CHARLOTTESVILLE — One is done and there are only 37 more to go.
The owners of Keswick Hall in Albemarle County on Wednesday unveiled the luxury inn’s first remodeled guestroom, which features an open and bright floor plan with big windows providing natural sunlight, a high-tech lighting system, big flat-screen television, a walk-in closet and top-end bedding and furniture.
The room is one of 38 planned for the main manor house, which was built in 1912 as a private residence and served as a country club before becoming a luxury hotel in the 1990s. The hall is currently under heavy renovation that will reduce the inn’s former 48 smaller lodgings by 10 while expanding the size of the new suites. An additional residential wing featuring 42 suites will join the manor house.
The goal is to have the facility open by the third quarter of 2020.
“People are busier and they’re more connected than ever before through cell phones and the internet and they’re looking for a place to feel comfortable and relax,” said Molly Hardie, who co-owns the resort with her husband, Robert. “What we’re trying to do is pay homage to the past of Keswick Hall and at the same time update the rooms and public spaces to make them feel lighter and brighter while reflecting traditional elements.”
The inn’s new look may be a big change for old customers. Previously, Keswick rooms were smaller with darker woods, artwork and antiques. The new rooms are less formal and more open.
“The older rooms were all of different sizes and dimensions and they were smaller with dark woods and a variety of antiques and paintings,” Molly Hardie said. “The new rooms will be lighter, brighter and more consistent in size, although there will be different suites available. We want to make it easy to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the room or the balcony.”
“People are more casual nowadays and they like to have experiences on their own terms,” said Robert Hardie. “We think the new Keswick is a place where locals and others can come and recharge and at the same time appeal to people from all over the world.”
The Hardies are directors of the private investment firm H7 Holding Company, which owns Keswick Hall and The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, among other investments. They purchased Keswick from Orient Express Hotels in 2012.
Orient had purchased the property from Sir Bernard Ashley, co-founder of Laura Ashley fabrics and decorating, in 1999. Ashley had purchased the property, which was then a club facing bankruptcy, in 1990, and turned it into an inn.
The Hardies shuttered the inn to the public in January 2018 to start the renovation process. The remodeling is extensive. Much of the manor house has been taken down to the studs with the wiring and plumbing updated as well as the layout of rooms redesigned.
Important flourishes such as a third-floor opening that looks down onto the second floor and other unique features are being preserved.
The remodeled inn will feature a café, ballroom, wedding venue, walking paths, an infinity-style swimming pool, a new spa with eight treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center with indoor cycling.
The additional residence wing and facilities will join with the inn’s 18-hole golf course and club, which are still operating. The seven tennis courts will remain and a new free-standing restaurant, designed in partnership with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, will offer fine dining to the public as well as guests and members.
An expanded gardening project will provide fresh items to the restaurant and café.
For the Hardies, the changes make perfect sense and will bring Keswick Hall up-to-date with décor to match current and future trends. The changes also are a part of their love of the resort and the scenery surrounding it.
“It’s beautiful. The scenery is amazing. What we want to do is create a sense of calm and peace in the rooms and on the grounds so that people can come here and relax,” Molly Hardie said. “We want to provide people with a luxury experience.”
The pair has strong Charlottesville connections. Robert Hardie is a member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors and earned a bachelor’s degree from the university as well as a master’s degree in business and a doctorate degree in management from its Darden School of Business.
A Richmond native, Molly Hardie graduated from the UVa School of Medicine and has served on the UVa Health Foundation Board of Trustees, the Virginia Discovery Museum board and the Peabody School board of trustees.
The couple lives on a farm near Keswick Hall and are raising five sons.
“When we first saw Keswick Hall, we fell in love with it. We’re only about six miles from Charlottesville but it is like being in a different country. We realized it was time to update the property and we thought, why not us?” Robert Hardie said.
“We love the property and we can care for it and treat it with the respect it deserves,” he said. “We’re lucky to be the ones to bring it into the 21st Century.”