A Distant Look into GrayBarns, a Connecticut Oasis

A Q&A with Nikki Glazer, Co-Owner/Director of Brand of GrayBarns

Photograph of The Inn taken by Noah Fecks  

 

GrayBarns on the Silvermine River is a breath-taking, high end boutique property featuring Inn, Tavern, Barn and Mercantile located in Norwalk, CT, a suburban town about an hour outside of New York City. It is known as a "haven of refuge" for city dwellers thirsting for an escape from the concrete jungle to get a breath of fresh air. The Inn has six king suites with full baths, bedrooms and living areas. And the Mercantile Apartments - three apartments located above the Mercantile, the newly renovated country store, will be available for long term stays beginning this summer. In addition to the Mercantile shop and the several places to stay, GrayBarns also has a barn, kitchen garden and tavern.

Photographs of the barn and private inn green space facing Guthrie Pond taken by Noah Fecks

 

Nikki Glazer, Co-Owner/Director of Brand of GrayBarns, shares with us the rich history and vision of the property, and how the famed NYC “haven of refuge” has transitioned to serve its community during these difficult times.

Historically known as an oasis for people in the city, what would you say are some of the key components that make it such a place? Is it the fresh air, the landscape, the atmosphere, the interior design choices? How would you suggest people bring these wellness principles into their daily lives?

Nikki: GrayBarns on the Silvermine River or the Silvermine Tavern as it was formerly known was a speakeasy and Inn during prohibition. It evolved into a lively hot spot for Old Hollywood stars during the 60’s who would motor up from New York City on the weekends. Arthur Miller and Lauren Bacall stayed at the Inn and Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher visited for their honeymoon.

The properties adjacency to Guthrie Pond and the waterfall are especially soothing and inviting. During the design process we tried to invite the outside in with every architectural and design choice. The French doors on the first floor, the expansive balconies on the second, the front porch with rockers, the kitchen garden all reflect a lifestyle that is inspired and crates around the environment. Modern touches such as steel and glass, lend themselves to an updated interpretation.

 

Photograph of the lobby taken by Peter Margonelli

What inspired your family's vision for GrayBarns? What kind of lifestyle does it lend itself to? What do you hope people take away after their visit?

Nikki: We love anything old. The more historic, vintage, retro the better. It’s difficult to start with a blank canvas. Working on GrayBarns gave us a richness to work with from the onset. Of course, the peeling wallpaper and musty smell was less than desirable... so we kept what was special and structurally intact and crafted a clean modern experience around it. We added luxury touches like Frette linens and robes, Nest And Smeg appliances, complimentary in room bars, and hand crafted four-poster beds. There is a lot of simplicity in the approach. It’s very utilitarian, which is reflective of a traditional country lifestyle. No real frills or clutter, but if something has a purpose it should be the centerpiece and made of the best materials.

It is our hope that our guests feel a sense of respite and relaxation during their stay, and experience the quintessential beauty of New England through the comfort and design of our spaces. We also hope to inspire a culinary experience that reflects new American ideals.


GrayBarns has been called a "haven of refuge," how has that definition changed for GrayBarns pre and post-COVID?

Nikki: That’s a great question. We feel so lucky to have this special place in our lives and to be able to share it with so many people in both our immediate and global community. We have been closed for over a month now, however we have been able to nourish our community with daily prepared Family Meals and weekend Pantry Boxes or curated baskets with farm fresh staples in partnership with our local purveyors and farm partners. We have also remained open for a la carte pick up and contactless delivery. As we watched overrun supermarkets during the onset of the pandemic, we realized how unique and essential our access to food supply chains were. We even tapped our partners for essential supplies like toilet paper, paper towel, gloves and wipes for our guests. Although the dine and stay experience hasn’t been intact, we have been able to provide a thoughtful and transportable GrayBarns experience for our local community to bring into their homes. Nothing makes us happier than seeing guests post to social media and talk about the weekly Pantry Box recipe they tried at home with their family.


What are your plans with GrayGoods? Are you transitioning your strategy in response to the current retail landscape?

Nikki: GrayGoods was a natural evolution of our design experience. After we opened, we received an outpouring of inquiries about our custom design and built furniture and where we sourced a lot of our decorative elements. It was clear that guests wanted to take the look home with them.

GrayGoods launched this past September with a small collection of curated items that are uniquely conscious and clean and some products I designed and had manufactured in the USA. I really wanted to re-inspire an American design identity and provide the community with a one-stop-shop for refined country staples. I held an arm knitting workshop for 20 guests this winter that was amazing. Watching a group of very modern women remembering the art of using their hands to create something chic and beautiful while enjoying each other’s company and escaping the cold was very rewarding.

We have made over 150 reversible cotton canvas masks in the last week at the Mill House which once served as a textile factory! I saw an obvious need and had the ability and materials to fill the void, so production began and has absolutely taken off! We have shipped orders all over the country of both adult and children’s masks and look forward to donating a box to our local homeless shelter as well as making sure the GrayBarns team has adequate PPE for our reopening. I have even decided to take on two local women as home sewers, who are unemployed due to the pandemic to help meet growing demand. I’m unsure what the future will hold but I know I’m on the right track when GrayGoods is able to help workers while providing an essential product during this unique time.


With all this time in isolation and focusing on the simple things, do you see more people adopting the modern country lifestyle after the pandemic?

Nikki: I think this has put into perspective the meaning of essential for many people for sure. Simplicity, quality, and naturalism are definitely “en Vogue” and are inherent values of GrayBarns. I have never seen so many walkers out and about enjoying the bridge by the waterfall or taking in Spring’s beauty on a bike. Families getting outside for a stroll together, neighbors stopping to wave from a distance and then picking up a pantry box of all local produce to bring home and cook as a family... I hope that those things are here to stay.

 

Any plans of re-opening?

Nikki: The Inn will reopen May 29th. We are currently doing take out and contactless delivery of our a la carte menu, pantry boxes, and family meals and will be allowing guests to use our outdoor dining facilities for their takeout starting May 20th. Service at The Tavern will resume mid-June. Date TBD.

 

Thank you Nikki for sharing this incredible place with us! Visit GrayBarns for more information.


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