September 19, 2022

Andiamo Lodge offers a rustic-luxe stay in Mentone

5.1 min read

(Colleen Duffley/Contributed)

When it comes to Southern mountain towns, Alabama isn’t always first to come to mind. While places like Asheville, North Carolina; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; and the Blue Ridge mountains snatch up the vast majority of visitors each year, the tiny northeast Alabama town of Mentone (with a population of just over 300) may be the South’s best-kept secret. At least that’s what Colleen Duffley and Steve Carpenter thought when they purchased a cabin on Mentone’s Little River in 2020. 

“It was really just kind of a getaway place from 30A because it’s changed a lot and is now tourist heaven,” Duffley says. Duffley, who is an accomplished cycler, trained for the ’92 and ’96 Olympics by biking from Birmingham to Mentone and always thought Mentone was a neat town. When she came across Mentone again while looking for mountain property in the Chattanooga area, she knew that it was the place.  

After buying the cabin, Duffley and Carpenter began spending more and more of their time in Mentone. Duffley, a commercial advertising and editorial photographer, often documented the beauty of their surroundings on social media. Soon friends and acquaintances began inquiring about their new second home. One day, they were riding their bikes into Mentone’s quaint downtown when they stumbled upon an old church lodge.  

“Lo and behold there was a ‘For Sale’ sign laying down, and we kind of both looked at each other like ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’” Duffley remembers. 

(Colleen Duffley/Contributed)

What they were thinking turned out to be a six-room bed and breakfast called Andiamo Lodge. The endeavor, which unfolded through the pandemic and opened in January, combines both Duffley’s and Carpenter’s talents and experiences. Carpenter’s experience as chef-owner of several 30A restaurants and Duffley’s talents in creative direction, aesthetics, and design, combined with their shared love for hospitality has resulted in a luxury stay unlike anything else in the Mentone area. 

Tucked into the dense Alabama forest, Andiamo is designed to feel like you’re staying at a friend’s mountain cabin—if your friend was a professional designer with magazine-worthy interiors. 

“Andiamo is curated not decorated,” Duffley says. “Things were found everywhere, from the world’s largest yard sales to antique stores, but it’s come together quite beautifully. We call it rustic luxe.” 

The main living room is a mix of warm-toned furniture, cozy throws, exposed beams, wide-planked wood floors, and eclectic art. A stone fireplace anchors the space, while a custom bar housed in an antique wardrobe provides spirits for guests to enjoy when evening rolls around. 

Each of Andiamo’s six rooms is designed a little differently, but all feature the same rustic luxe appeal, plus a working stone fireplace, light-and-bright bathroom, and high-end touches like Peacock Alley and Redland Cotton linens and gourmet chocolates for turndown service. 

In the morning, guests are treated to coffee blended specifically for Andiamo from a small-batch roaster in Georgia, plus a hot breakfast that Duffley dreams up from whatever foods and produces she can find locally. Think freshly baked scones laced with bits of local fruit, cheesy grits souffle, and warm banana bread. 

Outside of the lodge’s offerings, Andiamo is known for creating all-encompassing experiences for guests. Andiamo means “let’s go” in Italian, a sentiment Duffley and Carpenter hope to bring to life for their guests.

(Colleen Duffley/Contributed)

“Our whole concept is ‘Let’s go create,’ ‘Let’s go learn,’ ‘Let’s go relax,’ ‘Let’s go explore,’ Duffley explains. “Andiamo is an experience not just a place. So, we’ve kind of been curating people’s vacations.”

The couple has organized golf outings, hang-gliding excursions, glassblowing classes, in-room massages, private dinners, and more for past guests. Andiamo also hosts a healthy calendar of events, pop-ups, demonstrations, and classes hosted by creatives from all disciplines. There have been cheesemaking classes, painting lessons, gardening demos, and yoga practices. In October, Andiamo will host guest chefs Jason Palin and Hans Rueffert for coking classes; an encaustic painting class with Vicki Lee; and a “Garden in a Bag” workshop with Gardenuity. In November, Andiamo will serve as an official host for the touring Mountain Film Festival and welcome runners for a special trail running weekend with Hoka and Fleet Feet Chattanooga. 

Though it’s been open for less than a year, Duffley says she’s been thrilled with the reception Andiamo’s gotten from early guests and looks forward to fostering community, learning, and unforgettable experiences in the future. 

“It’s really wonderful to see people enjoying the space and exploring Mentone,” she says. “I love seeing people make memories and really enjoying the food. I don’t know if it’s the intimacy that makes it even more special, or the attention to detail, but we want to be a place people want to stay and come back to.”

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