Estate of Grace

An Orange County Tuscan mansion in distress gets a new lease on life as a luxurious country-house hotel



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glenmere mansionTuscan taste: Glenmere’s renovated courtyard includes Roman columns with Tuscan capitals, and wrought-iron accents on the stairway and windows

DeSimone, who had taken a sabbatical from his practice to study at the French Culinary Institute, “found the lure of a hotel and food irresistible,” as Stenberg puts it, and decided to leave medicine. When the pair began searching for other investors, DeSimone contacted Alison Klein, a childhood friend of Stenberg’s who was living in Germany with her husband, Peter. “I wasn’t happy about it because it was like getting a family member involved,” Stenberg recalls. “Very risky and scary. But Alison said, ‘Peter’s a businessman; he knows what he’s doing.’ ”

The Kleins agreed to be partners, with two stipulations: The hotel should showcase some of their modern art collection, and the renovation should include state-of-the-art green technology. Thirty-eight wells were dug for geothermal heating and cooling. (“They’re 499 feet deep — 500 feet and we would have needed a mining permit,” notes Stenberg.) New electric and plumbing systems were installed. One hundred and twenty exterior doors and windows were replaced with energy-efficient duplicates. Interior doors with their decorative hardware were refurbished. Original details — like the crackle-glazed ceiling in the entrance, ornamental plaster, and hand-forged railings — were painstakingly restored. The stuccoed exterior was lime-washed in a shade called Ointment Pink, with shutters, once green, painted a vivid light blue. “It was a bit startling at first,” says Stenberg of the color scheme. “But it’s a folly in Chester — why hold back?”

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