At first glance, Laura House was a tad sceptical of the Foxfire Mountain House. Every detail is just-so, as though styled for the set of a one-act play about ditching the city for that fantasy cabin-in-the-woods scenario. Cue ruddy-cheeked guests in flannel. But quickly she realised that the Foxfire comes by its picture-perfect look and feel very honestly thanks to hosts Eliza Clark and Tim Trojian, who revamped and opened it in summer 2015…
On a visit last winter, I plonked down on the couch, fire blazing in the hearth, and chatted with Tim, a chef (among other things) about his experiences living off-the-grid in Upstate New York, as a chef on a Mississippi River cruise boat, and as a fishmonger in Chicago. Eliza, a similarly well-travelled former TV producer and director, now loves to pluck treasures from here and there to feather the Foxfire nest. The result of their adventurous spirit and natural curiosity all comes together to make a space that feels entirely sincere, and not at all for show. It’s probably best to have them describe how that all came about because it has been (and continues to be) a true labour of love. Throughout the eco-conscious renovation, they salvaged what they could, recycled, upcycled and sourced locally whenever possible.
What drew you to the property itself?
The building is more than 100 years old and just has a beautiful simplicity to it architecturally. I think the belfry on top is romantic, and had the look of vintage summer resorts that I’ve always loved. Tim loved the seemingly endless front veranda with columns.
You’re both so hands on. What projects are you most proud of or surprised by?
We’ve learned so much by trial and error. Foxfire has a lot of lovely old Moroccan tiles that we laid ourselves. We’re proud of that. It was a lot of lugging the concrete tiles from this place to that —heavy, dirty work—until we had patterns we liked. A lot of champagne was had to keep our courage up, I’ll admit! We’re big repurposers and thrifters, so the tiles were found as a big lot on Craigslist. That meant we didn’t know exactly how many we had of any one pattern, or even exactly how many we had overall. It took us a month, but it’s such a beautiful feature for the inn. Another DIY project was the concrete bar that Tim and a friend poured themselves. Every weekend, when the bar room is open and the restaurant is filled with guests, I’m happy to think it was a job that Tim figured out how to do and just went for it.
Where do you source materials?
We find materials everywhere—including the side of the road! I often joke that we’re magpies picking up shiny things wherever we see them. We love Craigslist—the tiles and the mullioned windows that are on the pavilion, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, local flea markets and antique stores. We buy very little new.
Why do you think it’s important to create a space this way, rather than just going for shiny, new things out of the box?
Firstly, it’s budget friendly to shop vintage and salvaged items, and Tim and I wildly took on the renovation of the old inn on a shoestring budget. Secondly, it creates unique spaces because you have to be inventive with what you find. Most things are one-offs and you won’t see them everywhere else. We stick to natural materials and it gives the place soul. That sounds nutty. But our guests always say Foxfire has a good vibe—I think it comes from the care in choosing each piece and giving it new life. And finally, it just makes sense to reuse and recycle materials to be eco-friendly and a conscientious global citizen.
How is the restaurant entirely sincere, like your vision for the house is?
Love that question. The restaurant is all about real, fresh, simple ingredients that are sourced locally and are sustainable. The herbs and spice are creative, but everything else is rustic and natural.
What bedroom, nook or communal area is a favourite?
Tim loves the bar room. To him, there is nothing better than a room full of people enjoying good food and lively conversation. He made sure the kitchen wall had a window so he could look out when he’s cooking and see his food and space being used the way he always dreamed. I love the lounge with the stone fireplace that we found hidden behind drywall. It was the only good thing we found behind the walls when we renovated. The lounge is cozy and brings people together to just chill on the old velvet and leather sofas.
I know you hardly finish one project before moving onto the next... so what’s up next at Foxfire?
We have so many plans! We definitely want to expand on the property and we’d love to open other places, maybe at the shore or in the desert. We’ve learned too much, and we’re having too much fun not to do it again!