A Quiet Respite
The Guest House at Field Farm: a special getaway
Photo by The Trustees of Reservation
On a chilly summer night at the Guest House at Field Farm, lively flames in the fireplace create a romantic warmth that permeates the entire living room—one that is modern and simplistic, yet cozy and friendly.
With sparse furnishings and artwork, the room includes the distinct lines of a stark coffee table, a genuine Noguchi—an iconic piece created in the mid 1900s and still widely popular today. This study of furniture is undisturbed, the air around almost eerily filled with complete silence—not a peep from other living beings, not a creak from the structure itself. The Guest House at Field Farm is a renowned bed and breakfast in Williamstown, booked months in advance, but at the moment no one occupies this shared living room except for this couple on a weekend escape. The ten other guests appear to be either sleeping, counting stars, or reveling in one of the many fine restaurants in the area. Solitude is one of the most appealing features of this modernistic architectural retreat, its integrity maintained by the lack of young voices and a location set back in the woods.
“We’re always here but try to stay in the background and leave them on their own,” says innkeeper Ole Retlev, an instantly likable Swedish man who greeted us at the door. He came to the guesthouse eight years ago, previously an innkeeper at other B&Bs in places like Mt. Snow, Nantucket, and Brandywine, Delaware.
Retley and an assistant work for The Trustees of Reservations to maintain the Williamstown guesthouse, serving as hosts during the months the lodging is open for business, from April through December. The Trustees, a preservation group consisting of more than 100,000 members, maintains 113 properties, all of which are open to visitors. Of these, four offer overnight accommodations: The Inn at Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, The Guest House at Field Farm, Tully Lake Campground Royalston, and Dunes Edge Campground Provincetown.
Tonight, the host stayed just long enough to indulge a request by the two guests for a fire, to lead a tour of the accommodations, and to chronicle the house’s history. The original owners, Lawrence and Eleanor Bloedel, purchased the land from two English brothers with the last name of Field. Avid modern-art and furniture collectors in their time, the Bloedels hired architect Edwin Goodell Jr. to build the Bauhaus-inspired place for them in 1948. It was designed to include a view of spectacular Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’s highest peak, from most of the guestrooms.
“I think they really wanted to take advantage of the setting….Every door you open, you are immediately drawn out toward the view,” says Retlev.
The gardens are decorated with 13 sculptures, including pieces by Richard M. Miller and Herbert Ferber. Guests take liberal advantage of the placidity—wandering walkways, traversing trails, pondering poetry, and meditating. And the house is surrounded by more than 316 acres of conserved space—grassland, forest, marshes, a stream, a pond, and four miles of trails, all accessible to the public year-round. Art classes, art and architecture tours, and birding tours take place regularly.
The Bloedels lived in this six-bedroom home with the luxury of a full-time cook and a housekeeper. They later donated the house, some of its contents, and the land surrounding it to The Trustees—with one condition: that The Folly, a three-bedroom, pinwheel-shaped guest cottage on the property, also be preserved. Much of the valuable furnishings and artwork have been donated to museums.
Retley shared this information in bits and pieces, interrupting himself occasionally to point out details along the tour, such as the original meat-locker–style refrigerator in the kitchen—a bit of a mystery as to why its first occupants would include it for their family of two but quite functional now that the house is a bed and breakfast. An adjoining guest pantry holds a much smaller refrigerator and counter filled with coffee, tea, and cookies, available to all who stay here. Six guestrooms are furnished in the same modern style as the common living quarters.
One room, the master suite, has a another fireplace. The wrap-around deck rewards guests with a wonderful view of Mount Greylock and a sky full of stars, clearly visible without interference from other buildings or city lights. Bidding his guests goodnight, Retley meanders to his own home just a short walk away. There is no TV in the room, but there are museum-worthy appointments adorning the space. Modern art and furnishings include such period pieces as Kagan sofas, George Nelson pendant lamps, and a reproduction Eames chair and Eileen Gray tables. One living-room wall is sheathed in row after row of vintage books, the bookcase just one of the magnificent furnishings built by Mr. Bloedel while he lived here.
When guests awake each morning, Retlev and his assistant are already in the kitchen, pen and paper in hand to jot down menu selections and prepare hearty, country-style breakfasts. The stark, simplistically designed furnishings lend a handsome contrast to the quiet, luxurious pampering one gets at The Guest House at Field Farm.