Inn for the Night: Woodsy Retreat

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Mountain Grove Bed and Breakfast offers its guests harmony and comfort.

by BRETT JAILLET

When Alabama native Susan Cherones lived in Los Angeles, she hated the traffic. In fact, she’d fight the anxiety of all the stop-and-go by trying to transport herself to her happy place: Mentone, Ala.

When she visited Mentone in her mind, she was an 8-year-old at summer camp. She’d mentally wander around the mountain town, swimming in a river and making moss gardens.

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]“I’d go to the falls, pick blueberries in the woods and think about the precious cabin that I stayed in,” she says. “I think that’s what created my future here.”

She’s not quite in Mentone now, but she’s not far away – on the other side of Lookout Mountain in Cloudland, Ga. – and those memories from her childhood paved the way to the haven she created for herself and anyone else wanting to escape life’s business.

Cherones (whose father is Tom Cherones, director and producer of 80-plus episodes of “Seinfeld”) opened the Mountain Grove at Cloudland Bed and Breakfast in 2001, and since then folks from all corners of the country and even other parts of the world have come to hide away for the weekend in the early-20th-century home decorated with eclectic charm and surrounded by a an enclave of trees.

The house was built in 1919 as a family vacation home, and its simple facade quietly tucked away at the end of a narrow street spoke to Cherones as soon as she saw it. She had been looking for an office space that would double as retreat center for her business planning corporate getaways. “When I saw the driveway and the trees and that front door, I said, ‘I don’t care what’s behind it, that’s my house,’” Cherones says.

And she says she also knew instantly that its calling wasn’t to be an office space. So after closing on the house in 1999, she began a year-and-a-half renovation to turn it into a bed and breakfast.

“The house seemed to demand it,” she says. “It seemed to say, ‘I need to be full of people – get on it.’”

Contractors tore up a layer of shag carpet and brick-patterned linoleum to reveal original hardwood floors throughout the house and covered the popcorn ceiling with a layer of sheetrock to restore its early 1900s glory. “We wanted to bring it back to its bones,” Cherones says.

But she opted to keep some mid-century details, like the wood paneling in the living room, which adds warmth to the space.

From there, Cherones worked on the five bedrooms (four upstairs and one downstairs), artfully decorating them with antiques, yet accenting each room with modern finishes. Two rooms, the Spruce, where my husband and I stayed during our visit, and the Maple, have en-suite bathrooms, which were added during the renovation, and private balconies. Just down the hall, the two other upstairs rooms share a bathroom featuring an elegant clawfoot tub.

The décor throughout the house is an eclectic mix of classic, antique and modern pieces. But Cherones kept one theme strong throughout: bringing the outside in and the inside out. That means rugs and comfortable seating can be found on the front and back porches, which we found to be perfect spots to enjoy the sunset and conversation, and greenery and freshly cut flowers from the grounds (most of which are planted and maintained by Cherones’ mother, Bobby Cherones) can be found throughout the home.

“We have conjured up our own idea of hospitality,” she says. “There are no telephones or TVs in the rooms. Peace is what we have to offer here.”

And peace is what we found. We woke up to the aroma of a breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs with green chilies (a favorite recipe Cherones says she often serves guests), fruit and fresh coffee, made by Cherones herself.

Another form of that hospitality is the monthly Dinner and a Show. A local artist performs while a local chef prepares dinner. Open to the community, it’s $50 per person for the evening, and Cherones hosts it in the living room of the bed and breakfast.

“It’s a chance for the community to come together,” she says. “Our community is full of so many talented people. Sometimes we’ll just have an open mic night.

Cherones also opens the space for weddings and retreats. She plans and coordinates weddings on the grounds and offers the entire space for corporate or group retreats.

Next on the docket is what she calls “health turn-around vacations,” which will start this fall. She’ll be partnering with nutritionists in the area to provide wellness retreats for those wanting to improve their lifestyles. In addition to healthy food and exercise coaching, the stay also will be a mental retreat including tours of nearby natural wonders such as DeSoto Falls in Alabama or the Pocket Wildflower Trail at Pigeon Mountain in Walker County, Ga., where Cherones suggested we visit for a late-afternoon stroll, something we’ll not forget.

For those who visit Mountain Grove, Cherones says her mission is simple: “We try to make them feel somewhere between at home and at a very special place.”

 
If You Go
GETTING THERE:
Mountain Grove Bed and Breakfast is at 203 Elm Street, Cloudland, GA 30731.
VISIT NEARBY ATTRACTIONS:
Cloudland Canyon State Park, DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve are just a few nearby natural wonders. You’ll also want to check out the town of Mentone, Ala., and its many artistic outlets.
MORE INFO:

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