallpaper and the casually unadorned tree in this charming guest room strikes a romantic and authentic seasonal mood.