PART II: Kreis’ daughter-in-law, Mary Celeste, made a brief appearance to welcome and to tell us about her own design journey with Suzanne. Kreis explained how her son Sam, who was the proprietor of the inn after his parents handed over the reigns, took his favorite design elements from each house they lived in over the years and incorporated them into his family home at Blackberry Farm. His most cherished home was in Mobile, Alabama where the dining room was the first room you entered through the front door. It was a welcoming gesture and statement that family and food were of the most importance. Suzanne and Mary Celeste took the special memory Sam had as a child and brought it to their Tennessee home on the property of Blackberry Farm.
Photo By Pieter Estersohn via Architectural Digest
We ended the lecture and, in true Blackberry style, there were dozens of golf carts with blankets waiting for us outside. We assumed we were simply going to tour the property. Instead, we traveled around winding roads only to stop in front of the most charming collection of small cottages. We had no idea we were getting a tour of Kreis’ former home that was featured in Architectural Digest. Now the house is currently owned by another VIP that was kind enough to let our group walk through the cottages on the property and take as many pictures as we wanted.
Kreis and Suzanne in front of Toad Hall, the main log cabin on the property.
The entry to Toad Hall.
The rustic main kitchen at Toad Hall.
The rooms and nooks in the main house were so cozy!
Each of the guest log cabins had a different décor.
One of my most favorite places on the tour was the stone and steel Carriage House. The architectural details were uniquely different from the rest of the property but worked so well together. Suzanne explained that in Europe, when they made additions to homes, they typically used stone or limestone and did not always try to match it to how the structure was originally built.
The Carriage House
Inside the Carriage House
We hopped back into our carts and Kreis took us to the “Black Barn” which is her design studio. Before we arrived, we made a pit stop at a tiny “shed” that was converted into a guest cottage! Kreis’ house had sold before she built another one so she had her builder convert this cute little shed into temporary living quarters. She now uses it for guests or a retreat to write her book.
Open the barn doors and voila!
Next we were off to her office for a quick tour and had the opportunity to see her design boards and works in progress!
After our whirlwind tour we went to get a quick lunch by the fireplace and then headed off to the spa for a treatment. Even the bookshelves in the spa have so much style!
We hardly had any down time before meeting back at The Barn for a look at Bramble Hall, the newest building which doubles as a conference center and a performance space for the many concerts held at Blackberry. We went downstairs to see the incredible wine collection, most of it collected by Kreis’ son, Sam. She told us he would bike to small wineries to meet face to face with the vintners to build Blackberry’s special wine collection.
Just as I thought the night could not get any better, we walked into the wine cellar and sat down at the most beautiful table. We assumed we were having dinner in The Barn like the rest of the guests at the inn, but instead were treated to this magical moment.
There was an option to have wines paired with your meal and how could I turn that down?
The next morning we packed up after experiencing a weekend we will never forget. I could not stop thinking about how gracious Kreis Beall was even after all she has been through. Throughout the tour, Kreis and her staff spoke often about Sam and his vision for the Inn. Someone asked her if she dreamed it would be this special place that people traveled from all over the world to visit. She said she never imagined it would be anything but a simple inn with delicious food. It became what it is because of Sam. While Kreis was thinking big, Sam was watching her and brought all of his experiences to life at Blackberry in ways that no one could imagine, not even Kreis herself. He studied under Thomas Keller and traveled the world to bring the best wine and food back to Blackberry Farm making it one of the top inns in the world. What wasn’t said and what no one brought up, not even once, was that Sam had died almost a year to the day of this event in a ski accident at the age of 39. He left behind his wife, Mary Celeste, who is now the proprietor of the Inn and 5 children.
I had read about her son passing away shortly after it happened. Kreis was obviously filled with joy and love when she spoke of him and if you didn’t know he had passed away, you wouldn’t have known. He was such an important part of the weekend that it was almost as if he was standing right there with all of us. The admiration and love for Sam from Kreis and the entire staff was a very special moment for me. Anyone who had been touched by Sam Beall, spoke of him as a visionary not just for Blackberry, but encouraged everyone around him to chase their dreams. I’ve never seen people carry on with so much grace, love and determination after the loss of a loved one. It was very inspiring and humbling experience.
The whole weekend was real, authentic and genuine, just like Kreis. She was so open and warm and really wanted to hear our opinion on how to make the experience better at every turn, when she could have secluded herself from a bunch of strangers. We were her guests and she was going to see to it that we would to have one of the best weekends we could have imagined. I came to see Suzanne Kasler, who is such an amazing talent, but I walked away totally smitten with Kreis Beall. She is a lovely example of how to live a beautiful life in an authentic way….not only on the outside but on the inside.
Photo from Blackberry Farm
I was always a big dreamer and my mother made me feel like I could do anything. I am not sure how she kept a straight face when I proclaimed what I was going to do that week. Because she believed in me, I believed in myself and was able to make some of my own dreams happen. If I didn’t, I figured it out on my own that it was not the right path for me. As soon as I had kids, I hoped I could be as encouraging as my mom, especially to my oldest son. As a natural leader, he actually had the personality to take on and do anything. I encouraged him and honestly believed he could do whatever he dreamed of. However, as he got older and closer to going out on his own, I could feel myself reigning him in. He wanted to pick a major that didn’t seem like it would have a lot of job opportunities, so I pushed a business major in college because it seemed like a solid choice. However, my weekend at Blackberry opened my eyes. Spending time with some of the most creative and innovative people I have ever met, who see beyond what many of us don’t see, made me want to change the way I approached my life as an adult when you start to “know” too much. No one stopped Sam from taking an inn and turning it into one of the most renowned Relais and Chateaux properties in the woods of Tennessee. I could not wait to get home and call my son at school to tell him to declare the major he originally wanted. Maybe it did not have a direct path to the perfect and safe job, but I had to believe he would take himself to a place that he has always dreamed of, even if it was one that I could not see.
The sweet little chapel at Blackberry Farm.