Visit Buena Vista for world-class Arkansas River white water, but stay for this boutique hotel's impeccable French country design.
Buena Vista's Surf Chateau hotel sits on the bank of the Arkansas River.
—Photography by Kimberly Gavin
When it comes to stunning après-recreation lodging in Colorado, skiers get all the authentic-Navajo-rug, high-thread-count glory. Meanwhile, kayakers and river rafters tend to end up in chain motels or sleeping bags for their end-of-day accommodations. That was, until two years ago, when Buena Vista–based husband-and-wife developers Jed and Kennley Selby opened the Surf Chateau : a beautifully appointed, French-inspired Arkansas River–adjacent boutique hotel that is itself a draw, even if you’re not interested in paddling the Class III rapids out back.
“We always try to balance design details with a comfortable feel,” Surf Chateau co-owner Jed Selby says of his hotel’s design. Here, a shiplap-clad bar sets the stage for post-river cocktails.
Motivated by their love of the French countryside and the French Quarter in New Orleans, the Selbys worked with architect Kenny Craft of Craft Design Studio to dream up the intimate hotel, which feels like something you might stumble upon in the Alps—complete with a central courtyard surrounded by 10 cottages appointed with neutral, elegant finishes. “Trendy modernist design can quickly become outdated. But classic buildings from all over the world—including structures from the 1500s in the hills of France—are still loved and cherished after many generations,” Jed says.
Yellow and navy blue, a classic color combo, find a home in one of the Surf Chateau’s cottages thanks to a Serena & Lily Bistro chair and a Crate & Barrel sleeper sofa. Natural accents, like the wicker coffee table, jute rug, and wooden pendant (from Anthropologie) warm up the all-white walls. Steal This Idea: Try using one bistro chair in your living room for a touch of French-cafe chic.
Outside, the structure marries simple stone construction with Colorado’s traditional Victorian-era mining architecture, as evidenced in the hotel’s pitched roof, river rock, and raw timber. On the inside, white trim and linens elevate simple decor. “We were aiming for a place that’s beautiful and timeless, but not pretentious,” Kennley says. “[When we travel], we don’t really care about fancy service amenities; we want a great room in a great location at an attainable price. We assumed we are not alone.”
Exteriors clad in river rock and the Aspen-filled courtyard anchor the French-inspired hotel in Colorado’s natural beauty. Steal This Idea: Give yourself a new breakfast spot with a bistro table and pair of chairs on your front porch or back patio.
Although no two rooms are exactly alike, the neutral palette of whites and grays in every space creates cohesion among the mix of furnishings, which the Selbys handpicked from a variety of tried-and-true chain stores (they scored big at the Restoration Hardware Outlet in Castle Rock). The effect is a measured, relaxed elegance that’s as at home in the adventure-seeker’s paradise of BV as it would be in the French countryside. For rafters who appreciate a little pampering, that’s a serious (and stylish) upgrade.
A black fireplace serves as a focal point in this ultra-neutral guest room. A seating area with linen-upholstered, French-inspired pieces are the perfect place to enjoy a morning coffee. Steal This Idea: Elaborate moldings feel oh-so French.
This king suite bathroom maintains a classically elegant vibe thanks to a gilded mirror, a sparkling chandelier, and a cast-iron claw-foot tub from Signature Hardware. Steal This Idea: Try a herringbone pattern with shower tile for a luxurious, custom feel.
Starting at $159 per night; 1028 Wave St., Buena Vista, 719-966-7048, surfchateau.com 
Across the street from the Surf Chateau is South Main, a mixed-use neighborhood developed by Jed Selby and his sister, Katie Selby Urban. A model of New Urbanism—in which homes and shops are within walking distance of shared recreation space—South Main guarantees a charming afternoon stroll and plenty of interaction with the locals.
Get The Look
1. Double Basket Weave Pendant, $335, Shades of Light, shadesoflight.com 
Photo courtesy of Shades of Light
2. Riviera Side Chair in Dandelion, $225, Serena & Lily, serenaandlily.com 
Photo courtesy of Serena & Lily
3. Antique French Floor Mirror, $653, Horchow, horchow.com 
Photo courtesy of Horchow
4. Linen European Settee, $1,399, Wisteria, wisteria.com 
Photo courtesy of Wisteria
5. Sheer Lattice Curtains, $79–$99, West Elm, westelm.com 
Photo courtesy of West Elm
—Styling by Erica Mcneish