Brentwood Hotel: An Equestrian Escape in Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Springs, NY
“Hotels are the unicorn of design,” Brian Smith tells me over fried eggs and coffee at a busy downtown diner in Saratoga Springs, NY. Brian and his business partners Leigh Salem, Jou-Yie Chou, and Ruben Caldwell are the founders of Studio Tack, the design and development group behind upstate establishments like Gaskins and Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, Public – Supply, as well as a handful of international projects from Tahoe to Barcelona. Their most recent venture, the first of which they own and operate, is Brentwood Hotel, a stunning 12-room property just up the road from the energetic downtown where we are eating breakfast.
Brentwood Hotel opened in November after an intense renovation took a fading motor lodge down to its studs and built in its place a structure that is as handsome and thoughtfully curated as it is comfortable and familiar — a product, no doubt, of the team’s combined expertise in architecture, design, hospitality, and carpentry. The 12 rooms, each uniquely outfitted to reflect both the rich equestrian heritage of the region and the clean, streamlined style of Studio Tack, spill out onto an open courtyard with views of the Saratoga Race Course. “A lot of the inspiration for the exterior came from local design cues from the stables in the area,” Jou-Yie says of the wide walkways and thick beams that connect each of the rooms. Stables and warm up areas dot the landscape as far as the eye can see and summer afternoons during race season will allow guests to sit outside and watch jockeys parade their horses to the track while live music plays from the Horseshoe Inn across the street.
Snow-dusted weekends like the one I was lucky enough to spend at Brentwood are for sipping bourbon and listening to Billie Holiday on vinyl in the cozy lobby which holds two small tables and a bar with just five stools. From my perch at the bar, I watch a fire pit blazing in the courtyard while fellow guests huddle tightly beneath wool blankets. And although the race course, which has long been synonymous with Saratoga, sits just beyond a smattering of tall grasses and a picket fence, it is clear that Brentwood is helping to reimagine what a trip to Saratoga could look like.
- Location: Saratoga Springs, NY
12 unique guest rooms
Italian cotton sheets and hand-dyed French linen blankets
C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries bath products
Solid brass Jaclo bath fixtures
Lobby with built-in bar and retail offering custom-made goods from the hotel
Complimentary beer or wine upon arrival
Fire pit and landscaped grounds with views of the Saratoga Race Course
Short drive from downtown Saratoga
The lobby was my first stop where a welcoming staff was waiting with a glass of wine, an impressive record collection, and a handful of insights on how to make the most of my Saratoga weekend.
The beds at Brentwood are reminiscent of what I imagined a grown-up bed to feel like when I was a child. The solid four-poster beds made by woodworker David E. Cummings host 100% Italian cotton sheets and layers of down that will swallow you whole. Hand-dyed french linen blankets from Sharkstooth add a touch of whim while hot coffee and carefully selected reading material make this the perfect place to spend a snowy morning.
“Hotels are very gratifying because you are creating an immersive experience,” says Jou-Yie. “You’re creating an experience from one perspective, not only on a person’s hotel room, but also what they smell, what they listen to, what they see, what they touch. You have the ability to curate literally all the senses.”
Leather catchalls from Billykirk, Public – Supply notebooks, and custom BW caps from FairEnds are just some of Brentwood’s many creative collaborations. “A lot of them are relationships that we’ve built over the years on other projects,” says Jou-Yie. “It starts very informally, and then if people are interested, that’s when we end up with something that we didn’t necessarily even think about,” adds Leigh.
“We wanted to accentuate the things that guests actually put their hands on,” Jou-Yie says of the way they focused both their attention and their spending. Hand-carved 19th century chairs, ornate light fixtures, and original oil paintings scouted at the Brimfield Flea Market are scattered throughout the rooms and lobby, adding both texture and a lesson in history and craftsmanship.
Having a bar with only five stools was a dream of the Studio Tack team. “You can go in, you can have a conversation, it’s cozy, and it’s all you really need,” explains Leigh. “We really wanted people to come up here with their friends and treat this like their living room.”
“Hotels deal with the realms of public and private, the idea of domesticity, and the confluence of multiple types of publics converging together,” says Brian. “How a hotel negotiates all different types of people so they are happy with the space — and together — is an interesting little problem for us.”
There are certain liberties you can take with a hotel that you can’t take in a home,” says Jou-Yie. “You can make things a little more theatrical, a heightened experience, a little unfamiliar but still exciting.”
Hardwood floors built by the Hudson Company add a delicate counter to the more rustic painted plywood floors of the guest rooms.
While I stuck to my single king room on this visit, I imagine Brentwood as the perfect place to bring a large group for a wedding or a reunion. Double queen rooms and a deluxe suite with one queen and a double bunk bed provide plenty of options for travelers to rest their heads.
Though the hotel is a perfect place to indulge in the Saratoga race culture, the Brentwood team is looking forward to letting the clientele dictate their role in the neighborhood. “There are so many different people that come here,” Leigh tells me, “so we can create this thing and then see who starts to use it and build a community around that.”
Accessible by Amtrak and just a three-hour drive from the city, Brentwood is not only perfectly situated across the street from the race course, but a quick drive from downtown Saratoga, where you will find an abundance of restaurants, shops, spas, music venues, and museums to enjoy.
In the morning, fuel up with coffee and bagels at Uncommon Grounds or pastries from Mrs. London’s Bakery. For an afternoon respite, lounge by the fireplace at Henry Street Taproom, the perfect backdrop for enjoying a cheese plate and a beer. For a luxurious night out, we suggest Salt and Char, a stylish steakhouse featuring the best of Hudson Valley produce and locally-raised meat.
Make sure to pop in to Soave Faire Art Supply for an eclectic selection of goods, from classic hats to oil painting supplies and everything in between. Located right on Broadway, this shop is full of character and personality, not to mention one of the largest art supplies store in the northeast.
For some outdoor exploration, we recommend adventuring to Saratoga Spa State Park, a true winter sports playground, or to Cole’s Woods to explore the ski trails. If you would like to take it easy, opt for a day of complete relaxation at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa. For arts and culture, head to the Beekman Street Arts District, National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Automobile Museum, or Tang Museum at Skidmore College. Summer will bring the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and for those who like to get a head start on planning future trips, sign up now to receive information about the 2017 Saratoga Race Course schedule.