Mitsubishi Electric Outfits New Cottages at Award-Winning Boutique Hotel, Inn at Willow Grove
Historic manor-turned-inn expands after nearly 10 years of operational success, enlisting Mitsubishi Electric for key HVAC product system specifications
Historic plantation turned boutique resort and spa, The Inn at Willow Grove, in Orange, Virginia, recently underwent a major expansion, opening 10 additional rooms within two new cottage buildings. The central structure of The Inn, a manor house originally built in 1776, was restored by now owners David and Charlene Scibal and has become a popular Virginia destination since its opening. In 2017, Travel + Leisure magazine named it the Best Hotel in the South, the Third Best Hotel in the Country and the Ninth Best Hotel in the World. With accolades like these, the Scibals doubled down on their property with the recent expansion, hoping to capitalize on the success of the main Inn.
But The Inn at Willow Grove almost never came to be. In 2009, the Scibals, while running an errand to buy groceries, were devastated to learn that the historic property they’d loved was going up for auction after falling on hard times. David and Charlene – a trained chef and designer – had completed several renovation projects together and dreamed of restoring this historic property into a functioning hospitality environment.
“We love to fix old things,” said David. “We wanted to save this property because it was incredibly beautiful. It’s on the National Historic Registry as well as the Virginia Historic Registry and it needed saving. We got a little carried away.”
One thing led to another and by the Fall of 2010 The Inn opened, complete with a gourmet restaurant and spa. During the 18-month renovation, the Scibals learned which products could help create the ambience of a modern hotel while maintaining the charm of the historic venue. In fact, the back-of-house product specifications, like the HVAC system, were hugely important design choices for the Scibals.
After consulting with HVAC Contractor Duct-Rite Mechanical, LLC, the Scibals landed on Mitsubishi Electric Zoned Comfort Solutions® for the new cottage spaces. This system would create an environment that would uphold the kind of hospitality standards for which the main property had already become known.
“As we approached the newer buildings, we understood the Mitsubishi [Electric] products,” said Scibal, referring to his work with Mitsubishi Electric on the main property. “We understood how these products] [provide] benefits to the new cottages and that we could keep them hidden; temperature controls would be great, they are smaller units…all of those important things.”
With the main Inn now a Forbes Travel Guide Four Star-rated boutique hotel, the experience of the cottages needed to live up to The Inn’s high praises. Joe Smith, an installing mechanical contractor at Duct-Rite who worked with the Scibals, was instructed that the HVAC system would have to be invisible to guests and would also have to feature individual temperature control in each room – a surprisingly challenging integration.
“It gets difficult when you have smaller, separated areas and [the client] wants independent temperature control,” Smith said. “There are not a lot of system choices that will give you the ability to heat and cool each small space independently within a reasonable budget.”
To meet these requirements, Smith got creative. He paired Mitsubishi Electric’s multi-zone hyper-heat outdoor units with the MVZ vertical ducted air handlers. This installation allows management of The Inn to control each room’s temperature independently, and also allows for the lower level to be heated while the upper level is air conditioned, or vice versa.
“For the upper floor of each building, there was an attic above where we could locate the equipment and ductwork,” explained Smith. “We connected three of the upstairs units to one outdoor unit and then for the bottom floors we used the new Mitsubishi Electric MVZ vertical ducted air handler and connected those to another outdoor unit. This gives [management] the ability to control the temperature in each room independently and it also allows them to heat the lower level while air conditioning the upper floor if they want.”
It should be stressed that the contractor knows that the application was set up differently than most, but ultimately it gave the owner was they were looking for in terms of aesthetic and comfort.
“You’ve got to think outside the box,” said Scibal. “With Duct Rite, we were able to come up with a solution to actually lower the guest bathroom ceilings and run the ducts through so that they flow out of a 10-foot ceiling. You don’t know they’re there.”
Aesthetically, the Scibals found what they were looking for with this solution. Guests of the cottage suites see only the thermostat, with the supply register and return grill flush to either the ceiling or wall, essentially hidden.
“We’re trying to give that incredible experience,” said Scibal. “Nobody wants to see or hear [an HVAC] system hanging on the ceiling or wall.”
In addition to the two Creekside Cottages, the expansion included a spa renovation, new fitness center and outdoor heated pool. David Scibal credited his team for designing the right systems to create the lavish atmosphere The Inn is known for.
“We’re so pleased with the outcome,” he said. “You have to use your imagination and park it with the right people.”