Archive for Saturday, June 27, 1998

AWAY FROM IT ALL JEFFERSON COUNTY INN READY TO PAMPER GUESTS

June 27, 1998

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What started out as a five-bedroom, two-bathroom ``bunkhouse'' mushroomed into the Circle S Guest Ranch and Country Inn with 12 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms and a silo-turned-spa.

Mary Beth and Mitchell Stevenson's ideas kept growing, and as their brainstorming escalated, the inn did too. The 10,000-square-foot guest ranch, designed to resemble a Kansas barn, is no bunkhouse. The first floor offers two guest rooms, the second floor six and the third -- the most extravagant and expensive -- four.

From the chenille sofas in the second-floor sitting room to the see-through fireplaces separating the bathrooms and sleeping areas in some of the guest rooms, the inn, built by Jack Cronemeyer, doesn't look like something you'd find on a ranch in Kansas. It evokes the feel of a resort in Aspen, Colo., or Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Featuring handmade trim and doors throughout, the inn is impeccably furnished. Mary Beth Stevenson chuckles when the subject of how much it cost to build and furnish the inn is broached: ``High. Very high. We did everything at a much higher quality than what we pictured initially. One day when it was raining we added the portico, and one day when it was really cold, we added the heated floors in the Great Room.''

Each guest room has its own theme, and the interior designer, Sharon Baker of the Kansas City area, melded the furnishings and accessories to match. In choosing furnishings, ``we really tried to bring the texture out in the building,'' Stevenson said.

The Hunt Room, for example, is masculine in mood, while the Claret Room -- the honeymoon suite -- is romantic with an iron canopy bed swirled in light, gauzy fabric. The Garden Room features a 6-foot claw-foot tub (the shower is separate) and a unique pottery basin above the sink that a friend created for the Stevensons. The artist also made the copper panels on the inn's front doors.

In the Cowboy Room, corrugated metal stands in for shower walls, and the shower head is a metal bucket that actually works. The Celestial Room features a whitewashed headboard with moon and star cutouts that Mary Beth saw in a magazine and had a craftsman build for the inn. Oil paintings by Ernst Ulmer dot the walls throughout the inn.

Guests also relax in the Fishing, Floral, Paisley, Polo, Blue and White, Floral, Kansas and Post Rock rooms -- each with unique furnishings blending old and new. The silo -- ``every barn has to have a silo, right?'' -- serves as home for the inn's hot tub and spa.

The Stevensons received financing for the three-story inn in January 1997, and they opened the first weekend of May.

The inn is nestled on a 1,400-acre working ranch about 10 miles north of Lawrence in Jefferson County. It has been in Mary Beth's family for five generations. The Stevensons, whose home is the only one guests can see from the inn, originally planned to offer dude ranch-type activities to guests, but they are opting to wait to bring that on board. Guests can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing in one of the 20 ponds on the property or relaxing on the porch. Peacocks roam the area as well as 500 head of cattle.

The inn also is available for receptions, meetings and retreats. Breakfast and dinner is part of the package for guests.

The inn is completely booked this weekend. The Stevensons still were putting the finishing touches -- an accessory here and there -- on a few rooms.

``The month of April was nothing but getting the building done,'' Stevenson said.

So far, most guests have been Kansas City area couples looking for a romantic getaway. But the inn already has attracted guests from as far away as Australia and Canada.

The Stevensons have stayed in a few of the inn's rooms. A bed and breakfast consultant who recently toured the inn told the Stevensons they should make a point to stay in every room.

Mary Beth says she and Mitchell are happy to oblige.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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