Words by Jennifer Kornegay
Photos provided by Andiamo Lodge
On the high plateau of Lookout Mountain, the tiny town of Mentone, Alabama, is bursting with natural beauty: its hillsides and woods are festooned with pale pink mountain laurel in spring, saturated all shades of green in the summer, and ablaze with autumn’s red and gold each fall. Even winter’s bare branches, sharp and clean against bluebird skies, have appeal. And along the town’s short main drag, quaint antique shops, art and craft stores, and a few funky restaurants and cafes offer added charm. It all comes together to form a lovely little spot, which is now home to an equally lovely—and also charmingly small—spot, Andiamo Lodge.
The Lodge had a few guests at the end of last year, but officially opened in January 2022 and is the result of its owners’ affection for Mentone—a place that provided them a perfect escape during the pandemic. “We think this area is something special; we love it here,” says Colleen Duffley. She and her new husband Steve Carpenter were living in the 30-A area of coastal panhandle Florida. She’s a photographer, and he’s chef and restaurant owner (he’s still got several spots at the beach and is splitting his time). “We got a little cabin in Mentone in October 2020. When we shared photos with friends, they all wanted to visit—but it was too small, so we joked that we’d have to get a bigger place so we could host visitors,” Colleen says. And then they got serious. “We noticed this little church lodge for sale; it had been empty for some time. We thought, ‘Ok, let’s really do what we were laughing about.’” They bought it and spent 18 months renovating it, and the result is Andiamo Lodge.
The tin-topped, cabin-like Lodge sits along a serene country road with forest behind it and fields in front. The simple building blends into the landscape, except for the vibrant orange door that welcomes you into the main house. Here, you’re greeted by small check-in counter before stepping down into a large den, anchored by a massive stacked-stone fireplace and a small bar custom built into an antique wardrobe. The spirits within are “guarded” by a stuffed boar’s head wearing a British bobby’s cap, hinting at Colleen and Steve’s wry sense of humor. Off the den is the cozy dining room where some of Colleen’s photography (along with others’ work) shines in a digital art installation that toured the country, and though thoroughly sleek and modern, is somehow right at home amid all the natural elements: the rock, shiplap, exposed wood beams and wide-planked wood floors. Up a few steps sits Steve’s chef’s kitchen.
Colleen calls the overarching style “high-low” and “rustic luxe,” stressing that every nook and cranny has been “curated” not “decorated” with a thoughtful mix that combines traditional furnishings and contemporary touches; soothing neutral hues happily married with pops of color; and fine finishes (leather and textiles) accented with eclectic flea-market finds and trinkets (like a framed collection of arrow heads) from Colleen’s many years traveling and styling photo shoots. The couple also reused the property’s existing materials where they could.
Your Room Key
You can reserve one of six rooms, each boasting a working stone fireplace and each with its own distinct look thanks to original art, more of Colleen’s finds and comfy beds outfitted in high-end lines (including Alabama’s own Redland Cotton sheets and Peacock Alley, a brand Colleen has worked with for years). Bathrooms are bright white with simple pedestal sinks and fixtures. There is a TV in each room, but they’re on the smaller side by design. “I honestly didn’t want to even have TVs, but I was talked into it,” Colleen says. “I don’t think people will spend a whole lot of time watching them when here with us.” The Lodge’s offerings also include an adjacent two-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen.
The Eats & Drinks
Come morning, Colleen (currently serving as innkeeper) is delighted to use a rather complicated looking contraption to froth up cappuccinos, lattes, and other coffee creations (or just a cup of black joe) for you. The Lodge has its own coffee produced by a small-batch roaster in nearby Georgia. You can enjoy it in the main building, or she’ll deliver a thermos, mugs, and the fixings to your room. A hot breakfast is also included in your room rate—selections change daily, but might include fluffy goat-cheese frittatas and sweet-tart grapefruit brulee, or hearty, veggie-studded breakfast stratas and fresh blueberries with yogurt, plus pastries. In the afternoons, there are often cocktails and wine and maybe a few light bites.
That Signature Something
“Andiamo” is Italian for “let’s go!” and while the tranquility of the mountain environments invites a slowdown, the Lodge is setting itself apart with its slate of special events. “Andiamo is not just a place, but an experience,” Colleen says. “It is a spot to relax but also to engage, connect and learn.” Making good on this philosophy, throughout the year, Andiamo offers “experience” getaways. Visit andiamolodge.com to sign up for the Lodge’s e-news or watch its Instagram (@andiamolodge) to find info on weekend packages for exploring the natural splendor via hike or bike, painting and photography workshops with artists and other creatives, yoga-focused zen escapes, and pop-up dinners paired with hands-on cooking classes led by guest chefs. Its recent cooking (and eating!) pizza and pastry event with James-Beard-Award-winner Rebecca Rather sold out.
And, thanks to its intimate size and the passion and detail-oriented nature of its owners, the Lodge can also customize stays. Think men’s golf groups playing area courses and then enjoying favorite cocktails and foods or girls’ weekends packed with fun plus an inspiring guest speaker. Even ordinary stays can become extraordinary. “We want to help you make memories,” Colleen says. “Tell us what you love, and we will try to incorporate it or some element of it into your stay.” She notes that they do need some notice, but are thrilled to personalize stays to guests’ preferences whenever and wherever they can.
Upcoming experience weekends include a cheese tasting, book signing, cooking class and pop-up dinner with cheese guru Paula Lambert (March 18-20), an encaustic art class in April, plein air painting along The Little River in May, and on May 14, an evening with storyteller Sean of the South.
Other Notable New Southern Stays
Bibliophiles should check out and check into Charleston’s newest digs, The Loutrel. This property is aiming to stand out by combining the upscale amenities of a luxury hotel with the attention of a small inn or B&B. An example is the property’s book-borrowing program in the guest-only Clubroom with Holy City independent bookstore, Buxton Books.
Don’t horse around, just book a stay at the Equestrian Hotel in one of the world’s thoroughbred centers, Ocala, Florida, home to more that 600 horse farms. On 380 acres, this 248-room, full-service hotel has seven restaurants, a spa and pool and retail. But in keeping with its name, the highlight here is the pageantry and passion on display at the Saturday Night competitions, where as many as 7,500 spectators outfitted in finery gather at the property’s Grand Arena watch majestic equine athletes jump for prize money, often topping $100,000.