Since moving to New York City, I’ve realized one thing to be true: I love the outdoors, I crave being in nature.
I know, it’s a bit ironic.
But when you think about it, it makes sense. You can’t live inside all that concrete for too long without needing a little fresh air.
It’s the only way I’ve found to truly make things slow down. Go for a hike, get out on the water, breathe. And since it’s “Slow Living” month on the site, I thought it an apt moment to introduce you to a truly special place, made specifically to do just that.
Blackberry Mountain is a recently opened resort perched into the rocks and hillsides of Tennessee’s Great Smokey Mountains. It’s an offshoot of Blackberry Farm, the famed hospitality, culinary, and wellness destination that put the term “farm to table” on the tongues of every chef across America and inspired thousands of shabby chic-themed Pinterest boards.
As Proprietor, Mary Celeste Beall is the woman at the heart of it all. She inherited the role after her visionary husband, Sam Beall’s, tragic and untimely death in 2016. In the wake of unimaginable grief, she took his memory and transformed it into his legacy by continuing to innovate and provide award-winning service—with her own graceful and thoughtful touch. All the while, raising the couple’s five children! Her secret? She shares, “prioritizing a moment of peace.”
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the Mountain oasis. In true “Blackberry” fashion, we turned it into a family affair—I brought my brother along to shoot these gorgeous photos. And, I chatted with Mary Celeste about the newly opened property, her own love of nature, and what the magic of the Tennessee mountains means to her family.
What is the inspiration behind the interior aesthetic of Blackberry Mountain? It feels both incredibly elegant and family-friendly…
I love that you describe it that way, because we absolutely designed the property to feel elegant and beautiful while being a place that every generation of your family will enjoy. Working with the Blackberry Farm Design team is incredible, because they have an amazing ability to pay attention to every small detail and function, while always maintaining an eye for the overall vision. This property is different than Blackberry Farm, and we wanted that to be reflected in the more modern design.
Blackberry Mountain incorporates some really striking artistic elements – rich jewel tones, a playful and modern mix of art, bold light fixtures. There’s an interesting balance of rustic heritage and contemporary flair. That mix matches the philosophy of the property as a whole. We want our guests to get outside, explore and really connect with the environment around them, but we also want them to feel completely comfortable and equally wowed when they’re inside.
It seems like you’re tapping into this moment within the wellness movement that is encouraging a back-to-nature mentality. Why is the focus on the outdoors so important to you and the experience you’re cultivating for your guests? It feels like its always been part of the initial Blackberry vision…
We’re fortunate to live in such a naturally beautiful environment. The natural splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains and the East Tennessee region really is breathtaking, even after living here for years. With all of the natural resources surrounding us, the location is perfect for encouraging a connection to nature that has always been important to Blackberry. Nature is powerful. It appeals to all of our senses, and it has the power to capture attention even with the busy, technology driven lives we lead today. When guests come to Blackberry Mountain, we’re inviting them to take a break from their normal. To feel the power and benefit of really noticing the world around us and what it offers. Being outside has always been important to me and my family, and I want to share that sensation and wonderment with our guests.
How much of what you’re working on now was a part of Sam’s long-term goals and in what ways have you added your own take on things?
Sam always had incredible vision. He and his parents were always thinking about the future, and their excitement for innovative ideas and dreams was infectious! Opening a second property, for example, was a goal for more than a decade. Sam spent so much time exploring what is now Blackberry Mountain, dreaming of what it could become and connecting to the place.
As Proprietor, it’s an honor for me to continue Sam’s and our family’s legacy – to be supporting our team as we accomplish incredible milestones. So, I channel that positivity and creative spirit to push our goals, dive in, and do every Blackberry project justice. I think naturally every leader puts their own take on things. It’s really special to be in a position where I can channel my creativity and ideas, and balance that with the established reputation of this company and its talented team members.
Who/ what are your greatest sources of inspiration and influence?
My mother has always been an incredible inspiration and influence. Her artistry inspired me from a very young age to tap into my creative side. Having a strong, graceful, inspiring mother has helped shape me as a woman. She’s a wonderful example of how to be a loving, hardworking and encouraging mother, and I’m thankful for her influence as I continue to grow.
My mother-in-law, Kreis Beall, is another incredibly influential woman in my life. She taught me so much about hosting from the heart. She’s been a wonderful guide during my time at Blackberry. I’m really blessed to be surrounded by strong, thoughtful, charismatic women.
And then, there’s my late husband, Sam. He made the most of every day at Blackberry with our guests and team, as well as with our family. My greatest influence comes from the realization that every day is truly a gift, so I try my best to make every day count.
What does the specialness of this place mean to you and your family? And, in what ways do you think that comes across for your guests?
It’s hard to put into words how special Blackberry is to me – the land, the guests, the team, all of it. This is so much more than a “job”. Blackberry is my home. It’s where my children grew up, and it’s where I have faced the most beautiful and the most challenging experiences of my life. I hope our guests feel that connection at every turn.
There is so much purpose behind what our whole team does. We pay attention to the little details, and our guests notice. We continuously strive to create a place and experience where the guest feels special and taken care of. Each time a guest is surprised by an extra little touch in service, inspired by the class they took or activity they tried, or completely satisfied after a delicious meal, they are feeling the heart of what Blackberry is about.