When Caliope Ligelis and Randi Ott decided to resurrect the run-down Nantucket Whaler Hotel in the winter of 1999, friends did not think it particularly wise. After all, both had successful New York City careers (Ligelis worked as a corporate lawyer and investment banker, Ott as a preschool teacher) and the inn was terribly tired, the garden a disaster.
"It was being run, but no one was really loving it," says Ott. "We wanted to turn it into a special place for people to come back to again and again." And so they have, transforming the 1850 Greek Revival house into a luxurious modern inn, without losing the authentic Nantucket feel. Built for a successful whaling captain, the Nantucket Whaler Guest House retains many of its original details, such as dark pine floors, beamed ceilings, and red-brick walls. What Ligelis and Ott have added is a calming—and stylish—sense of home: Tiny window seats are outfitted with comfortable cushions overlooking the ocean, while the airy bedrooms are filled with fresh-cut hyacinths and books like The Soul of an Island and The Art of Doing Nothing.
Thanks in part to the varied architecture of the three-story structure and in part to the owners' instinctive sense of design, each room is unique in layout and decor. The smallest studio is about 375 square feet, while the largest two-bedroom is 800 square feet. Every suite has its own private entrance, and nearly all of them face the property's backyard, which is landscaped with rhododendrons, antique roses, and Oriental lilies.
"We didn't hire a decorator," explains Ott, "because we knew exactly what look we wanted." Instead of rigidly following an overall design scheme, they mixed French and English country furniture with early American pieces.
Suite number two is the most private, with its own little white porch facing a quiet cobblestone street. Suite four, the most romantic, has lovely views of the garden, and number seven, a studio with bright-turquoise floors, occupies an entire corner of the second floor with a spacious outdoor deck.
"For us, part of the fun is matching a prospective guest to a particular room," says Ligelis. "Some people always ask for the same one, others want to try out a different room every time.
"From the very beginning, this project really was our baby," she adds. "I don't think it will ever stop."
Double rooms: $300-$575. 8 North Water Street, Nantucket, MA 02554; 800-462-6882, 508-228-6597; fax 508-228-6291; www.nantucketwhaler.com. Since parking on the island is extremely limited and there are no guest spaces on the property (although permits for 24-hour street parking are available), leave your car on the mainland if possible. New York, Boston, Providence, Martha's Vineyard, and Hyannis airports provide direct flights to the island. Daily ferries depart from Hyannis, Harwich, and Martha's Vineyard (www.islandferry.com or www.hy-linecruises.com).