April 11, 2017
In the Gardens at Eden Vale Inn: Modern Luxury in a Beautifully Restored Old Barn
With a press of the “romance” button in my room, the lights dim to a warm glow and the gas fireplace blazes to life. When I press the “reading” button, and a tiny spotlight illuminates the pages of the book in my lap. With the press of another button, the private outdoor soaking tub for two begins filling with warm water and automatically shuts off a few inches from the rim. The high-tech features are an alluring luxury for a century-old hay barn.
I grab a robe and step outside to slip into the steamy water of the soaking tub. I roll back the wood-slatted privacy shade to enjoy the view of the tranquil gardens and watch birds flit between the branches of the trees.
Eden Vale Inn is a verdant sanctuary nestled in the straw-colored hills between Coloma and Placerville in California’s Gold Country. Mark and Gayle Hamlin bought the barn and the surrounding 10 acres in 1985. Old photos from that time show a weathered structure with a rusted corrugated metal roof standing amid a dry, rocky landscape. Built in 1919 for a pioneer family’s dairy farm and then abandoned in the 1940s, the barn and the land had lain vacant for over 40 years.
Captivated by the barn’s spacious interior and the rough-sawn beams cut from old-growth forests, the Hamlins converted the barn into a warm and inviting home. They built a stone fireplace that rises 27 feet from the floor to the timber-framed cathedral ceiling. The slate rock for the fireplace was hand-picked from a local quarry and weighs about 40 tons. The block and tackle that was once used to lower hay from the second floor loft hangs near the top. The barn now serves as the main building of the bed and breakfast inn, which the Hamlins opened in 2009. The inn’s seven luxurious guest rooms blend ultra-modern features with rustic touches and feature outdoor soaking tubs, gas fireplaces, and spa-like private baths.
Outside, the Hamlins transformed several acres of land surrounding the barn into a lush paradise, planting trees, shrubs, vines, and grasses that have grown over the years into a beautiful three-dimensional tapestry of color and texture. The gardens attract over 50 different types of birds, whose chirps blend harmoniously with the bubbling fountains and tinkling wind chimes. I wander the footpaths through the gardens to find endless curiosities, including a collection of antique bird cages and bowling balls perched atop wooden posts.
Of the latter, Gayle explains they are the poor man’s version of Italian columns. She started collecting bowling balls from thrift stores for the garden and ended up buying every used ball in El Dorado County. Her mom, who lives in Las Vegas, continues bring Gayle more bowling balls when she visits.
I climb into a hammock near the grape arbor to watch the sunset beyond the hills and the row of bowling ball columns. I note with amusement at how the columns’ silhouettes take on a more regal appearance against the setting sun.
After the skies have grown dark, I wander over to the metal fire pit near the pond and sink down into one of the Adirondack chairs to gaze up at the stars. A newlywed couple from San Francisco joins me around the fire and Mark delivers a basket of fixings for s’mores. The couple and I roast our s’mores and stay up talking late into the night.
Early in the morning, I take a walk around the placid pond. A rowboat tied up to a small dock glides idly from side to side. At the far end of the pond, I catch sight of two bucks standing just outside the fence.
At breakfast, I find a generous selection of fresh fruits, warm scones, house-made granola, European-style yogurt, fresh-squeezed juices, and coffee and tea. The main entrée that morning is a delicious corn and asparagus frittata with pork sausage and roasted sweet potatoes. I sit on one of the outdoor decks enjoying breakfast while trying to plot my day. I’m torn between wanting to explore Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and signing up for a rafting trip on the American River. I’m also hoping to wander the shops and art galleries in historic downtown Placerville, check out the Sherwood Demonstration Garden, and stop by a few wineries along the way.
But looking out over the gardens, I’m equally tempted to spend another relaxing day in Eden.
First, fourth, and fifth photos courtesy of Eden Vale Inn. All others by Ranee Ruble-Dotts for CABBI.