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Nantucket’s Life House gives a former B&B a fresh start

It’s housed in the historic Century House, the oldest continually operating inn on the island

The Life House on Nantucket.
The Life House on Nantucket.Diane Bair

A new boutique hotel on Nantucket. We were expecting nautical blues and whites. Seashells, whales, ropes, and boats. Crisp, sunlit rooms, a pocket garden terrace, perhaps. We weren’t even close. The just-opened Life House on Nantucket is a totally different animal.

It’s housed in the historic Century House, a former bed and breakfast, and the oldest continually operating inn on Nantucket. The 1833 Federal-style mansion was the home of sea captain Robert Calder before he opened it up to travelers in 1870. The bones of the gracious three-story historic property are still there: wood floors, antique trim work, a broad, front porch. But you’ll also find an eclectic, worldly design, with rich textures and a bit of Balinese flair. It feels like a welcoming sea captain’s home, filled with finds and ideas from his around-the-world travels. We found it quiet and intimate, a sophisticated oasis within easy walking distance to town and the ferry docks.

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There are 14 guest rooms, cozy by modern standards, with raffia palm writing tables, bamboo side tables, straw bed frames and headboards. Modern botanical print lampshades hang from the ceiling. The en suite bathrooms are fun and a little funky, smallish with walk-in showers that sport 1950s-style black trim (to match the black toilet seats), outlining a half-wall of bold botanical print tiles. There are rain shower heads and luxe Le Labo toiletries, along with fine bed linens.

Attention to detail at the Life House.
Attention to detail at the Life House.Diane Bair

The communal spaces stand out. There’s a comfy living room and large kitchen (still under renovation), where guests can gather. These spaces made more sense pre-COVID (or post-COVID); we generally avoided them, but there could (will) be a time when hanging out in this comfortable, serene living room is a welcoming and appealing idea.

Outside, there’s seating on the large wraparound porch, and two beautiful garden areas, including a 675-foot private lounge area, with large comfy couches and chairs, subdued lantern lights, and beautiful potted plants — plenty of room for social distancing. We enjoyed a bottle of wine from a local wine shop one evening (Epernay Wine & Spirits will deliver to the hotel), sitting outdoors next to the firepit, under twinkling lights.

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The Life House's lounge.
The Life House's lounge.Diane Bair

We appreciated the contactless check-in, but we were surprised to receive old-fashioned room keys. Another blend of high-tech and Old-World charm: Guests can download a mobile app that allows them to connect with other guests who are staying there over the same dates — sort of an online living room. The app also allows guests to connect with selected locals, who can offer inside advice on island sights and activities; it’s also used by hotel staff to communicate with each other and to guests.

Founder and CEO Rami Zeidan’s idea behind the Life House brand and management is to develop interesting — often historic — design-centric properties powered by software to enhance efficiency and profitability. It’s the first boutique hotel brand backed by Silicon Valley venture capital investors. Life House currently has 15 hotels under its management, with plans already in place to open additional properties in the next year or so. Apparently, it’s a formula that’s working, at least in Nantucket, where we’re told bookings into fall are robust.

10 Cliff Road, Nantucket, 866-466-7534, www.lifehousehotels.com/hotels/new-england/nantucket; rooms range from $300-$480 depending on season.

A patio at the Life House.
A patio at the Life House.Diane Bair

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com