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Lifestyle
Places to Visit: The Farmhouse Inn, Forestville, CA
In the heart of California's wine country is a family-owned inn with the charm and quaintness of a cottage community.
Written by Eric Surber
Photography provided by Farmhouse Inn

Located in the Russian River Valley, between the Sonoma and Napa valleys, the Farmhouse Inn embodies California wine country’s spirit of leisure. And while it has an abundance of luxury amenities (not to mention a Michelin-starred restaurant), it’s anything but pretentious.

Owner Catherine Bartolomei wants to make guests feel at home with rooms that are spacious, uncluttered and invite conversation and relaxation. “I’m just trying to create these cozy, intimate spaces that almost remind you of being a kid but in a more adult way,” she says.

Perhaps most symbolic of Catherine’s mission is the Inn’s s’mores tradition. Each evening, guests are invited to roast house-made marshmallows and sandwich them with dark chocolate and artisan graham crackers.

Farmhouse Inn S'mores
Guests join in the American camping tradition of making s’mores but in a “more adult” fashion, which likely involves sipping on a glass of local vino.

All in the Details

As the primary decorator behind the Inn, Catherine has honed a style for the Inn that’s crisp, calming and restorative. She joined forces with Myra Hoefer Design because, she says, the family-run design firm could help decorate on a commercial scale, and they also opened up for her many new design possibilities.

A common palette ties the rooms together, which is soft and neutral, and made warm through strategic lighting, fireplaces and intentionally placed throw blankets.

Farmhouse Inn King Cottage Suite
The Farmhouse Inn uses slip covers for a crisp, clean feel and warms the space with a throw blanket and a sculptural reading lamp.
Farmhouse Inn Exterior Fireplace
In-room, double-sided fireplaces warm conversation areas both inside and out.

“We have the amenities, but our style is much more residential, and I want everything to feel very clean, and fresh—not shabby chic,” she says. “Everything is tailored with the idea that everything can pulled off and washed.”

For Catherine, lighting is a top priority for any space. Every room has lights that can be controlled and adjusted through switches and dimmers. Wherever possible, she incorporates three layers of lighting, from spots and cans on the ceilings, sconces on the walls and floor and table lamps to lighten conversation nooks.

The Farmhouse Inn’s crisp and refined style carries into the spa-like bathrooms. Generously sized tubs, large windows, double sinks and even redwood saunas carry relaxation into the bathroom where guests are encouraged to break from their everyday shower routines and indulge in long, luxurious baths. Their secret: Stage irresistibly beautiful bathtubs and offer guests a variety of natural salts, soaps and essential oils to take bath time to the next level.

Farmhouse Inn Bath Bar
Guests are encouraged to take and try items from the bath bar. “We want guests to snuggle in and take a bath and use these things that most people don’t have at home or don’t take advantage of at home,” Catherine says.
Farmhouse Inn Bathtub
An overflowing bathtub that fills from the ceiling is most likely an amenity guests can’t experience at home.

Bringing the Outside Inn

The landscaping at the Farmhouse Inn is just as intentional as the interior decoration, and in many ways, they are one in the same.

Open breezeways and large, sliding barn doors bring warm light into the interior while letting in the ambiance of the surrounding gardens. Just like the interiors, the gardens have several intimate conversation areas and incorporate features, such as fire pits and water fountains, that create an atmosphere of tranquility.

Farmhouse Inn Fireplace
This interior space blends seamlessly through an open barn door to a conversation swing outside.

In addition to tranquility, the gardens are designed for discovery. The edible landscape delights visitors who may not have experience picking their own fruits and vegetables.

Guests are invited to explore the gardens and pick whatever fruits are in season, from a handful of blueberries to a fresh apple right from the tree.

Farmhouse Inn Garden
A meandering pathway lined with rosemary and blossoming ornamentals shows how gardens can be both functional and beautiful.

The Farmhouse Inn also combines edibles in unique and sometimes unexpected ways. “We just scattered strawberries in the property because they fruit all summer long,” Catherine says. “We use thyme and basil we tuck them in between grasses and lavenders that you don’t think they traditionally go together in a landscape. We mix it up however we want.”

A Family Affair

Catherine and her brother Joe grew up just a few miles down the road from the Inn. After attending college and pursuing separate careers, the siblings learned that the Inn was coming available for sale, and they decided to realize a long-held dream of opening a place of hospitality.

In the 16 years after opening, the Inn has received international recognition as a great place to visit, but the Bartolomeis are still just as passionate about hospitality. “I encourage people to relax, take a deep breath, and just be before going out on a huge adventure,” Catherine says.

For more information about Farmhouse Inn, to explore more of their beautiful gardens, cottages, and suites or to book your stay, visit their website at www.farmhouseinn.com.