Americans love their small towns. It may be the pandemic and the lack of exotic travel options, but there certainly hasn’t been a lack of small town roundups this summer, touting the newest cities not to be missed for their downright cherished charm. One of my favorites that I return to every two years is Healdsburg, the wine town of Sonoma immersed in all things wine country: lush vineyards, pretty storefronts, plenty of culinary destinations, and a white gazebo in the plaza. from the city. Despite its small size, Healdsburg still lives up to the new attractions, the latest being the Harmon Guest House, h2hotel’s astonishing sister property right next to the store.
Harmon Guest House, so named after the man who designed and christened the town of Healdsburg in the 1800s, exhibits the same level of enthusiasm for art as the town itself. Although Healdsburg has a population of just over 11,000, the city has over 20 local galleries within a few blocks of the main plaza. The 39 guest rooms, six suites Harmon Guest House itself could very well be considered a gallery in Healdsburg with its array of photographs, dramatic sculptures, installations and playful paintings, and I love how the art sets the Harmon Guest House apart from other properties in the wine country, even the h2hotel next store. My favorite piece is immediately noticed in the lobby: a twin U-shaped installation, made of yellow ribbon-shaped materials, centers the concrete room and announces a cheerful but chic space. Double Yellow artist Sabine Reckewell attached her sculptures directly to the ceiling, creating a seamless look for the lobby unlike other sculptures that can look like monolithic imports in hotels.
In the hallways, stairwells and bedrooms, more artistic delights. Seven Californian artists were selected to design works only for the Harmon guesthouse, and just like Reckewell’s Double Yellow sculpture, I can feel the art was made in and for the property adds to the distinct charm of the Harmon guesthouse, almost like a sneaky nod from an admirer. Carissa Potter, a whimsical artist who uses bold bold brush strokes, painted vineyard-inspired vignettes in each guest’s bathroom, and happy puppies in the hallways. A series of strangely nostalgic but modern three-part photographs by Leigh Merrill is also found in each room. Merrill created the works by taking thousands of photos of actual Healdsburg storefronts, then modifying the images with imaginary facades. I must have taken a double take while looking at the photos because as someone who has been to Healdsburg on a number of occasions, did the photos ask you, “But didn’t you…? ”
In addition to hand-selected art, the Harmon guesthouse claims the distinction of a LEED Gold building, a distinguished sustainability rating by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) which was established in 1993. I’m looking for note this when I travel, and it’s getting easier and easier to find hotels (like h2hotel next store) that integrate energy and environmental management into their designs and day-to-day operations. In 2019, the USGBC announced that more than 100,000 properties worldwide now hold LEED certifications. At the Harmon Guest House, certification has been achieved through numerous initiatives aimed at achieving the required points for gold, including LED lighting, a sun slat system, a bus station located on the facade of the building, salvaged finishing materials and more. Perhaps most impressive: 100% of the property’s irrigation needs are harvested from rainwater. Walk around the property and you’ll notice the subtle museum labels that detail the sustainability work of the Harmon guesthouse, as well as those that describe the origins and titles of the artists.
The Harmon guesthouse is all about details, which delight and surprise for their craftsmanship and durability. It’s a perfect addition to a small town like Healdsburg which celebrates its people and values by keeping its place for generations to come.