A decade ago there were only two kinds of lodgings on Nantucket. For those who could afford them there were (and still are) a few grand, wallet-bruising seaside hotels. For everyone else there were scores of smaller, less expensive 19th-century inns. These bed-and-breakfasts almost uniformly embraced an authentic whaling-era aesthetic, which included period details both charming (canopy beds, lace curtains, antique furniture) and less so (thin walls, musty smells, and shared hallway bathrooms).
Over the past few years, however, younger, trendier travelers have discovered the island. To cater to these visitors several innkeepers have upped their game. Since last summer more than a half-dozen properties have undergone complete redesigns, replacing doilies with Jonathan Adler textiles, breakfast nooks with slick cafes, and tour brochures with in-room iPads.
The fact that all of these properties are located downtown — a designated historic district with stringent building and renovation codes — means that proprietors have had to jump through a few logistical hoops in order to relaunch. (For example, all exterior building-design elements, such as light fixtures and windows, must meet standards of historical accuracy to be approved by the island’s Historic District Commission.) But those who have weathered the process have few complaints.
“The historic appeal is what makes Nantucket special,” says Lauri Benk, who co-owns two newly reopened inns. “But these days you need to have an interior designer — and it can’t be grandma.”
Here are some newly chic, reasonably priced boutique accommodations:
The Regatta Inn and Centerboard Inn
Lauri and Paul Benk didn’t set out to become Nantucket innkeepers. But when they visited the island in 2006 and saw the available lodging options, Lauri says, “we realized there was a need here.” In 2012 the New Jersey-based couple opened their first property, the Centerboard Inn, in an 1886 sea captain’s home — replacing the formerly dark-wood interiors with crisp white wainscoting, seagrass rugs, airy fabrics, and sculptural light fixtures. This June, the Benks launched their second venture, the Regatta Inn, across the street in a Federal-style building. Its eight guest rooms feature Matouk and Frette linens, vivid textiles from Serena & Lily, and modern marble-and-glass baths with rainfall showers. Downstairs the charming breakfast room (pictured below), serving fresh-pressed juice and baked goods, evokes a European cafe.
When Lark Hotels (a group comprising several boutique properties in New England) decided to turn this 1883 former sea captain’s house into a 20-room hotel, they called in Boston designer Rachel Reider to transform the interiors. Reider managed to keep many of the house’s distinctive details — hardwood parquet floors, ornate stairway banisters — while otherwise doing a complete style overhaul. The hotel, which debuted in late June, now features bold new custom upholstery and wallpaper in beachy stripes and prints (pictured at right); sleek, tiled en-suite bathrooms; and high-tech amenities (Apple TV, iPads, and iPod docks). Between the Main House and the more casual surf-motel-style Guest House is a firepit-warmed, BYOB courtyard lounge with a bar of make-your-own cocktail mixers.
76 MAIN 76 Main St., 508-228-2533, www.76main.comfrom $199
This 11-room property opened in June 2012 as an annex to one of Nantucket’s first style-conscious inns, the Veranda House, which introduced coastal-chic interiors in its turn-of-the-century guesthouse in 2008. Reider, who took on the Veranda House as her first island project, was invited back to renovate Chapman House and given free rein, as she says, “to go bolder and funkier.” Her interiors incorporate some unusual elements (at least for Nantucket): graphic black-and-white patterned wallpaper, scarlet nailhead-studded headboards, and chandeliers made from turquoise beads. If a fabulous retired Broadway star decided to settle on the island, she might do it here.
CHAPMAN HOUSE 3 Step Lane, 508-228-0695, www.theverandahouse.com/chapman-house, from $129
The Nantucket Hotel + Resort
The oldest hotel property on the island, this sprawling manse has been hosting guests, in one incarnation or another, since 1891. When owners Mark and Gwenn Snider took it over last year, they decided the grande dame needed some serious work done — and not just a facelift. By the time they unveiled the refurbished hotel in June of 2012, they had gut-renovated to create 30 bright, clean-lined rooms and suites with Murphy beds and kitchenettes; wide hallways hung with black-and-white island photography; an understatedly elegant bar and bistro; and one of downtown’s only state-of-the-art fitness centers. Newly added this year are two stand-alone, two-bedroom cottages, plus an ocean-view penthouse suite.
THE NANTUCKET HOTEL + RESORT 77 Easton St., 508-228-4747, www.thenantuckethotel.com, from $225.
The Inn at White Elephant Village
A younger, hipper sister to the well-known White Elephant (which sits just across the street overlooking Nantucket Harbor), this 20-room inn debuted in July in what was formerly a century-old guest house. It shares a futuristic lobby, a large cabana-ringed pool, and an exercise room with a cluster of adjacent rental villas (the nominal “Village”). Guest rooms are spare but luxurious with ecru-toned fabrics, paneled ceilings, and ceramic bath tile that resembles pickled wood. Designer (and islander) Kathleen Hay, who did the interiors, says, “it’s modern, but not overly so. People who come to Nantucket still want a certain amount of comfort — they want to sit on couches that feel squishy.”
THE INN AT WHITE ELEPHANT VILLAGE 19 North Water St., 508-228-1500, www.whiteelephantvillage.com, from $195.
Unique among Nantucket’s crop of new inns — and almost unheard of in the downtown historic district — this 19-room property was newly built in 2013. It shares a block with a cluster of sister inns (collectively known as the Roberts Collection), but is the only one boasting modern design, central air conditioning, soundproofed windows, and an underground parking garage. Pam Roehm, who manages the Gatehouse with partner Gerry White, says there are still plenty of island visitors “who want the traditional stuff, the four-poster beds and the antiques.” But, she says of the inn’s plush, spacious rooms, with their high-thread-count linens and walk-in glass-cube showers, “the younger folks will like this.”
THE GATEHOUSE 11 India St., 800-872-6830, www.therobertscollection.com/gate, from $225.Sarah Gold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.