Who decided that B&Bs need to be overstuffed with antiques, decorated with doilies, and generally as tech-savvy as your ancient great-aunt? No one, of course, and while that’s a gross generalization, more often than not, the decor and the amenities we expect at big hotels don’t exist at smaller inns and bed-and-breakfasts.
Two local entrepreneurs, and longtime hospitality specialists, have set out to redefine the industry as we know it. David Bowd and Kevin O’Shea started out small, opening the 15-room Salt House Inn in Provincetown in 2013 to rave reviews, and now they’ve launched Salt Hotels, a brand of boutique properties currently numbering three. Plans are underway to start projects in Palm Springs, Calif., Los Angeles, Denver, and London.
Clearly, the couple is doing something right, and we wanted to find out what. Maybe it starts with something as simple as the check-in policy. If your room is ready, you can check in. No waiting around until 3 p.m. in your travel clothes, feeling vaguely unkempt and longing for a shower.
“We want to celebrate that we’re in hospitality,” said Bowd, who started his career in the industry as a bellman three decades ago and rose through the ranks over the years to become the managing director of the prestigious Ian Schrager Company and chief operating officer for Andre Balazs Properties.
“This is a passion project,” said Bowd, who says he’s missed the one-on-one interactions with guests. “It’s an opportunity for me to reconnect.”
O’Shea, who serves as the creative director of the company (Bowd is its chief executive), comes from a design background, having worked in corporate hotel design for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Le Meridien, and others. He now has his own design firm and has a talent for transforming older buildings into modern showpieces without sacrificing the original setting.
That’s actually a key component of the couple’s business strategy. Salt House was a former inn. Eben House, which opens in May, also in Provincetown, is a historical 18th-century property that was once a captain’s house. The 19th-century Chequit, on Shelter Island in New York, is another historical building.
“These incredible buildings are inspiring to me,” said O’Shea. “The captain’s house [Eben] is very authentic. Restoring the beautiful Victorian Chiquit . . . these buildings speak to me.”
That’s not to say O’Shea and Bowd aren’t having fun with the decor. Look closely at the portraits at the Eben House that the couple had commissioned by local artist Michael Gredler for a hint of their sense of humor. The oil paintings seem to depict the original owner, Captain Eben Snow, and his family, in the style of 18th-century portraits, but look again. The captain is sporting a dangling chandelier-like earring, while a rather staid looking woman in another portrait is holding the Kama Sutra.
Make no mistake, the amenities are from our century, with custom pillow-top mattresses and luxury linens, flat-screen televisions, bathrooms with rain showerheads, and bath products from C. O. Bigelow. Plugs, an essential component for the modern traveler who’s packing smartphones, laptops, and other electronics, are plentiful.
Next on the agenda is room service. That’s right, something most B&Bs do not do. But of course, Bowd and O’Shea have their own ideas on how it should be done.
“We want to take the awkwardness out of room service,” Bowd said, who listed all the reasons it can be uncomfortable, from being in your bathrobe or still in the shower when your food is delivered. One idea is to simply have the food delivered in some sort of bag, which can then be hung on the door for you to get at your convenience.
A simple, yet elegant, solution and something you didn’t know you wanted until you heard about it. Like the flexible check-in time, it seems so obvious, yet no one does it. At least, not until now.
Kim Foley MacKinnon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.