An Interview with Maggie Smith

First established as the Litchfield Hills home of Dr. Seth Bird, Winvian Farm has been in the Smith family since 1948. (That’s when we gained our name: a portmanteau of Winthrop and Vivian.)

The property’s been magnificently restored and expanded as a premier New England luxury retreat by owner Maggie Smith and her daughter Heather Smith Winkelmann (Winvian Farm’s managing director).

Today at the Winvian Farm blog, we bring you an interview with our proprietress Maggie, who talks about the importance of maintaining this Northwest Connecticut resort in the family, the remarkably close-knit Winvian Farm team (which essentially functions as an extended family), and her vision for the future: namely, continuing to enhance what’s already a world-class getaway while continuing to strive for ecologically conscious sustainability.

Without further ado, let’s dive into a Q&A with Winvian Farm’s visionary head honcho!

What’s your vision for Winvian?

My goals and vision for Winvian include keeping it a closely-held family operated property. I envision Winvian becoming an even better known and frequented boutique hotel while we continue to enhance our reputation as a pre-eminent luxury destination. 

It is paramount that Winvian become increasingly sustainable while we work to protect our natural resources. 

We will continue to strive to attract, support and retain diverse, dedicated professionals who are passionate about hospitality and Winvian.

What sets it apart from other luxury properties?

I think that our phenomenal Winvian team in its entirety sets our property apart from other luxury hotels. The selfless dedication, hard work, faithful and passionate commitment these professionals display every day is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Our employees are focused on creating the very best possible guest experience from reservation to checkout. They take their mission of providing excellent service personally and they share our family’s love of this unique property and all that it has to offer. They personify our goals and vision and bring them to life every day. Many have forged special relationships with our guests. So many of our team members have been a part of Winvian for years and have literally become extended members of my own family.

Also, the food sets us apart. We strive to grow as much food as possible in an effort to become an increasingly sustainable property. We also source ingredients locally that we are unable to grow ourselves. And then there’s Chef Eddy’s loving and nurturing nature and his fastidious, artful presentation.

I also believe that the fact that Winvian is solely owned by a female distinguishes us. There is no complicated corporate chain of command. My daughter, Heather, is Managing Director and has been with me as a partner in this endeavor since construction began.

Finally, I believe that the unique designs of the cottages and the sense of curiosity they inspire in our guests while booking a reservation help to set us apart from other properties. Each cottage affords our guests a different experience and many are on a quest to stay in every single accommodation on property!

How do you inspire your team to deliver on Winvian’s promise?

I often use the term “understated elegance” to describe what we do at Winvian and how we deliver an unforgettable experience for our guests. Heather and I try to lead by example and our managers have embraced our approach over the years. Winvian is our home away from home. Heather and her siblings grew up visiting Grandma Vivian here and spent many a memorable weekend and parts of summer vacation in the Seth Bird House throughout their childhood. After Grandma died it only seemed right and fitting that Winvian and the Smiths’ legacy be preserved and protected by (her) family. 

At Winvian, Heather and I are basically welcoming people into our home. We want our guests to feel welcome and relaxed and know that we genuinely care about them and the experience they are about to have. Our managers and their teams wholeheartedly embrace our sentiments and are masterful at anticipating our guests’ needs while fulfilling them in a quietly gracious and subtle manner. There is no overt fussiness in their delivery of warmth and great service.

Our guests regularly comment that there is a close-knit sense of family within the Winvian team that only enhances the quality of their stay and lures them back for future visits. They, too, feel very much at home but agree that the service is better with us in the Litchfield Hills!

Which is your favorite cottage?

I get asked this question all the time and my honest answer is that I really do not have a favorite. The varied and creative designs of all of the various residences continue to intrigue and fascinate me. I do find that seasonally I am drawn to different styles of cottages. In the fall and winter I tend to stay in our more rustic and organic ones such as Beaver, Woodlands, Log, Stone, and Charter Oak. In the spring and summer months, I gravitate to our more light and airy cottages such as Maritime, Music, Artist, Golf, and Greenhouse.

What’s your reward for managing and leading the Winvian team?

My rewards for managing and leading the team are the relationships and friendships that have developed over the years with both our employees and guests.

Being able to keep Winvian in the family has been enormously rewarding as has watching the business and Winvian’s success develop and grow.

Above all, this endeavor has been (mostly) fun! I am blessed to have the support and encouragement of my entire family, especially Heather, who serves as managing director, and son Win III, who helped us tell the Winvian story and build a loyal following. I look forward to many more years of our successful partnership.


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