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The Norumbega Inn in Camden, Maine, wouldn’t look out of place in a kids’ storybook. Its exterior alone, complete with a magical turret, is like something out of a fairy tale. So when it changed ownership in 2022, the consensus among loyal guests was: “Don’t change the space; we love it as is!” recalls designer Lisa Galano, whose practice, Studiocake, was hired to refresh the interior.

The building, which was constructed in 1887 as a private residence, still retained many original details, such as coffered ceilings, wainscoting, and wood paneling, but the decor itself was unremarkable. “Our priority was to conserve the sincerity of the existing architecture and finishes while introducing contemporary moments,” explains Galano. Camden is a year-round destination with a first-rate artisan coffee and dining scene, so the aim of the modernization was to balance the integrity of the hotel’s New England style while appealing to a broader demographic. 

Galano’s vision for each of the 11 guest rooms was “to feel like the primary guest room of your own residence” and to elevate the lounge spaces with vintage furniture finds and custom upholstery. Here, she explains exactly how she pulled it off. 

Play to the Building’s Strengths

The game room, before.
The game room, after.

Whether it’s in a downtown loft or a country kitchen, exposed brick lends a highly textural, rustic mood to a space. So why did Galano choose to cover it up in the newly created game room? “It was very inconsistent,” she explains of this particular wall’s quality. It also sucked up the natural light: “It gave you this feeling of being [in a] cellar.” Her compromise was to panel over it but to a height “that still allows you to see the sweet little arches that were previously covered over in former owner iterations,” she notes. By painting the new surface in white gloss, the light bounces around, lifting the space.

Go Arts and Crafts-y

The staircase, before.
The staircase, after.

In high-traffic areas such as hotels, flooring needs to be incredibly hard-wearing. Expertly made vintage rugs—some of which have stood the test of time for decades—was Galano’s solution for the staircases. She worked with Sacco to find kilim, Oushak, and Anatolian rugs, and cut them up and sewed them back together on-site. The result is a unique and sustainable alternative to buying a new runner. “We did not hold back on what vibe we were sourcing from. We really wanted it to feel like a patchwork of both different countries and patterns,” she says. 

Rethink Checkerboard

In its new guise, the Norumbega boasts a dozen patterned wall coverings from the likes of Cole & Son, Zak & Fox, Wallshoppe, and Holland & Sherry, with no two repeated across any space. But the one that garners the most feedback is an ombré checkerboard by Backdrop in the Sandringham Room. Galano calls it a “maximalist moment with a minimalist palette,” noting how the colors echo the view of the lush landscape outside. Designed to look like a hand-tiled surface, it’s the bedroom’s context that is so disarming. “Checkerboard is usually shown in tile on the floor, and so to use it in this in-between scale on the walls felt really fun,” explains Galano.

Find a Common Thread

One of the bathrooms, before.
The bathroom, after.

Galano wanted each bedroom to possess its own unique character, while simultaneously creating a reassuringly cohesive experience across the inn. So she picked the same finishes for every bathroom, settling on shiplap to cozy up the walls, plumbing fixtures and accessories from Ferguson, and vanities from RH. She also chose the same bed linens throughout. With the sleeping and bathing experience universal in terms of look and comfort, it allowed her team to play with different wallpapers, light fixtures, carpets, throw pillows, and art within each space. It’s a subtle move that has won over the clientele. “The feedback we received is people saying: ‘We didn’t think you could make it better, but you really celebrated it—you brought the Norumbega to the modern day,’” says a beaming Galano.