by Ruth Eckles
On January 2007, The Umstead Hotel and Spa, just minutes away from RDU International Airport, Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State and the Triangle’s bustling cultural scene, opened its doors for business. Located near SAS Institute campus on 1 wooded acres in Cary, North Carolina, it is one of the country’s top hotel and spa retreats. Though the hotel cost 75 million dollars to build, the thriving three-acre wetlands (a habitat crafted by expert biologists to attract bird and marine wildlife), seasonal, organic locally-grown modern American cuisine from award-winning executive chef Phil Evans, and an extensive collection of original art, prove that this is more than a high-priced hotel—it’s an experience. One that clients feel renews both their spirits and their senses.
Largely responsible for this tranquil aesthetic is Ann Goodnight (wife of Jim Goodnight, founder, owner and chief executive officer of software giant SAS Institute), the hotel’s visionary owner. Goodnight’s unerring eye has overseen virtually every detail of the hotel—from the building’s exterior (made of sand-colored limestone, which she flew to a Dallas quarry to hand select) to the anegre paneling throughout (an amber shade of wood found on the Ivory Coast of Africa) to the varying shades of teal blue chosen for the complimentary shampoo and lotion bottles. Spacious rooms, lake view terraces, balconies, large soaking tubs, 42- inch flat-screen televisions and king-sized beds dressed with 330 thread count Italian linens are just a few of the luxuries clients are treated to. In the world-class spa, guests have access to nearly every cutting-edge treatment available—not to mention fitness rooms stocked with state-of-the-art equipment.
Goodnight is also largely responsible for the hotel’s impressive collection of contemporary art—boasting over 80 paintings, sculptures and ceramic vases from celebrated national and regional artists such as North Carolina’s Mark Hewitt, whose huge ceramic vases flank the entrance to the hotel lounge and revolutionary glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose writhing, luminous, light-catching sculpture is the glowing centerpiece of the hotel lobby. Artwork fills walls and tables throughout the entire hotel (each piece personally selected or commissioned by Goodnight) and reflects a reverence for nature’s abundant variety of textures and forms.
“I have been involved with the North Carolina Museum of Art for years”, says Goodnight, “and knew that visual art had to be a significant component in this hotel”
A North Carolina native, Goodnight was determined the hotel reflect the region’s rich culture and lush vegetation.
"We want to give guests a taste of what makes North Carolina so wonderful"

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