On Tuesday, The Inn at Little Washington’s House and Garden Tour

For 46 years now, The Inn at Little Washington in Rappahannock County, Virginia. has set the gold standard for food and hospitality in the Old Dominion. And on Tuesday, May 28, Chef Patrick O’Connell’s 3-Michelin-starred restaurant and the longest tenured 5-Star property in the world will open its doors to the public – for its exclusive Spring House & Garden Tour.

Guests will have the rare opportunity to learn about The Inn’s transformation and future expansion, while exploring the kitchen, the new Conservatory and the gardens. The event will also include a lunch at Patty O’s Cafe, including wine pairings and a dessert reception with O’Connell and architect Michael Franck, who’s been responsible for a number of refinements to the Inn and its properties in recent years.

A+A recently interviewed Franck via email about his design philosophy and work at The Inn:

Your background?
Michael began his architectural studies in his home state of Alabama at Auburn University where he received a Bachelor of Architecture in 1987. In 1990, he was a student of the first Prince of Wales Summer School at Oxford and Rome. He continued his studies at Notre Dame where he received a Master of Architecture in 1993.

Over the past 30 years, he has put his expertise to use in delivering world–class traditional/classical design. In 2023, he founded Michael M Franck, Architect LLC. In 2000, Michael & Art Lohsen founded Franck & Lohsen Architects, and in 2011 the firm was awarded the prestigious Arthur Ross Award by the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art.

Your background with The Inn?
In early 2019, Michael started working with Chef Patrick on the design of a new events pavilion off the rear of the current ballroom building facing the great lawn and the mountain views. Toward the end of Covid, Chef Patrick worked with Michael to expand the seating area of the restaurant to enable more social distancing. This effort led to the design and construction of the Conservatory, the first built project by Michael at the Inn, completed in 2021.

The next project Michael undertook with Chef Patrick was improvements to the façade of the original Inn. Cantilevered bay windows were solidified on the top and bottom, wood rustication and applied door surrounds were added, as well as more proportionally correct columns and pedestals. The modifications were significant, yet look as though they were original, which was the design intent.

Your assignment?
Michael’s assignment is to be the architect for the expansion The Inn which will include a new reception building, the renovation/expansion of two existing buildings, a new courtyard building with two new guest suites, a new stable style building with 6 guest suites, a wine cellar and dining area, connections to the existing Inn and kitchen, a new courtyard and covered walkway to link all buildings both existing and new.

Your design intent?
It’s to add a series of new buildings that seamlessly meld into the existing town of Washington and into the TILW. The largest of the new buildings will be called the Stable building which will take on an architectural character of such a building with the use of oversized openings/windows, stucco walls, and wood beams. Michael’s design intent is to create a create an extension to The Inn and to the town that looks as though it has always been there. Building up this historic core requires a sensitivity to scale, to materials and to style.

How did the site drive your design?
Building upon the established local vernacular, the historic architecture of Virginia and the needs presented by this client, Michael read what was existing in scale and in character to create a design that he hopes will look and feel like it’s always been there. This timeless approach to architecture has proven desirable and unique to those who frequent the Inn.

The material palette?
Again, building upon the local established materials, the new buildings will include brick, stucco, wood siding and metal roofing. Interior finishes will be commensurate with those of the other guest suites at the Inn.

Why is the Inn architecturally significant?
Chef Patrick put Washington, Virginia on the map. Chef Patrick single-handedly preserved and saved this town. His extraordinary efforts over the past 40 years has created a world that is desirable and profitable. The buildings he tirelessly saved, renovated, built and will build are a significant contributor to the success of The Inn – second of course to Chef Patrick’s fine cuisine.

For more, go here and here.