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Renovating Vermont’s Twin Farms

Buff Strickland The bedroom at Twin Farms' Aviary.

Photo: Buff Strickland

The Delano has no relationship with its visionary, Philippe Starck, but a similar document, the hotel's "look book," does an excellent job of cementing the place in a 1995 time warp. "The legendary lobby sofa with eight-foot-high sides and back gets totally re­built every six months," says general man­ager Mark Tamis, "but it's the same sofa that has always been there and will always be there."

Buzz Kelly, who, as part of the Johnson team, has worked on Twin Farms since the drawing-board stage, says the property looks "startlingly, one hundred percent" as it did when it opened. "Whenever we order new anything, it's identical to the originals," Kelly notes. "We're currently replacing the rag rugs in the Washington Room and the matchstick blinds in the bathrooms. The owners never ask, say, for contract-grade rub-tested fabrics that would wear better, only for exactly what was there before."

The choice of Hayes for the hotel's expansion was not an obvious one, not if you assumed Twin Farms would be going for continuity and someone with Johnson's star power. Hayes is Mr. Clean, the go-to man for rooms that pop, a traditionalist who takes the stuffing out of traditional decorating. He is well respected and has a solid business, but he does not inhabit the pantheon Johnson does. Which is another way of saying that while Hayes certainly makes the world more beautiful, he is probably not going to change it.

"For better or worse," Hayes says, "what I've done at Twin Farms is less thematic. It's subtler, more edited, and more minimal, with the economy and clarity of a haiku." Lost in the woods, the duplex Aviary is a soaring freestanding shaft of glass and peeled white-cedar logs with what is for Twin Farms a tiny footprint—just over 600 square feet. It has dirty celebrity weekend written all over it. Mid-20th-century Modernism is a lot less thrilling now that the Targets of the world have thrown their grubby hats into the ring, but Hayes does manage to wring some excitement from it, mostly by courageously engaging with the color orange. The Aviary has orange Douglas-fir paneling, an orange shag rug, a leggy walnut coffee table with an orange enamel top, orange Ultrasuede upholstery, and a bed with an orange buttoned-leather headboard and footboard. Hayes says he was thinking of James Bond when he conceived the hideaway, but a James Bond who wears Birkenstocks and eats granola.

In the Farmhouse, a common space with library chairs in perforated apple-green leather with nail-head trim divides two pairs of stacked guest rooms. One pair has a tailored, rather manly barn subtext, with exposed framing, square-armed sofas, metal corncob table lamps, and fieldstone fireplaces. The other, an amused riff on the classic all-American farm dwelling, has skip-troweled plaster walls, beadboard wainscoting washed with milk paint, wing-backed sofas in a Colefax & Fowler chintz, red-brick fireplaces, vintage hat forms, and a collection of old sugar, lard, and tobacco tins. Each room has a screened porch. "If you're looking at the Web site," Hayes says, "you know instantly which side of the Farmhouse—butch or girly—is for you."

Not all hotels that trade heavily on appearances have shown Twin Farms' bravery—or disloyalty, if you prefer—in branching out. When the Costes—known for its neo-Rothschild glamour—added a bar in March, the hotel went straight back to Jacques Garcia, who originally designed the property in 1995. Sixty percent of the lobby seating and fixtures have changed since the Mercer launched in 1997, but the models that replaced them are by the hotel's auteur, the man who must answer for the global glut of wenge-wood furniture, Christian Liaigre.

Speaking of maintenance, a younger generation of diva warbler is discovering just how devouring it can be. If Janet Jackson spent more time in the recording studio and less time honing her six-pack, she might still have a career. Mariah Carey saved herself a lot of hours at the gym this year by having her abs stenciled on—and swanned away with the number-one song of the summer. Somewhere in that there's a lesson for hotels.

TWIN FARMS, Barnard, Vt.; 800/894-6327;www.twinfarms.com; Aviary from $1,850, double, Farmhouse from $1,650. Rates include three meals, wine, and spirits.

CHRISTOPHER PETKANASis the special correspondent for Travel + Leisure.

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