At Chesterwood, Meadowlark Gets a Hammertown-Style Makeover
Apr 26, 2012
When sculptor Daniel Chester French, he of Lincoln Memorial and Minute Man fame, needed to escape the friends, family members, clients, models, assistants, and assorted others who disrupted the serenity of the home, studio, and gardens of his Stockbridge, Massachusetts estate, Chesterwood, he would steal away to his “Little Studio,” a rustic pavilion tucked off in the woods. There, in this secluded atelier, he could concentrate and work in peace.
These days, the fact that French’s sylvan studio retreat (dubbed Meadowlark and converted into a summer house after the artist’s death in 1931) offers haven to other world-weary souls is one of this region’s best hidden-in-plain-sight secrets. In a unique arrangement between Chesterwood – now a National Trust Historic Site — and the Red Lion Inn, you can spend the night (or several of them) at Meadowlark, with free rein to wander throughout French’s estate, even under the starlit skies, after all the day guests have been ushered off the property, or at sunrise, before they arrive. Even better: this year, Meadowlark has a fresh, new look, thanks to Joan Osofsky of Hammertown.
Donna Hassler, Director of Chesterwood, was already a Hammertown Great Barrington customer when a friend noted that Meadowlark’s décor could use an update and suggested that Osofsky might be of help. When asked, Osofsky recalls, “I thought: This is how I can help something that is great. This is a way that business can help the community.”
Osofsky donated design services and material goods, some from Hammertown and some purchased from local suppliers and national companies – furniture, rugs, lighting, kitchenware, and linens – to give Meadowlark a makeover. “The beds were there, but we did everything else,” she says.
Of her fresh take on Meadlowlark, which she characterizes as “modern country,” Osofsky says, “We wanted to keep things clean and simple with furnishings that would not take away from the beauty of the setting and the studio itself.”
In keeping with Meadowlark’s history as part of an upscale, 122-acre country estate, Hammertown’s staff selected low-key, high-end finishes and furnishings: upholstered furniture by Mitchell Gold; top-quality items from local merchants; and ultraluxe Farrow & Ball paint for the walls. The result: a relaxed ambiance with a soothing, neutral palette of soft ivories, woody browns, and quiet taupes that suits Meadowlark’s natural setting and lets the structure sing.
While it’s awe-inspiring to be able to book a getaway in the very space where French worked on some of his most celebrated sculptures – including the iconic seated figure central to the Lincoln Memorial – anyone walking into Meadowlark will be equally awestuck by the cottage’s most prominent feature: a soaring, north-facing skylight/window that fills the living room with the ample natural light so prized by artists.
“Joan really respected the bones of the building and the lightness and openness of the architecture," says Hassler. "Now you walk in and your eyes go right to the skylight.”
French’s former casting room is now a cozy country kitchen.
Two bedrooms -- one upstairs and one down – offer comfort, privacy and the promise of a magical midsummer night’s dream.
“For six months of the year, I am in heaven,” French once remarked of his time at Chesterwood. Given its seclusion and serene surroundings, Meadowlark’s guests might share the sentiment, especially those who need to steal away from the diversions of summer, if only to rejuvenate before braving the scene again the next day. Then again, given Meadowlark’s newly heightened allure, they may just decide to stay put.
Reservations for overnight accommodations at Meadowlark can be made through the Red Lion Inn, which provides sumptuous breakfast baskets along with daily housekeeping services.
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