When Terry and Terri Coughlin went on their first date, they got straight to the important stuff: he asked her what she wanted to do in life, what her big dream was.
“And she said, ‘I want to open a bed and breakfast,’” Terry recalls. “That thought never hit my brain, but I just immediately said, ‘Me too.’”
The couple, who married in 2000, are sitting side by side on a couch from their very own bed and breakfast, a dream realized some 20-plus years later. Called Granville House, the B&B sits in Great Barrington in the Berkshires, and opened last month to high demand from New Yorkers and Bostonians looking to escape to the outdoors this summer of shut-in.
“It’s been crazy. People have been coming to the Berkshires in droves,” Terry says. “We talked about it so much. It is an incredibly huge, beautiful space. We were like, ‘This is going to be great’ pre-COVID-19 and now we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so great to have so much space that people can still be in common spaces and whatever, but feel that distance and that security to feel good.’”
Terry and Terri met while working at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern; Terry was with Meyer for 22 years, Terri for 10. The B&B dream took a backseat for years, as careers, kids and the security of jobs they loved took center stage.
“But then the bug was just still there and when we decided it was then, that was it,” Terry says. They gave Meyer notice last spring and stayed on with the company into November, before they turned to life in the Berkshires full time. They purchased the property over a year ago and the opening was only delayed by two months. (The Coughlins also note how thankful they were to have a project of this scale to occupy them during the early months of lockdown.)
Granville House, built in 1825 and the only house they considered, is a cozy, details-first inn with just five guest rooms (the house originally had nine when they bought it, but they renovated to give bathrooms for every guest room).
“It’s very intimate,” Terri says. “And I like it that way.”
“Our whole mind-set with it was a bed and breakfast is almost like a canvas where you get to share your story because it’s such a personal thing. I mean, you’re literally inviting people into your home,” Terry says. “And so it has to feel, I believe, very personal. And so when we set out to design the aesthetic of the house, we wanted to either tell the story of the house, the story of the area of the Berkshires or our personal story.”
The Coughlins were hyper-conscious of the stereotype around bed and breakfasts — floral wallpapers, doilies, etc. — and aimed to steer Granville House into something with more clean lines, sophistication and modernity (while still being homey — it is a B&B after all).
“A lot of times guests have been coming and they’re like, ‘We didn’t know what to expect because we stayed at bed and breakfasts and it really wasn’t our thing. But when we saw your pictures online, it looked really cool,’” Terry says. “One of the things that we really set out to do with the space is making it so that particularly now with COVID-19 that even if you just came and didn’t leave the property, you could still enjoy yourself.” One such example is the music room with a large collection of vinyl records; each guest room has a record player in it, and guests are encouraged to browse the collection and take records up to their rooms to enjoy.
Despite their expertise in the restaurant world, they were adamant about having just breakfast, not a full-fledged restaurant in Granville House.
“For us, the idea was of just changing our whole lifestyle. Having worked in the restaurant business for so long, I know how grueling the hours can be and how late it can be,” Terry says. “I always just felt for so many years, I got to see my family maybe an hour in the morning and maybe an hour at night. And so I think for us, not that what we’re doing already isn’t a lot of work and a lot of hours, but I get to work from home.”
“And we see our kids while we’re working,” Terri adds.
They have, though, taken many of Meyer’s teachings with them.
“Our philosophy at the restaurants was always making people feel at home while they’re away,” Terry says. “Danny always said, ‘There are restaurants where you can get better food. There might be a restaurant where there are better wines — but if you combine all of these elements together of great food, great wine, great service and a great setting, they all hopefully work collectively together to create a feeling that makes it so special.’ And I think that’s something that we tried to do here: have it translate with lots of different opportunities for people to just come in and be curious, ask lots of questions and then we get to engage with them through, ‘Hey, tell me about what is this hanging on the wall over here?’ ‘Well, that’s something that I bought for my wife 20 years ago.’”
“There’s a feeling that can’t be pointed to,” Terri adds. “I don’t know what it is or why I feel that way, I just feel good. And it’s the little connective things where you just have a good feeling.”
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