A biweekly staff review of East Coast and regional lodgings.
It was fascination at first sight.
I knew that I wanted to stay at the Suites at 249 from the moment we passed the little hotel in cute downtown Culpeper while looking for some quick refreshment on a tour of Civil War Virginia a couple of years ago.
We were heading up the main drag of East Davis Street from the visitors center in the old rail depot, and the first place we walked past was a spiffy-looking storefront that caught my eye because . . . well, because I’m always looking in shop windows, of course. But also because there was no merchandise in these. Because even though it looked as though it should be one, this was no shop.
The display windows were screened by planters holding a brace of tall woody branches, like a thick stand of furless pussy willows, beyond which I could make out a cushy lounge chair and a small desk. A colorful sign on the door announced the old-fashioned building’s contemporary use: “The Suites at 249,” it read. “A boutique hotel.”
“Oh, isn’t that interesting!” I exclaimed to my husband. “I bet this would be a neat place to stay.”
And how right I was. It took a while, but we finally made it back to Culpeper and the Suites on a recent weekend. And I can affirm that “neat” is a most appropriate description for this six-room hostelry in a turn-of-the-20th-century commercial building that local businessman Greg Yates and his wife, Liz (“The hotel’s all my wife,” says Greg) refurbished and opened for business in 2008-9. Also “cool.” And “comfy.” And “fabulous” and “beautiful” and “imaginative” and “inviting.” Take your pick. Any one will do. Or all. And many more.
The quarters aren’t technically suites (except for one), just verrrry spacious rooms with large — okay, huge — bathrooms. And they’re all color-coded, with names like Acqua and Sienna and Violetta. I was crazy about our Verde Suite, and not just because I’m mad about green in all shades and variations (the hue on the walls is sort of pistachio-ey, nice and cool and refreshing, and it’s picked up in the accent pillows and the wall art and the pretty, soft knit blanket laid at the foot of the king-size bed). This is one swanky room — best in the house, I bet — with four tall, tall windows looking out over Davis Street, plus a door on another wall leading out onto a wrought-iron balcony overlooking a little park on the corner. (Morning coffee in the sun, here I come.)
It’s all air and light — and sleekness, despite the building’s age. The furniture is contemporary and arty — love that double-pine-stump “coffee table” between the two white easy chairs in front of the (yes!) fireplace. (And yes, it’s gas, but we’re resigned to that. We get it going after dinner, even though it’s 80 degrees outside.) There’s an exposed-brick wall. You’d think they were passé, but it looks so now, somehow. There’s a mod brown area rug atop the dark wood floor. There’s a mini-fridge with two free bottles of water. There are — my husband is in heaven — two large wine glasses and a corkscrew (and a wine shop across the street).
As for that bathroom, it’s maybe half the size of the bedroom. There are two sinks — one for him, one for me (love that). An oversize shower (no tub), with, wow, spray and steam. And lots of just plain-old floor space. No one really needs a bathroom this big, of course, but all that openness does make you feel . . . luxurious. And liberated. Like you’re somewhere special.
All in all, the Suites at 249 aren’t missing a thing.
Well, maybe one. Okay, two. But neither’s a biggie, really.
One, there’s no food. At least not on the premises. You get one B, but not the other. No problem, though. We simply step out the front door and stroll down three doors to Foti’s, where we have a lovely farm-to-table dinner before moving on to after-dinner drinks at the Rathskeller a little farther up the street. We linger there awhile, listening to the friendly bartender’s stories about her online college studies while the enormous bison head on the wall behind us — “I call him Ed,” says the server — seems to listen in rather, um, intently.
By the time we get back to our room, I’ve had my people fix. Because that’s the other thing I’m missing a little at the Suites at 249 — though others will love it. You could go your whole time here without bumping into another soul. The keyless, coded entry system for the front door and the guest rooms means that nobody really has to be there to greet you when you arrive (although manager Rachel Lukow is there between 3 and 6 p.m.), nor to check you out when you leave. (This, of course, can be a good thing. Very smooth and efficient.)
I know that there are other guests the night we’re there, because we hear them on the stairs just outside our room (be prepared: no elevator), leaving in the morning. And my husband, always an earlier riser than I (though even he lazes in bed past 8 a.m., the bed’s so comfortable, as he groans getting up), spies a couple on the next balcony when he goes out to have his coffee.
By the time I make it out there, after showering and watching an episode of “Deadly Wives” on the flat-panel HDTV, the other porches are all empty. Milling around on the grassy lot below, however, are a number of people in historical costume — it’s Culpeper’s Remembrance Days weekend — and there are plenty of folks strolling the leafy sidewalk.
I sip my coffee and let the sun bake my hair dry as we people-watch for a while before finally pulling ourselves together to leave. It’s a hard thing to do, I think, giving the room a last lingering look. Because, yep, fascination has turned to love.
The Suites at 249
249 E. Davis St.
Rooms from $175.