Nantucket’s Oldest Operating Inn Has Reopened as the Island’s Chicest Hangout
At the Life House hotel, coastal federal architecture gives way to Balinese umbrellas, framed Gucci scarves, and more unexpected design details
Life House designs its hotels much like an author writes a novel. The rapidly expanding hospitality group is known for its tech-focused offerings and bespoke storytelling in which each property is constructed around a house and its imagined protagonist and personality. “Our brand is specialized on telling deeply rooted stories,” Rami Zeidan, Life House founder and CEO, tells Galerie. This August the Silicon Valley–backed company debuted its first Northeastern property, on Nantucket. “In a place with a somewhat homogenous architecture, finding the oldest operating hotel was the perfect opportunity for us to assimilate our brand contextually into the island.”
By utilizing an approach that prioritizes an authentic neighborhood feel, each Life House property offers a distinct experience. Conceiving the Nantucket location as a coastal Federal retreat, the team designated the hotel’s “protagonist” as “the nonchalant innkeeper,” while its “personality” is “islander botany.” The building’s origins can be traced to 1833, when Captain Robert Calder, a whale fisherman and—coincidentally—an ancestor to artist Alexander Calder, purchased the Cliff Road land to stay between expeditions. In the ’70s he turned his home into a hotel, and thanks to several owners, it remains the oldest continually operating inn on the island.
“The previous owners used to renovate one room a year, so when we got there, there was quite a lot going on with many layers of wall coverings and paint,” Life House VP of design Jenny Bukovec tells Galerie. “We were literally uncovering history, which was so exciting.” Many of the inn’s original architectural details still remain, whether it is the staircase bannisters, communal kitchen galley, or the ceiling beams, trim work, plasterwork, and mantels found among the guest rooms.
To maintain the Nantucket feel (there are no major hotel chains on the island) while also imbuing it with a fresh point of view, the design team selected a palette that draws on the local flora, among them hydrangeas, daffodils, wild roses, and seagrass. Colors range from deep Atlantic jade to light blue, lilac, rich plum, and dandelion gold. The hotel entry’s custom millwork also nods to both major influences: the island forest and the inn’s heritage. Custom millwork gives way to a cabinet featuring brass plaques from the previous owner, who designated each of the 14 guest rooms as a local flower.
After guests check in via iPads, they can enjoy the cozy living room, where an array of vintage and contemporary books about Nantucket are found, or head straight past the wide-ranging artwork and framed Gucci scarves to their rooms. Several include their own fireplace, and each is equipped with Marshall speakers, Le Labo bath products, Fresh Revival linens, and unique finds like raffia desks and linen pendants featuring delicate floral patterns hand-painted by Nantucket artist Kwan Baudam.
House of Hackney fabrics and wallpaper are featured throughout the hotel, as Bukovec finds great synergy between the British company’s vision and Life House’s. “They always pay homage to rich historic styles of the past, such as William Morris’s iconic prints, but they always interpret them in a really modern way,” she says. “Their designs can be surrealist and trigger that cognitive engagement, which is similar to how we treat our narratives.”
An effortless air of eclectic elegance is apparent inside and outside the inn, where guests will find two gardens to sip cocktails under Balinese umbrellas. Beyond the products sourced locally and across the globe, the sea breeze is sure to remind visitors of their New England surroundings. As Bukovec explains, “With design, our goal is always to create something that ignites this curiosity for guests, who we want to really explore the property’s physical location because no Life House looks the same.”
Reservations and additional information for Life House, Nantucket, including full buyouts of the hotel, can be found on Life House’s website.