The Wauwinet Reimagined

Nantucket’s Luxury Inn Turns 30 with a Brand New Look

by: Leslie Linsley

photography by: courtesy of the Wauwinet

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the island, on a strip of sand between the blue waters of Nantucket Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean sits The Wauwinet, Nantucket’s only Relais & Châteaux luxury property. Secluded, and surrounded by the natural beauty of the island, the Wauwinet is a one-of-a-kind Nantucket experience.

First opened in 1876 as a rustic summertime retreat at the head of the harbor, The Wauwinet has been in continuous operation for more than 140 years.

The parlor, right off the lobby, is a luxurious and welcoming place to touch down. Original art, hand-selected by the owners, hangs on walls throughout the casually elegant resort.

Purchased by Steve and Jill Karp in 1988, The Wauwinet was renovated into a premiere luxury inn on the island and reopened the following year. Now, 30 years later, the hotel has undergone another multi-million-dollar renovation of its lobby, library and 32 guest rooms and cottages, updating it for the 21st century. Just when it seemed impossible that The Wauwinet could get any better, its owners have proven otherwise.

The Wauwinet offers everything that a well-pampered guest could anticipate for a restorative time away. This is due to the owners’ high standards of luxury combined with their years of experience in the hospitality industry and impeccable taste and sense of style necessary to reimagine a world-class inn. The Wauwinet succeeds in every way in accommodating the needs of modern-day travelers, without losing its original seaside cottage charm. The result is nothing less than perfect.

The Karps were passionate about reviving the inn and had a vision for the overall theme. What they imagined was a curated look that would be unique. Their goal was to achieve a timeless feeling by seamlessly weaving the old with the new.

The mission was to deliver a reimagined inn, with the finest comforts and aesthetics of a stylish, up-to-date island home. To implement the vision, the design firm of Gauthier-Stacy was retained. Known for its design of other Nantucket properties including the Great Harbor Yacht Club and Cru, a Straight Wharf restaurant, Gauthier-Stacy was well acquainted with Nantucket style.

The creative challenge was to give all the rooms a lighter, fresher, cleaner look, while channeling a new Nantucket sensibility, influenced by its past. In this spirit, Jill Karp explained how important it was to incorporate antiques with contemporary design elements in every room. Scrubbed pine chests are used as night tables. Antique dowry trunks, some from island shops, serve as coffee tables.

Adding to the livability of each room, built-in bookshelves hold dozens of carefully-chosen, hardbound books, many from Jill Karp’s own collection. Jill is an ardent reader and serves on the board of the Nantucket Book Festival, held June 14-16 this year.

The Karps are especially proud of the collection of original artwork personally selected and tastefully hung throughout the public spaces in the inn. Antiques, sculpture and folk art along with greenery and live plants such as orchids, give the feel of settling into a guest room in a well-appointed home.

Each guest room has been impeccably renovated with new carpets and comfortable furnishings, against a palate of soft grays and neutrals, taking inspiration from the natural beauty of the island. The end result is that every guest room has been uniquely reimagined as a calm, luxurious retreat.

Bose radios allow guests to play soothing music, and giant flat-screen TVs are hidden behind painted armoires

that also house board games on shelves and storage for clothing.

Modern bedframes were installed for the super-comfortable beds that are topped with custom Pratesi by Rivolta linens which give guests the feeling of being steeped in luxury when they climb into bed at the end of the day.

The bathrooms have been completely redone in Italian marble with glassed-in, walk-in showers. Floor tiles in the bathroom are laid in a herringbone pattern. Wall-to-wall lighted mirrors and wide wooden vanities also replaced traditional fixtures. Bath amenities are by L’Occitane en Provence.

To experience the best that The Wauwinet has to offer, book one of the spacious suites on the first floor that open up to private porches with lounge chairs and views of the harbor across a sweeping green lawn. Sit out here at the end of the day with a glass of wine or cup of tea and watch the setting sun. It’s one of the best sunset experiences on the island.

The library and living room off the main lobby have also been given a facelift, lightening up the atmosphere of this comfortable space with neutral tones and soft blues and seafoam, echoing the tones of sea and sky. Plush chairs and sofas arranged around the massive fireplace invite guests to linger with a book or enjoy playing a board game, available in the rooms as well as the library.

“Our visitors tend to turn off their devices and settle in here with a good book,” said Eric Landt, general manager of the inn for the past 18 years. “It’s the perfect place to decompress.”

In fact, the approach toward guests at The Wauwinet is to “be attentive but not intrusive,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s the people that matter.”

Landt and his team look for the uncommon, unexpected touches to surprise and delight guests. A single blossom is placed in a vial by the entrance to each room. Belgian Astor chocolates infused with fruit and herbs are placed on the pillows at evening turn-down service, and

delicious fresh-baked mini-Viennoiserie and coffee are available for early risers before breakfast service begins.

While The Wauwinet has been awarded myriad industry accolades, the Karps and their staff are focused on the comfort of their guests and look forward to this new chapter in the history of Nantucket’s most celebrated inn. ///

Leslie Linsley is the author of “Nantucket Island Living.” She is a frequent contributor to Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. Nantucket Today editor Marianne Stanton also contributed to this story.

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