By Kylie MacKenzie
PICTON, PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
Merrill House, in the heart of Prince Edward County, was completed in 1878 by Master Builder J. W. Fagan for local barrister Edwards Merrill. But Merrill sold his Main Street East home within a year of its completion and went on to build a smaller replica on a lot with a harbour view.
Over the years, owners came and went and eventually the house became a popular inn for visitors to the increasingly fashionable Prince Edward County wine region. In 2018, when the inn came up for sale, it didn’t take much time for Jordan Paul Martin, a design consultant and antiquities dealer, to recognize its exquisite, transformation-worthy potential.
Here, in the centre of Picton, graciously set back from the road on two-plus acres of lovely landscaped land, Martin recognized Merrill Inn (as it was called at the time) as one of the finest examples of 19th century architecture in the County. With its unique L-shaped design, delicate bargeboard, playful triple-gabled tower, narrow windows and slender chimneys, the house gave Martin not only the project he’d been dreaming about for decades, but also the opportunity to join a sophisticated new breed of young hoteliers making their mark around the world.
To be guest-ready for the 2019 season, the fast-track four-month refurbishment was a labour of love for 30-plus local contractors and a hands-on journey for its new owner. No stranger to the industry after sojourns in London, New York and Dubai, Martin rolled up his sleeves and passionately re-thought and re-imagined every step of his guests’ experience, right down to every possible nook and cranny.
Several containers of rare, one-of-a-kind pieces from Martin’s private art and furniture collection were shipped from London to blend with hand-painted wall murals and an eclectic Edwards Merrill portrait series commissioned from local artists. From the antique, replica tusks once owned by a British prime minister to luxuriously tiled black-and-white bathrooms and grand bedrooms, the freshman hotelier’s professional and lived experiences have found their way into each room and every stately wardrobe. His modern-meets-traditional blend of aesthetically pleasing colours, fabrics and furnishings is both intimate and delightfully refreshing.
A cleverly built three-season sunroom and bar now extend the petite French restaurant, where guests are coddled by custom wine cabinets housing a meticulously curated collection. Merrill’s private sommelier and resident chefs (two of who were fortunate enough to be dispatched to Burgundy for training before the hotel’s pre-launch) follow Martin’s preferred wine-forward approach that has food being paired with wine, not vice versa.
Martin’s Picton debut is a refreshing example of modern meets traditional, and breathes new life into what many feel has once again become the finest house in the County.