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“MODERN MEETS SOUTHERN VERNACULAR AT THE INN AT MIDDLETON PLACE”

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Inn at Middleton Place
Ranked #27 of 62 Hotels in Charleston
GreenLeadersSilver level
Reviewed August 31, 2012

This review is posted courtesy of the travel blog thenomadarchitect@msn.com


Charleston Is Not All Porches and Palaces

Strangely enough, for two Nomads who grew up in the South, we had never been to Charleston when we decided to celebrate our thirty ninth year of wedded bliss in one of the epicenters of traditional, southern revival architecture. Or more precisely, about fifteen miles from said epicenter at a fifty five room boutique hotel in the bucolic low country along the famed Ashely River. The Inn at Middleton Place, while located in the 6,500 acre former rice plantation, is certainly not of the estate which boasts America's oldest landscaped gardens. In fact, you can see none of the plantation proper from anywhere on the grounds of the Middleton. Instead, the architect designed Middleton to stand on its on as a modern response to vernacular southern architecture. And stand it does. The Inn is the modern architectural equivalent of the Bas Luhrman variation on Romeo and Juliet. True to the spirit of a place, yet accomplishing that spirit with a completely new design motif.

Much has been written about the importance of this unique property as a seminal work of architecture and its response to the southern vernacular most associated with locales such as Charleston and Savannah. Like all good design, it has a distinctive, timeless quality. According to the architect, the conceptual idea of the hotel was that of a southern ruin. As you approach the massive, unadorned, vine covered, concrete/stucco walls you come to the conclusion that this place has, indeed, been here for centuries. And since you arrive on a long winding dirt road (there is not a single square foot of asphalt or concrete), the experience of discovering a secret place is much intensified. I remember, as a kid, walking in the woods near my grandparents' farm and happening on an old brick chimney or stone wall covered in kudzu and finding it such a compelling place of discovery. The Middleton Inn evokes that same kind of emotion when you arrive at this unlikely collection of modern buildings at the end of the proverbial road less taken. And once you are there and see the ancient Ashley River meandering between the Middleton bluff and the low country marshes in the distance, you realize that you are not in your grandfather's Charleston anymore.


This Place Is Not For The Canopy Bed Crowd

From my perspective, the explosion of the typical B&B, with chintz curtains, club footed tubs and overwrought canopy beds has hindered the development of unique small inns and boutique hotels in the United States. Almost all small, cutting edge hotels are located on the coasts and usually in large urban areas. And they usually cost a fortune. The Post Ranch Inn in California is $1,200 a night! The Middleton is even more compelling as a small, modern hotel when you consider its price. With our discount, we paid $170 per night for a river view through a floor to ceiling wall of glass. In the world of boutique hotels, that is an All American Steal. So, in the interest of full disclosure, if you do not like clean, minimalist design that is devoid of the classic "southern" aesthetic, the Middleton is not for you. If, however, you like design which incorporates crisp detailing, natural materials and unadorned surfaces that become one with their surroundings, then The Middleton will fulfill your every wish as a true Modern Nomad.

Upon arrival at registration, the very professional staff checked us in effortlessly and explained the inn's numerous attributes and available activities. After going through the main gate and down the old curving dirt road, we arrived at our room - No. 333. I recommend requesting a room in either Building 3 or 4. They are newer than the main building and they are in the woods and very private. And make certain you reserve a river view. After settling in with our luggage, the first thing I noticed was the smell. The accent wall behind the bed is butt jointed cedar. In addition to the obvious clean aesthetic this renders, it also creates an always fresh smell to the space. The fireplace wall, the other walls and the vaulted ceiling of the mammoth bathroom are unadorned, simple concrete with a natural stucco finish. This adds further to the minimalist, natural aesthetic. The warm materials and simple design play a supporting role for the main event. You view the famed Ashley River through a wall of glass from end to end and floor to ceiling. Adding to the enjoyment and the utility of the space, the glass wall is covered with folding wood shutters, allowing you to close off the bottom glass for complete privacy, while leaving the upper glass open for viewing nature at its best. The furnishings in the room include classic modern wood chairs, a small writing desk and a bed to die for.

