The Boonville Hotel is truly a work of art.
The people who put this place together spent much effort over many years to make things unusual, unique, interesting, and unexpected. Many of the design elements--from doors to floors, from to walls to ceilings, from countertops to light fixtures--are custom-constructed pieces of art in their own right. For example, the porch light cover for one of the cottages is an eye doctor's chart--simple yet clever. The cottages are constructed with a considerable amount repurposed materials, combining distressed wood, concrete, glass, corrugated metal and fiberglass with quirky found objects that seems to make every room, every table, every door, almost everything, one-of-a-kind. The overall effect is an sense-pleasing "coherent contradiction" that might be called something like "contemporary rustic rural industrial."
The grounds are lush with flowering plants, pines, herbs, and fruit trees of many varieties. There's also a lovely flower, herb, and vegetable garden that supplies much of what is offered in the hotel's good restaurant, Table 128. Here and there on the property are paintings and pieces of sculpture, some of which would be considered folk art and some of which would be considered fine art. The main building and grounds have many comfortable well-thought out places for lounging outside or inside, some communal and some making up a private space. We spent several pleasant mid-week days hardly ever leaving the hotel grounds except for a few trips to several of the many tasting rooms that are reachable within minutes by car.
On arrival, you'll be told to treat the hotel as if it were your own home. The staff are friendly--not "professionally friendly" and not "pushy friendly," but just "everyday friendly." They want to make you happy. They'll stop and chat a little, or they'll leave you to yourself if that's what you want.
There's very much of a "big family" feel, with all that implies about the drama of family life and community life in rural small town America. The hotel and the town are peopled with interesting characters. Many seem to enjoy pulling the legs of out-of-towners, so be prepared to hear some dubious tall tales, some of which might actually be true. It was fascinating to hear stories about who was who and how this person or that person ended up where they ended up. The area population seems to be a mix of long-time residents and fairly new arrivals from here, there, and everywhere: there's a hippie granola crunching element, a residual element of crusty farmers and ranchers, an element of newly-monied rich city folk looking for the romanticized life of country gentility, an element of Hispanic agriculture and domestic workers (some new arrivals and some long-time residents), and an element of business owners (again, some established residents and some transplants) serving the locals or serving the tourist trade. Several of these elements seem to blend and crisscross at various points. Everybody has a story, and everyone seems to know everyone else's business. Although there are obviously some local controversies, and some clans and cliques that compete about this or that, there's an overall atmosphere of community pride and good will.
Neither Boonville nor the Boonville Hotel will please everyone. I don't want to say that it takes a refined taste to appreciate the town or the hotel. The place is quite comfortable, but not like a luxury resort. If your idea of a grand vacation spending a few days wandering from shop to shop in a new-age, morally superior, totally predictable, worn-out hippie, cutesie-wootsie, nature-worshipping, tourist trap like Mendocino just up the road, you probably won't like Boonville or its namesake hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- it's about people, food, drink and a well-made bed. two hours north of san francisco, halfway to the coast on highway 128, in the heart of mendocino county ... more less