The Redesigned Mayflower Inn & Spa

January 26, 2021

Editor at Large Clinton Smith explores the enchantingly redesigned Mayflower Inn & Spa.

Text by Clinton Smith

For interior designer Celerie Kemble, reimagining the Mayflower, one of Connecticut’s (and New England’s) most storied properties, wasn’t her first foray into hospitality design. Although seemingly a world away, the Dominican Republic’s beloved Playa Grande Beach Club is one of her most memorable creations, and there is a surprising common ground between the two (despite geographic differences, of course).

“Playa Grande and the Mayflower are so personal in nature—the appeal to these hotels is in how home-like they are. We used a lot of vintage elements in both, and we used fabrics from to-the-trade resources,” says Kemble of the newly redesigned Washington property, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection. “In using a lot of vintage things, you have to be willing to forgive the flaws, and you have to give yourself time to collect
all of the pieces, which in the case of the Mayflower, took a year of patient and persistent shopping.”

A common thread—the kaleidoscope of colors running throughout—keeps it all feeling harmonious and not the least bit riotous.

“Texture, natural things, and patina are what I hope hold everything together,” says Kemble. “I wanted to strike a delicate juxtaposition of scale, use of organic materials, plenty of linen, a lot of sisal, and objects that have beautifully aged. Nothing is too tidy and intact. Everything has a graceful softness around the edge. Nothing is too high contrast.”

Big doses of pattern and whimsy are imbued throughout, as well, with nary a feeling of it being too casual for a famed resort, where seas of beige and greige often run unchecked in newly reconfigured public spaces.

“We were designing to have an enduring level of taste that would feel classic, but also fresh for now,” says Kemble. “I always believe that though not everyone will like your design—whether you play it safe or not—it’s important to at least aim for a strong impact that makes a room memorable. Character and punch can be delivered in so many ways that are still classic but exciting.”

How Kemble conveys a joyful, whimsical vibe without being too saccharine is most evident in the garden room, a central gathering spot for meals where guests often start and end their days, and which leaves them smiling from ear to ear.

“We covered the walls in brilliant, colorful insects and flowers that are almost bigger than one’s head,” says Kemble of the space. “It’s the irreverence that keeps it casual. We also allowed a lot of air and empty space
in the design because it allows breathing room and light to fill the space between the design elements.”

And lest you think any of the elements are too orchestrated, Kemble leaves plenty of room for serendipity, the art of discovery, and creating one’s own memories.

“All of our fabrics are earthy colors of rusts and mossy greens—your glass of wine and food are the most formally controlled elements in the room,” says Kemble. “Everything else is flickering, sunlit, or breezy and wild.” Under Kemble’s spell, it’s a safe bet that we can leave the rest to chance.

Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Connecticut,


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