And then there is the bathroom. First, it is huge. With a massive wooden sliding door, the bathroom features a vaulted ceiling, slate floors, exquisitely detailed wood shelving and the largest tub and shower I have ever seen in any hotel. This is all highlighted by a sandblasted curved glass block window wall. This combination of elements makes for a true sanctuary of peace and tranquility. Again, in the interest of full disclosure, if the hotel would update its bathroom fixtures, install better sliding door hardware and do some minor maintenance on some of the exterior wood, the room and the building in general would rate a 10+ on the Nomad Architect's scale of excellence. As it is, these items are so minor, that the room and the place still gets a 9.999 on my list. Having said that, as you settle in to this unique place, it does what all great design does. It becomes natural to your experience of the room, the architecture and the unique environment of this mesmerizing low country of marshes and the slow moving river. I highly recommend staying at least three nights at The Middleton. Your arrival day is usually taken up with the inevitable "settling in" at any place. And with all there is to see and do at The Middleton and Charleston, you owe it to yourself to stay more than just the weekend.


Thoreau and Olmsted Would Love This Place

The poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau would have marveled at the natural beauty of the marshes, the river and the unencumbered vistas found in this bucolic area of South Carolina. Likewise, Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed designer of Central Park, would have been smitten with the vision and realization of the grand landscape design of Middleton Place. As we ventured out to explore the former rice plantation and the nationally known gardens, we became utterly enchanted with the beauty and elegance of the plantation proper. Of course, as you would expect, water is everywhere. And its not just that water is everywhere. The integration of landscaping, water features and the establishment of intimate places and long vistas is visually stunning. And when you realize that all of this design and manipulation of land and water was accomplished without any of the modern land moving equipment or technology available today, it makes it all the more compelling. Prepare to walk at least a couple of miles to see the entirety of the plantation, its historic structures and gardens. The next day, we rented bikes from the main lodge, and enjoyed nature at its most silent and finest along the many bike paths that have been carved out of this simple, mesmerizing low land. The only evidence that man was ever there was the rutted bike path and the occasional old wood bird watching stand or crumbling fence.


And If You Are Going To Eat In Charleston You Need To Take Long Walks and Bike Rides!

Like New Orleans and Savannah, Charleston is a place where it is virtually impossible to get a bad meal, as long as you stay local. The following summary of the places we ate and why you should add them to your Nomad's List of Places To Eat, is provided for your culinary planning and pleasure.

Day One
Arriving in Charleston around 1:00 PM we pulled up to the Cru Cafe, a small, intimate bistro in a typical old southern house in downtown Charleston. We took our seats on the wraparound porch, sat back and enjoyed the day, the food and each other. Where else but Charleston can you get an absolutely fresh and delicious Fried Oyster Wrap and a Shrimp BLT? After lunch, we found a Harris & Teeter Grocery and picked up some crackers, cheese and fruit. After a late check in, we decided to relax, eat our munchies with a good pinot noir and get acquainted with the place. A great way to end the first day on any trip.

Day Two
After rising early, we headed over to The Lake House, one of the many outbuildings run by the inn, for a delicious breakfast of a Dirty Crab Omelet, Eggs, Bacon, Biscuits and Charleston Stone Ground Yellow Grits. Oh Baby!! After the roughly two mile walk to see the plantation, we headed into town and planted ourselves at the Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar. I had the Marinated Tomatoes + Hearts of Palm, Fresh Goat Cheese and Fried Shrimp. My bride had a Shrimp Po Boy. Outstanding on all accounts. With reservations for our late dinner, we savored a culinary Coup De Gras at The Middleton Place Restaurant. With a very clean, minimalist design added to one of the old houses on the estate, the ambiance was perfect and the meal was, in the humble opinion of this Nomad, five star beginning to end. Starting with She Crab Soup and ending with a melt-in-your mouth main course of Filet Mignon and Potatoes, with a wine and mushroom reduction, accompanied by an excellent cabernet. The Middleton Place Restaurant is truly one of the most romantic places with amazing food and service you will ever encounter.

And what about desert you say? After our lunch at Amen we decided to check out a place that I had found on the web that specialized in bakery items. Official Nomad Architect Culinary Alert!!! If you ever go to Charleston you cannot leave without going to this place - The Saffron Bakery Cafe. To quote the dapper Turkish founder, when I said there was so much to choose from - He responded in an elegant Turkish accent - "It's paradise". And a foodie's paradise it is. After purchasing more than we could ever eat, we left with a plethora of delights for breakfast and dessert for the remainder of the trip. After returning to the room after dinner, we enjoyed a cream cheese strawberry shortcake that was pure sin!

Day Three
To get ready for our bike ride, we rose early and dove into some almond croissants and other goodies from Saffron, while enjoying the view from our room. After the bike ride, we headed over to the lodge and ordered up a quick ham and cheese panini, prepared by another friendly staffer, Michael. After hanging out and enjoying the grounds of the inn for the afternoon, we headed into town for a romantic dinner at Trattoria Lucca, one of the most lauded eateries in Charleston. The salad alone was worth the visit. Hearts of Romaine with the most delicate Lemon Vinaigrette and Fresh Shaved Parmesan. Susie had the Veal. I had a duck/pork pasta. This place is a keeper.


