SKANEATELES — Katie Severance wants people to know that her 34 State Historic Luxury Suites bed-and-breakfast is also John D. Barrow's home.
The Skaneateles landscape and portrait painter lived in the home both during his childhood in the village and in his later years when he returned to the village, and now that the home is a bed-and-breakfast, Severance wants the artist's mark to continue to shine through with its decoration.
Since opening the bed-and-breakfast about a year and a half ago, Severance said she and her husband, Jack, continue to refine the details and the decorations in the interior, which includes a living room, a dining room and two suites upstairs.
But, the big thing, she said, was incorporating some of Barrow's paintings into the decor through the John D. Barrow Art Gallery's Borrow A Barrow program, which allows people to lease paintings from the collection.
"That was really important to me to incorporate his paintings here and draw people down to the library and the gallery and get them to go there," Severance said.
One of those paintings includes a signed self-portrait that Severance said would not normally be a part of the lease program but that Peg Whitehouse, the gallery's director, allowed to go on display in Barrow's home.
"We're really proud to have that," Severance said, noting she hopes to have a plaque made up indicating that the bed-and-breakfast was once the artist's home and already includes that information in the brochures. "To see that when people first come in would be really nice. Everyone loves that story of this is his house."
Part of that story involves the bed-and-breakfast's aptly named suites — the Barrow Suite and the Stag Horn Suite. While it was easy to come up with the name of the Barrow Suite, Severance said she struggled at first to come up with a name for the second suite, which she decorated in navy blue with a lake theme and wanted to name for Skaneateles.
A friend suggested the name Stag Horn after Stag Horn Point along the eastern shore of Skaneateles Lake that is in turn named after staghorn coral fossils.
After the name stuck and Severance used it for the suite, she said she was at the Skaneateles Library reading about Barrow and his history when she learned that one of his favorite places to go to paint was Stag Horn Point.
"That is so crazy," she said. "I get goosebumps every time I say that because it's just so weird that we came up with it. I didn't even know what staghorns were before this."
Calling the Barrow paintings "gorgeous," Severance said they suit the house perfectly and feel like they belong there, even with her decorating style.
"He's got to be happy that they're here," she said. "I would hope."
She cited a quote from Barrow that is displayed at the top of the gallery's home page: "May we all do something ... so that after another hundred years, our successors shall meet together and rejoice and thank us for what we have done..."
"When I saw it, it just brought tears to my eyes," Severance said of the quote. "That's what I felt like I wanted to do here for him, and hopefully we have."
In addition to being Barrow's home, 34 State has another claim to fame: It was chosen by American Historic Inns as one of the bed-and-breakfast and country inns online directory's Top 10 Best Romantic Inns of the year alongside Ellwanger Estate in Rochester and eight inns across the country.
"I was shocked," Severance said. "We've only been in business for a year and a half."
She said American Historic Inns contacted her to notify her that it included 34 State as it narrowed down its list to the top 20. She noted that she had advertised 34 State in the directory but didn't anymore.
As part of the entry, she had to submit photos and information about the bed-and-breakfast, its location, its community and other specifics. Being so new, though, she didn't expect 34 State to be selected.
"That's a pretty big deal," Severance said. "The people that get that, you get a lot of recognition from that and you get a lot of press."
In that year and a half, she described business as both good and busy.
"Everybody's very pleased with the way that it is," she said. "I hope that everyone in Skaneateles and our neighbors are, too. That's important to us, very important."
Severance noted that 34 State is about a decade in the making for her after she managed 10 Fitch Luxurious Romantic Inn in Auburn. She had looked at the house before she worked with 10 Fitch, but she said it wasn't the right time and the house needed too much work.
But, her sisters wanted her to buy it and turn it into the Barrow home, and 10 or 12 years later — after watching the house for five years and seeing the price go down and the previous owners do interior renovations — Severance and her husband became the owners and started working on their bed-and-breakfast.
She said they repaired the clapboard and stonework around the outside and installed soundproofing material in the walls to block out outside noise. Inside, they renovated a couple of the bathrooms and did some cosmetic work such as painting.
"This was a house I had looked at years ago and came back 12 years later, and it was waiting for me," Severance said.
Now, they are painting the trim, doing some insulating and soundproofing, taking care of some other details and likely replacing the original wooden floor.
"I don't think we can save it, unfortunately. I think we're going to have to take it out," Severance said. "We wanted to (keep it), but I think we're going to take it out. I like it, but it's just really scratched up and some of them are really deep."
As much as she thinks about Barrow when she walks around her home and bed-and-breakfast, Severance said she also thinks about her late mother when she considers what it means to see 34 State come to fruition after first looking at the home more than a decade ago.
"I feel like she was a part of this. She was part of making it happen," Severance said of her mother, who passed away a few years ago. "She's definitely a big inspiration to me and always loved design and loved the things that I did with design and shared in that with me. It's one of those things that I hope she can see it now."