In this installment of our Building Business series, we share the story behind a newly renovated motor lodge in Woods Hole that’s redefining family vacations
Treehouse Lodge is the perfect name for innkeeper Beth Colt’s latest venture. Opened last summer, the Woods Hole property offers guests a Cape Cod vacation perch that’s as carefree and low-key as its moniker.
Colt and her husband, P.K. Simonds, owners of the Woods Hole Inn for a decade, purchased the former Sleepy Hollow Motor Inn in late 2016. After renovations were done by the Valle Group, the lodge opened in time for Memorial Day 2017 with a new name that Colt says was inspired by the property’s magnificent copper beech tree, planted in the 1850s by Joseph Story Fay, an early summer resident who essentially reforested the village.
“I love how trees connect us with other generations, and the idea of such a lasting legacy,” she reflects. “I also liked the idea that a treehouse is playful—a place to explore, romp and caper. A place to reconnect with the childlike version of ourselves.”
To that end, she redecorated the rooms with a minimalist style that evokes a camp-like atmosphere, right down to the hanging bulb lighting, muslin curtains and natural bark-edged woodcut end tables built into the walls of each unit. She kept the color scheme simple, with one wall a deep marine blue and the rest white, barnwood-look flooring and sisal area rugs. The biggest change was replacing an in-ground pool at the center of the property with a landscaped seating area that features a huge handcrafted “fireball,” sculpted by architect and artist Sandra Vlock.
On summer evenings the ball holds a crackling fire around which guests toast marshmallows for s’mores and chat with one another. “People meet each other and talk,” says Colt, who is happy with the sense of community around the fireball. “It makes it really fun.”
Treehouse Lodge has 24 rooms, and for the initial renovation Colt focused on 14 rooms and the office, hiring the East Falmouth-based Valle Group to transform the property with a design created by Chris Isenegger, a set designer Colt worked with during her career as a Los Angeles film producer before moving to Woods Hole to become an innkeeper. Isenegger was the designer and project manager for the renovation of the Woods Hole Inn when Colt and Simonds, a Hollywood script writer, first bought the inn, so Colt felt confident turning to him for help with this new project.
“Her vision was to transform it from a 1950s motel to more of a modern, simple but elegant camp-style retreat,” says Christian Valle, president of the Valle Group. Along with interior work, his firm tore out the old pool and brought in a landscape firm to create the new communal outdoor area that became home to the fireball.
The whole job took four to five months, according to Valle, who is very pleased with the results. He admires the fact that she had the vision to work with a property built in 1959 and transform it rather than razing it, which has been the case with some other older properties. “The genius in what Beth did is she took a building that probably could have been torn down and turned it into something spectacular.”
Colt was impressed with the Valle Group’s work. “They’re so attentive, and the fast track they worked through with this project was amazing,” she says. “They also have really nice taste, so you can count on them to have good ideas.”
Most rooms have a queen bed with a private bath, and about half have a daybed; her two largest rooms have pullout couches, large bathrooms and sitting areas. “Those are the most expensive and the most popular,” she notes.
The lodge is very family friendly, which is key for Colt, who envisioned the lodge as a way to reach a new group of guests. With 14 rooms, the Woods Hole Inn doesn’t allow small children and has rates to match the luxury amenities. The Treehouse Lodge, by contrast, offers a “significantly lower price point,” about half the cost of the Woods Hole Inn.
“This is a science community, and many of the people who come here are young,” and unable to afford high-priced lodging, says Colt, who feels a range of lodging prices “keeps a community vibrant.”
Colt and Simonds have two sons, one a student at Harvard and the other at Falmouth Academy. Both have worked in the family businesses, which also include two restaurants, Quick’s Hole Taqueria and the nearby Quick’s Hole Tavern (formerly the Leeside). She laughs that she “fell into being a restaurant owner by buying an inn,” which in itself was a huge life change.
It’s one she doesn’t regret. While she enjoys visiting Los Angeles, she loves living in the tight-knit community of Woods Hole.
Because she loves living on Cape Cod, she enjoys innkeeping. “It’s really, really fun,” she says. “You meet so many people, and you’re introducing them to something you love, so it’s sharing your passion.”
She designed the Treehouse Lodge essentially for “a young couple in their early 30s with two kids, who both work and haven’t taken a vacation in a year, and they’re deciding last minute, ‘We’ve got to go somewhere and get to the beach,’” she says. “They’re likely to be foodies, and they’re interested in a laid-back, affordable experience.”
Nobska Beach is only a 10-minute walk from the lodge, or guests can catch a ride in Colt’s Treehouse Lodge “Beach Buggy,” which also transports guests to The Knob and nearby Stoney Beach.
Her philosophy in maintaining economy-size rooms at the lodge is that visitors don’t need a lot of space to enjoy all Cape Cod has to offer. “They need a landing spot,” she says with a smile. Because most guests spend the majority of their time outside, “I took the TVs out of the rooms and replaced them with really robust WiFi,” Colt says. Although most guests are content with that, some people really want televisions, so she incorporated them into the additional five rooms she renovated this winter, which will be offered as “Deluxe Canopy” rooms in addition to the Hammock and Canopy rooms. That leaves just five more rooms to redo, and the property’s transformation will be complete.
Valle says he enjoyed visiting the redone property over the summer and hanging out by the fireball as guests toasted marshmallows. The Treehouse Lodge is more than a destination, he says: “It’s really, I would say, a new Woods Hole landmark.”
For more information, visit mytreehouselodge.com