Stylish Boutique Hotels on The Cape and Islands
Driven by design, Cape and islands inns cast a net for modern voyagers.
The vintage sea captain’s home, meticulously preserved and unrivaled as the standard for luxury lodging on Cape Cod, is facing something of a mutiny. Eager to attract younger, design-savvy travelers, boutique inns across the Cape and islands are updating stodgy lodgings with designs that are contemporary, sometimes funky, and thoroughly original. This summer, if you’re looking for a stay that will stay with you, here are a few to consider.
Salt House Inn
6 Conwell St.
New York designer Kevin O’Shea and hotel industry veteran David Bowd opened the Salt House Inn in Provincetown, intending to lead a simple life on the Cape. It didn’t turn out that way—their retirement plan evolved into Salt Hotels, with properties in Shelter Island, New York, and Asbury Park, New Jersey, as well as Provincetown. But the cheery, minimalist rooms here allow visitors to reside in that fantasy even if the owners can’t. Boxed in whitewashed clapboard, each guest room is decorated with curated clusters of objects native to New England—bright red lanterns here, oars there—offering a refined re-creation of traditional Cape cottages. “The trend lately is to strip everything away and rebuild it modern,” says O’Shea. “To me, that’s losing the character. I want to offer an authentic experience, but not in an old crusty way.”
90 Bradford St.
Kevin O’Shea and David Bowd may pay the taxes, but at Eben House, Captain Eben Snow still presides—after a fashion. An oversize portrait by local artist Michael Gredler captures the inn’s namesake in eighteenth-century style—excepting, perhaps, the sultry drag-queen eyes and diamond drop earring. The playfully naughty portraits of Snow and his family are just one way O’Shea distances the 1776 center hall colonial from its former life as a house museum and celebrates its rebirth as a B&B. Time doesn’t stand still here; it bounces happily from four-posters and convex mirrors to bistro sets and floors dotted in colorful penny rounds. Behind the captain’s house, three more vintage buildings—the four-bedroom Residence, two-bedroom Cottage, and single-suite Studio—offer travelers a whole-house rental experience layered with amenities that include handmade breakfasts and dips in a saltwater pool. Inside all three, O’Shea’s mix of antiques and odd finds could fool guests into thinking they’ve just unlocked the long-forgotten beach house of a very interesting family.
The Old Homestead
508 Commercial St.
Four years ago, designers Kristin Hein and Philip Cozzi discovered a rather rundown nineteenth-century house, originally a sea captain’s home and later a guest house, in Provincetown’s East End. Drawn by its stunning views, they bought it and got to work. Within a year, they relocated their home and Hamptons studio there, and opened the remainder as a laid-back, two-bedroom, two-bath luxe rental. They shiplapped interior walls, spruced up original beams, and left the “canted, kooky, and charming” floors (Hein’s words) as they were. A brick chimney still intersects the guest suite, where seating options include an African bench as well as vintage club chairs arranged beneath pendant lights hanging by their cords from ceiling beams. In one bedroom, the dragon-embossed headboard of a Chinese fertility bed rises ferociously over its organic Saatva mattress, Society Limonta linens, and Yves Delorme bedding. Quirky and soulful, the space has become a favorite of writers, musicians, and other creatives seeking inspiration in this longtime artist’s colony. “It’s worked itself into a bit of a salon,” Hein says.
Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard
24 South Water St.
No two personalities—not even brothers—are alike, and so The Christopher’s coastal resort vibe is distinctly different from the gentlemanly refinement of The Richard, its new sibling hotel across town. Channeling inspiration from St. Bart’s as well as the Vineyard, designer Annsley McAleer avoids beachy clichés from either destination, and lets our imaginations do the work. Does that ceiling fixture resemble a spiny sea urchin? Is that a lighthouse beacon I see in the reflective sconces in the hall? Balancing style with durability—this is a hotel, after all—McAleer relies on commercial-grade furnishings from Noir to create breezy, casual rooms bursting with color in lively patterns from Quadrille, Lindsay Cowles, and Tulu. Local connections include colorful island photography and a display of island-made Chilmark Pottery in the breakfast room, where the characteristic color of the dishes picks up blues from the trim, banquette, and woven bistro chairs.
104 Main St.,
Like its sibling hotels, The Sydney and The Christopher, The Richard, opening in July, challenges the traditional mindset that has long held sway in this postcard-perfect village of stately homes and picket fences. Extensive renovations restored the vintage exterior of the former 1870 Point Way Inn, but inside, the sixteen guest rooms and reconfigured public spaces adopt an ambiance owner Anne -Hajjar describes as “crisp and modern with a little bling.” The new look of the hotel, named for Hajjar’s third son, references a youthfulness that is sophisticated, elegant, and current. “It’s where modern meets coastal,” says Boston-based designer Rachel Reider, who mixed sleek, sculptural pieces with seaside textures of sisal and rattan. Metallic accents play against muted backgrounds of gray and sand, with splashes of deep purple that reference the name’s royal origins. Concurrent with The Richard, Reider just completed work on an expansion of Hajjar’s Sydney (22 North Water Street), opening in July. There, jewel tones pop against a similarly contemporary backdrop.
Union Street Inn
7 Union St.
There are two ways to get to Nantucket—by air or by sea—and both are referenced in the cloud-swept Fornasetti wallpaper that welcomes visitors who step into the foyer of the Union Street Inn. The Inn’s decor has been an eighteen-year labor of love for Westport, Connecticut, designer Trudy Dujardin (she’s overseen three renovations), and the new foyer is her latest tweak. Together with senior designer Price Connors, Dujardin guards historical elements that date from the 1700s—bullseye-glass transoms above doors, original fireplaces, and pieces of export porcelain tied to Nantucket’s seafaring days—while introducing updates—contemporary marble baths, Frette and Matouk linens—that appeal to well-traveled guests. Natural textiles and VOC-free paints and papers from Farrow & Ball reflect Dujardin’s commitment to healthful interiors. “It’s crisp, clean, Nantucket with a nod to the past,” she says.
17 Broad St.
Nantucket visitors tend to be a well-traveled lot, but let’s face it: the jaunts of the most adventurous modern-day jetsetters pale in comparison with the intrepid journeys of New England’s old-time seafarers. Manhattan-based designers Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch recall this spirit of discovery in their design of Greydon House, where throne-like chairs from the Cote d’Ivoire mingle with vintage French stools, whaling artifacts, and Native American ceramics in tea-toned–paneled public rooms steeped in history. The inn links an 1850 Greek Revival home with a new structure built in Second Empire style. The whitewashed shiplap walls and chestnut floors of its twenty guest rooms are a crisp backdrop for custom Roman and Williams lighting and unique metal beds dressed in John Robshaw and Les Indiennes linens. Bathrooms are outfitted with Waterworks fixtures and showers clad in hand-painted Portuguese tiles depicting maritime scenes. Here, as everywhere on the Cape, the sea is never far away.
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