The Tibetan Inn of Deerfield offers its guests healing and harmony

Last modified: Thursday, January 03, 2013

Most area bed-and-breakfast inns feature Colonial or Victorian furniture to give visitors a sense of New England history. The Tibetan Inn of Deerfield offers something very different. Ornate carved mahogany beds with a distinct Asian feeling along with beautiful carved and painted Tibetan medallions tell guests they have found a special place.

The Tibetan Inn, on Routes 5 and 10, is run by Sonam Lama, who has earned a reputation as a crafter of stonewalls and patios since his arrival from Tibet in 1986. He has also become an entrepreneur, owning the Tibetan Plaza in Deerfield, a set of shops. A year ago he opened the Tibetan Inn.

Lama explained last week that the bed-and-breakfast evolved from serendipity: Three years ago he needed a new roof so added a second story to his house, which is adjacent to the commercial shops.

“The remodeling cost was a lot more than I have, so I decided to open an inn.”

Lama says it has been a learning experience.

“I’m doing this step by step: I must spend more time in the office and must check my email more often,” he lamented.

Still, his inn gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor, a travel website. The three reporting guests gave it the top ranking.

The inn has two Asian bedrooms. One is a king-sized room called Penma Koe, with elaborate furniture including a bureau and dressing table as well as an enormous bed with carved feet. A small refrigerator is hidden in a chest of drawers. Gold-toned silk draperies along with Oriental rugs add to the Asian ambiance, and the coverlet is burgundy and gold patchwork.

Art, harmony

The most distinctive decoration is the painted ceiling frieze with floral wood carvings. They were custom-made in Tibet, Lama said. Painted carvings throughout the house are in tones of cobalt blue, gold and rose pink. When contractor Kashima Toshi of Greenfield asked why Lama wanted 10- foot-tall ceilings, he responded, “You’ll see.” The extra-tall ceilings make it possible for the unusual frieze.

While Toshi did the basic remodeling, raising the roof to make a second story and creating a covered deck that runs the length of the upper floor, Lama finished the work himself.

“If you are a stonemason, you can be a carpenter,” he said.

The other guest room, Harmony’s Friend, has two queen-sized beds, again with an Asian flair, and burgundy swags over the windows. The bedspreads are white chenille, and are accented by white Tibetan scarves.

“You use flowers, we use scarves,” Lama said of his traditional Tibetan welcome.

Both rooms have wooden paddle ceiling fans and private baths with stone floors laid by Lama. The doors are painted coral with narrow pale green and gray trim.

All the furniture was purchased at Douglas Auctioneers right up the street.

Each room has its own private access to the shared deck, which is outfitted with cushioned lounge chairs so guests can relax and look out over a brook and woodlands.

A planned third guest room is destined to be the American Room.

“I thought people coming from Asia would like to know about American history,” Lama said. He plans to decorate the room with historical prints and display his collection of American history books there. “It isn’t finished yet,” he said, pointing to the only American decoration, a large flag. Right now the room is occupied by two monks from Tibet who are staying for an extended period. The room has one king-sized bed and another double, as well as a kitchenette.

Downstairs is the dining room where Lama serves breakfast to overnight guests. If you stay a week or longer, however, you need to make other arrangements for meals.

The woodwork of the cheerful dining room is decorated with painted wooden carvings done by another Tibetan immigrant, Jampa Gonlam of Greenfield. He also did the tiered carvings on the exterior of the house, transforming a standard American façade into an Asian welcome.

A sitting room, once the garage, has religious wall hangings from Tibet, Nepal and India. A light-colored wood breakfront with simple columns takes up an entire wall. Behind the glass doors are Tibetan artifacts including statues of Buddha. Displayed on a low table in front of the Buddhas are brass bowls filled with water.

“We offer water to the gods every morning,” Lama said.

Healing power

Lama, who was born in the countryside in Tibet, had planned to become a monk. However, when he was a child, the Cultural Revolution was raging in China, which controls Tibet, and thousands of monasteries were destroyed. As a young man, Lama went to the famous Gendan Monastery outside of the capital city, Lhasa, where he learned to become a stonemason instead of a monk. The monastery dates back to the 15th century and is gradually being restored. But when Lama left Tibet in 1986, he said, there were just five monks there compared to the 3,000 religious leaders who once occupied the complex.

Lama came to the United States under the sponsorship of his former wife’s cousin, who lives in Shelburne Falls. He quickly made his reputation as a stonemason and now people he trained are starting their own businesses.

“I can put together any kind of rock and make it look good,” he said.

The Tibetan Inn is easy to find because outside is a signature stone wall by Lama and an intriguing stupa, a mound-like structure.

“To create a stupa, Buddhists believe it gives you a certain merit, brings you big, big good fortune,” Lama explained. “In Tibetan belief, the whole area will be good and be good for your health. The stupa has healing power.”

Building one helps the creator to attain enlightenment, the goal of Buddhism. Lama created his stupa of stone under the guidance of a Buddhist teacher. Topped by a spire, the main mound sits on a stepped Goshen stone platform. One side features a brass plaque and there are two urns kept filled with plants during the summer.

Is there something inside his stupa?

“Oh yes, a lot of stuff,” Lama said. “I have many relics, many, many books. It is solid full of books. They have mantras, prayers.”

Flying from the stupa are two long lines of Tibetan prayer flags. The flags, printed with mantras or prayers, are in five colors, each symbolizing an element. Blue is for sky or space, white for air or wind, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth. Healing and harmony come from a balance of the five elements, according to Tibetan Buddhism. “When the wind blows, the mantras are sent to Heaven,” Lama said. As they waft on the breeze they spread goodwill and compassion throughout the area.

Cheryl B. Wilson can be reached at

The Tibetan Inn of Deerfield is located at 265 Greenfield Road, Routes 5 and 10, in South Deerfield. The Penma Koe king-bed room is $150 a night as is the American Room, while the double, Harmony’s Friend, is $125. Rates include a full American breakfast. The phone number is 665-5556 and the website is


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