Day Four
Well - day four - we had to leave. But, as they say - Not so fast my friend!! Dead battery. But not to worry. Within minutes of calling the front desk, two young staff, Bryan and Corey, jumped us off and we headed to checkout, where two exceptionally smart and gracious young ladies, Erika and Kathryn, assisted with our checkout and application of a coupon I had found on the web. I cannot say enough about the staff at The Middleton. Unassuming and utterly professional, they are 10+ in my book.

As we reluctantly left The Middleton, we headed to Pooogan's Porch in Charleston for, what else, Shrimp and Grits. In a word - HEAVEN!! Susie had the Fried Boneless Chicken Breast, Collards, Mashed Potatoes and Biscuits. To paraphrase southern author and poet James Dickey - All cultures are judged by the originality of their cookery. After shrimp and grits at Poogan's Porch, you really do understand just how amazing southern cuisine truly is.

As we pulled onto I-95 for the inevitable slow trip home, I thought how blessed I was to be able to enjoy the delights of a great place like the Middleton with my one and only of thirty nine years. As my long betrothed pondered - What will we do next year? I said, like the Nomad I am - Just hang on - I got a plan!

From The Low Country,

D.L. Stafford
thenomadARCHITECT

Room Tip: Get a river view room in Building 3 or 4. They are newer and more private deep in the woods. And y...
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  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank DOYLE S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 30, 2012 via mobile

I was so impressed by this place- my wife and I fell in love with the inn and will return for our 5 year anniversary. Beautiful gardens are only a 5 minute walk from the inn and the architecture was delightful. Very relaxing!

  • Stayed: July 2012
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2  Thank CELapadat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 30, 2012

The hubby and I stayed here in late July for a quick getaway weekend. As soon as you see the Inn, you can feel the tension in your shoulders start to melt away. It is perfectly blended with its landscape and the visual appeal is evident in both the exterior and the room itself. We had a queen river view room. There are floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the room, covered by plantation shutters so you can control the light. True, the tv is ancient as others have noted, but there was so much to do and time to relax that we never even turned it on. The bed was quite comfortable. There is no upholstered furniture, only wooden Windsor-style chairs and a desk. In cooler months the fireplace would add a cozy touch. The bathroom contained the widest toilet I've ever seen, and a huge shower/tub combination complete with bath salts provided. The thoughtful extra touches set the Inn apart for me. Each day we received two complimentary large bottles of water and the most delicious bag of trail mix was waiting when we arrived. Each room even has its own umbrella in a specal holder outside of the door, which came in handy-hey, we're in the South, in the summer! We had a package which included bicycle rentals and a carriage ride. By the time we made the short walk over to the plantation and toured the house and grounds, we were ready for a cooling dip in the pool which fronts the Ashley River. The view and gentle shade from the surrounding trees caused us to linger at the pool longer than we expected, so we never got around to bike riding. When we attempted to book our time for the carriage ride, the host informed us that the horses were not allowed to work that day due to the heat index. She cheerfully credited our bill. We are from Florida so we completely understand the heat situation! A complimentary continental breakfast is served in the Lake House, but frankly we were so lazy we slept in both mornings. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages are available throughout the day at the Lodge, and there is also a complimentary happy hour. We thoroughly enjoyed how quiet the Inn was at night, with just the sounds of the crickets for company. I've read a few reviews which mentioned bugs and cobwebs around the exterior of the Inn-well, you are in a forest, near a river, in the South. Swipe one spiderweb down and another will be up by morning! And there are bugs in nature, after all. We weren't bothered by it at all. The bugs weren't in the room! Air conditioning worked well (I had my doubts with all those windows). As an aside, we would recommend two local restaurants in North Charleston: Nigel's Good Food and Steel City Pizza. Had great, unpretentious meals and very friendly service at both establishments.

Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
1  Thank Susan1326
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 29, 2012

We decided to stay at The Inn at Middleton Place after we dropped our daughter off at the College of Charleston. The grounds are just beautiful. The included admission to Middleton Place made this a great value. The rooms are rustic, but comfortable. I think it would be very romantic when the fireplace was available for the season. It was very quiet even though the hotel was booked solid while we were there. There is bottled water in the fridge, which is good because the tap water didn't taste great. It was replaced daily. The TV is tiny and they could use a few more outlets in the rooms. Even a power strip would be good. I had to unplug a lamp to charge my computer or phone while my husband charged his phone in the bathroom. The shower was a bit challenging for my tall husband. I think you'd have to bend down if you are taller than 5'5". The healthy start breakfast was more than enough with fresh quickbreads, yogurt, granola, cereals, breads, jams, fruit, coffee and teas. You could order a hot breakfast, but we didn't feel it was necessary until the chefs special was strawberry nutella crepes. In addition to 3 crepes we received 3 eggs any style, 3 strips of bacon or sausage and grits. It was delicious and filling. The reception desk is in a separate building, but staffed 24 hours by delightful personnel. Every staff person we spoke to was friendly and helpful. We took the horseback riding tour of the property. It was an hour long tour of the trails around the Inn. We had a little trouble finding the labyrinth. We frightened about 6 deer as we approached. The labyrinth was difficult to follow. A bench near the labyrinth would be nice. In addition to the deer, we saw alligators, herons and hummingbirds.

All in all, I would love to return to the Inn during a different season and I'm sure that I will!

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank JudiBC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 26, 2012

This was one of the most unique vacation experiences I've ever had. The inn is hidden in the trees right outside of the Middelton Place Gardens. The rooms are austere but spacious and comfortable. One wall of our room was glass, looking out over the trees; it was akin to staying in a tree house. You will get dirty - you walk along dirt paths to the River House for breakfast and to the Lodge for the afternoon wine reception. A short path through the woods takes you to the gardens, which guests of the inn are free to roam. The gardens were breathtaking and my favorite part of our entire vacation. There is wildlife; we saw three large but harmless snakes within minutes of checking in. The only criticisms I would have would be the spider in our room (but you're staying in the woods, there's not much the inn can do about that), and the unpleasant smell of the water. I think it was partly sulphur water. For a truly unique and relaxing vacation I would highly recommend this inn.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank LRast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 23, 2012

My wife and I have visited Middleton Place several times so we were quite excited about staying there when we could not find accomodations on short notice downtown...and the price seeemed very reasonable. And it was wonderful to be able to walk the grounds and photograph at any hour...the azaleas in springtime are spectacular!!! But the room was just awful!! Old, cold and clammy, very unappealing bathroom, old TV, my wife refused to take a bath in the shower/bath. Breakfast was average but the service was quite good. My recommendation is that you visit Middleton Place, tour the house and grounds, enjoy lunch or dinner in the good (not great) quality restaurant but stay elsewhere.

Room Tip: Avoid the bottom level, feels like a dungeon!
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  • Stayed: October 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Horace_Hamilton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Innkeeper/MI, General Manager at Inn at Middleton Place, responded to this reviewResponded August 24, 2012

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions guest, and I’m sorry the allure of The Inn did not win you over! Admittedly so, the Inn and its understated elegance isn’t for everyone. We are in the process of a soft upgrade of the rooms, replacing the TV’s is one of the upgrades we are doing, however we sometimes think removing the TV’s altogether would better fit the Inn’s focus! The design of the bathtubs is very unique, black grout was used as a design factor while building the Inn and I assure you, there was no mold in the tub. I appreciate you pointing out to future guests that Middleton Place was outstanding, as it is, and with the $74 value of admission covered by your room rate, it is a fantastic deal. I wish you all the best in your future travels, and perhaps you would consider visiting a sister property during your next stay in Charleston, 21 East Battery B&B? Located on the waterfront of Charleston this hidden gem is a fantastic counterpoint to what we do here at the Inn. Think of the locations as “Town and Country”. Abigail M. Martin, General Manager of both locations.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 23, 2012

The website makes this inn look a lot better than it is, but if you know you're going to be staying outside the city at a plantation, it's a great choice. The property itself is beautiful. There is lots to do on the property, and next door at the plantation. I'm glad we stayed here instead of in the city because I doubt we would have had the experience of a historic plantation. The rooms are nice, but simple. There are not a lot of amenities. The floors are old pine and tile, and gritty because of all of the dirt paths outside. The Lodge was a very friendly place to go for drinks in the afternoon/early evening. We came across a lot of wildlife- great pictures! Continental breakfast is very skimpy, so be prepared to spend some money to get some "real food". Overall, a great choice if you're looking for plantation life and not a fancy city hotel.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank Jenn M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Inn at Middleton Place

Address: 4290 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414-7200
Phone Number:
Location: United States > South Carolina > Coastal South Carolina > Charleston
Amenities:
Business Center with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Green Hotel in Charleston
#19 Family Hotel in Charleston
#22 Romantic Hotel in Charleston
#34 Business Hotel in Charleston
Price Range: $183 - $280 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Inn at Middleton Place 3*
Number of rooms: 55
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Also Known As:
Inn At Middleton Place Hotel Charleston

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