STORY BY Seth Putnam
Photography by Jesse Lenz and Garrett Cornielison
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“Apparently, the woman who owned the inn back in the day never had enough pitchers for milk or butter or cream or syrup or beer or cider,” explains Ari Sadri, general manager of the Pitcher Inn. “Because Vermonters are a sarcastic breed by nature, they immediately dubbed it the ‘Pitcher Inn.’ You could go, but you had to bring your own pitcher.’”
A historic icon in the community of Warren, Vermont, the old boarding house burned in 1993 when a water heater malfunctioned. Ideas swirled about what to do with the property, situated on a babbling brook that diverges from the Mad River. Some thought it should become a convenience store. Others imagined a nursing home in its place. Had those ideas come to fruition, Warren would look radically different.
Enter David Sellers, the father of the design/build movement on nearby Prickly Mountain and a skilled negotiator. “Dave can talk a dog off a meat truck,” Sadri says.
Sellers talked a pair of reluctant clients into buying the property. Then he set about designing a whimsical hotel on spec. The original notion was to build a pleasant inn, but nothing too fancy. Of course, the project took on a life of its own, and today it’s a member of Relais & Châteaux, a group of independent luxury properties.
Sellers’ inspiration came from The Beatles’ 1968 film, Yellow Submarine, in which a group of villains called the Blue Meanies chase the band down a hallway. The musicians throw open one door, only to find a train rushing past on the other side. They slam that door and open another; only this time there’s a lion tamer and a pride of roaring felines. “Dave loved the idea that there were no visual clues in the hallway,” Sadri says. “Every time you open a door, you have no idea what’s going to happen.”
To keep things interesting, Sellers designed four rooms himself and called in several other architects to design the rest. It worked. Visitors arrive at a quaint, white clapboard building in a picturesque Vermont town and think they know what to expect. Then they discover: There’s a surprise behind every door.
“If you’re super stuffy and you go to our website and look a picture of the Trout Room, this is not going to be your place and you know it right off the bat,” Sadri admits. “People who come here tend to appreciate detail and design and artistry. And that’s what this area does best. “Here’s a look at three of Sellers’ designs—and options for food and carousing:
Considering Warren’s dyed-in-the-wool penchant for skiing, nestled as it is between Sugarbush and Mad River Glen winter resorts, it makes a lot of sense that one of the Pitcher’s most popular rooms would mimic a miniature ski lodge. T Ski Room boasts a lift-ticket booth, vintage sleds repurposed as the bed’s headboard, old-school ski paraphernalia, a roaring fireplace, rough-hewn woodwork, and asteam shower with a compass inlaid into the floor.
Taking its name from the hotel’s street address, the dining room at the Pitcher features an ever-changing menu of creations from Executive Chef Susan Schickler, who seasons her dishes with her experience aboard private yachts afloat in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. Breakfast is certain to include both savory and sweet options—think Dutch oven-baked pancakes drizzled with local Maple syrup.
If the ribbed ceiling mimicking a boat hull isn’t enough to put you you in an angling state of mind, perhaps the hand-carved bed will transport you to a forest in your imagination. Tree trunks whittled in the shape of fiddlehead ferns form the corner posts, as if they’ve sprouted from the floorboards. Paddles line the room, and trout of all varieties leap from the walls. Have a seat at the fly-tying desk and listen to the river babbles beneath the porch attached to the room.
The idea of inner sanctums informs Sellers’ design of this room, which references royalty and knowledge at every turn. Though the room draws its direct inspiration from the Masonic Lodges of Vermont, Egyptian and Mesopotamian motifs are legion. The sofa could fit in Tutankhamen’s court, and Cleopatra’s sovereign seat inspired the king-sized bed. A hearth reminiscent of Babylon’s fiery furnace warms the room. And simple but elegant thrones oppose each other on either side of the chess table.
Sip craft cocktails in Tracks, the downstairs lounge where you’re likely to find yourself in the company of some of the very architects who designed the Pitcher’s rooms. Sadri himself serves as sommelier. Stay late and finish the night with billiards and shuffleboard