Ken Fulk reinvents Blantyre, a gilded age property in the Berkshires
There’s a bit of a board game that certain design connoisseurs like to play. You could call it, “What is Ken Fulk going to do next?”
The creative polymath who made a name for himself with the 2013 release Lord of the rings– Napster founder Sean Parker’s themed wedding – could be found more recently in collaboration with Pharrell Williams a candy colored new hotel on Miami Beach; develop a tropical Mexican modern fantasy for a private home in Baja; Channeling a Lake Como mansion for a rooftop restaurant in Boston; Transforming a dilapidated Provincetown home from the early 20th century into a boho-chic artist residence that is perfect with a wink; and designed a new surrealist-inspired line of fabrics for Pierre Frey.
For his restaurant, club and hotel projects, he often does more than just take on the interior design. He designs the design of every uniform, matchbook, and business card, and also much of the (usually decadent) experience of being in those places.
See his role not only as a designer, but also as a co-founder and programming mastermind of Saint Joseph’s Art Society, an up-and-coming church in San Francisco that has grown into a retail, art, and event hub that hired taxidermists from the 19th and 20th centuries Repurposed in the 19th century by Dutch artists Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren, they hold flagpoles that wave the standard of the club. Or his work overseeing the looks, atmosphere, amenities, and services of the Commodore Perry Estate, a grand hotel in a restored and redesigned 1928 Renaissance mansion in Austin.
But every hotel that Fulk has taken over in the past has been given up at some point. As a planner commissioned by the owners or even as an investor, he has passed the management and day-to-day business to someone else.
That should change now.
Together with Clark Lyda (his partner in the Commodore Perry project), Fulk has just bought one of the most traditional hotels in the country: Blantyre, in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. And he wants to hold on to that too and run the house himself – albeit with a team of hospitable helpers – when his work is finished.
âIt’s weird when you hand the baby over for care,â Fulk tells me when, shortly after the purchase, we catch up on the phone between the flights to Provincetown and San Francisco, where he stays at home, and a trip to St. Barths. âI see that all the time. So we started a conversation about what we would do if we kept the baby and didn’t give up. It’s a big change for me. “
Fulk says Blantyre – a Tudor-style Gilded Age mansion originally built in 1902 as the summer residence for industrialist Robert Patterson – was on a very short list of places he had in mind. âI was fascinated by the history of the Berkshires and the hotel. It felt like a rare gem that might not have been properly cared for, but not screwed up either. ”
This sense of original history is what he is always looking for “when we’re doing something, but especially when it’s something in which I am personally involved on a level that goes beyond that of the designer.”
To do a top-down reprint, he’s closed Blantyre and plans to reopen in a year. He bought it from Silicon Valley real estate developer Linda Law, who has owned it since 2016 when she bought it from the family who started it as a luxury hotel in 1981 and made it the first Relais & Chateaux property in America. (Before the 80s it was a country inn and later a tennis club.)
Law had devised her own, more formal, contemporary Gilded Age redo that also brought Daniel Boulud to Blantyre, an innovation Fulk will stick to: âI went to Daniel’s in New York and Daniel took my order, made mine Eat and then sat with me for hours talking about how much he loves Blantyre. Who am I to tell Daniel Boulud what to do? He is very committed to this. “
As for the rest of his plans, they go quite well together, thank you very much.
The acclaimed modern classic Michael G. Imber from San Antonio will take care of the architecture, and the English landscape architect Dan Pearson, whose garden was named Best in Show at the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago, will take over the 100 acres of Blantyre . “Everything is loved to death,” says Fulk.
And what about the design work in his own studio? “First and foremost, it will make the property look the way it should,” he says, explaining that his redesign will reflect the best of the Golden Age charm – and the luxury too. His most recent work, Boston’s staid 19th-century Algonquin Club fin de siÃ¨cle Extravagance that we can expect at Blantyre.
âWe go back to when Blantyre was first built and operated as this extraordinary private home. This is the romantic time, âhe says.
âBlantyre was inspired by the great estates of Europe and England in particular. There are so many wonderful examples of great houses there today that were opened not to be run like that Hotels, per se, but as a stately residence where you can stay the night as a guest.
âPart of what started with all of this was the lack of great privately owned eateries that don’t feel like hotels, especially in America,â he says. âThe word hospitality almost feels wrong because it sounds commercial. I want to run this place just to be the best version of myself. It will be the Blantyre of all dreams – a real reason to go there. ”
And that is just the beginning. Going forward, Fulk plans to buy more properties like this, reinvent them and open them up to the public. âI want to invite people into our little world and look after them in the same way as our private customers,â he says. “This is a chance to do just that.”
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