Pierre Desjardins admits he never intended to turn the historic house he bought into a bed-and-breakfast. Rather, he figured the two-story Victorian farmhouse on Liberty Street built in 1918 would make a cozy roost for his laid-back lifestyle. But the more he became enamored with the home's charm and character, the more he wanted to share it with others.
So was born the Hill House, Brooksville's only B and B, and the only one operating in Hernando County.
A former owner of the downtown bric-a-brac store Easy Street Home Decor, Desjardins said his aim was to offer an uncommon touch to the B and B experience that would dovetail into what attracts visitors to Brooksville.
"Everyone I've talked to who visits Brooksville are impressed with how laid back it is," Desjardins said. "I wanted to provide people with an atmosphere where they don't feel the need to hurry. I want them to feel like they own the place."
Decorated in a breezy Southern Caribbean theme with tropical hues and retro furnishings, the edifice is filled with samples of the owner's extensive collection of antique knickknacks.
However, Desjardins believes the true enjoyment of hosting guests comes in presenting them with an unassuming blend of elegance and simplicity. The three themed rooms, which range in price from $80 to $100 a night, reflect the owner's varied interests in history, art and antique collecting.
The easygoing Desjardins enjoys talking with visitors, and anyone interested in the stories behind the Governor Jennings Suite, named for the Brooksville native son who was elected to the state's top post in 1900, or the primly decorated suite carrying his mother's name, or the suite named for longtime friend and celebrated Brooksville artist Mary Alice Queiros, are certain to be enlightened.
According to Desjardins, restoring the wood-frame structure, which once housed a gift shop, took more than a year. After six months of painstaking labor he began to see the beauty of the workmanship hidden beneath decades of paint.
"I was a regular customer of the store but I never saw half the stuff you see now," Desjardins said. "Once we started stripping paint I was blown away by the woodwork and hardwood floors. That kind of workmanship you just don't see anymore."
In restoring the house, Desjardins, who resides on the premises, went beyond just aesthetics. He installed ecofriendly features such as on-demand hot water heaters, low-flow toilets and thick insulation.
Outside, Desjardins restructured an existing veranda and built a patio area for guests. New landscaping includes sweeping gardens, a koi pond and a cabana built from recycled lumber.
While most of his business is done on weekends, Desjardins has endeavored to make the Hill House something of a mecca for the area's art and culture community with scheduled events such as storytelling sessions, house concerts, health retreats and other activities. Plans call for adding an outside tea house and cafe in the near future.
"I consider it a work in progress," Desjardins noted. "I'm always thinking of new things to add. But in the end, all I want to be is a good host to my guests and offer them a place where they can have fun and relax and enjoy a good time. "
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.