It makes sense that the bed-and-breakfasts in Portlandia East are going to have an element of hip that goes beyond your old-school lace doily, antique credenza, quiche-and-coffee style of B&B. This is a city that christened its downtown an Arts District, with an entrenched local/organic ethos that manifests in everything from food to furniture to fashion. So of course the coolest lodging options in town are going to be these small, food-forward, design-savvy bastions of homegrown comfort. And of course, Portland as a town predates America as a concept, so many of the city’s best B&Bs are beautiful restorations of historic buildings. In the largely preserved Victorian neighborhood of the West End—where many B&Bs cluster—this transplant from the West is always a little amazed to remember that a few homes in the neighborhood pre-date the arrival of Lewis and Clark in any of my former Western haunts. These inns know how to balance classic New England warmth with contemporary style.
Outside, it’s a stately, 1823 mansion with aged brick, ivy, cupola—the works. Inside, it’s a fresh, nine-room inn with a muted color palette broken up by mod flashy artwork. New owners in 2014 have added some thoughtful touches (think oversized Turkish towels and a turndown service with handmade Belgian chocolates), and more substantial renovations are coming in 2015.
Inn on Carleton
Tucked away on a tree-shaded side street lined with Victorian duplexes, the Inn on Carleton has a definite part-of-the-neighborhood feel. The six rooms go in big for rich wood and restored furniture. Breakfasts are slow-food events—think waffles made from sweet potatoes (fresh from the farmers market) and lobster eggs-benedict (with just a touch of caviar).
West End Inn
Bright, patterned bedding and upholsteries give the airy rooms at the West End Inn kind of a sunny seaside feel. And of course, the sea isn’t that far off, as it’s about a 20-minute walk to the heart of the city’s Old Port. Breakfasts lean organic and are cooked to order.
The new kid on the block, this century-old Victorian in the Parkside neighborhood has gotten an ultra-mod facelift. Fixtures, furniture, linens, and accents all have a clean, midcentury vibe that plays a little on a nautical theme. In the kitchen, nearly every ingredient is locally sourced from a long list of Maine farms, creameries, and bakeries.
This Portland classic has been called “funky,” but that sells short the aesthetic sophistication of this bold, colorful, and exceedingly comfortable eight-room inn. The first time I walked in, I thought I’d shown up at a splashy contemporary art gallery by mistake. Paintings, ceramics, and sculpture are everywhere, complementing tastefully eclectic furniture. And if you can’t make breakfast, it arrives at your door.