By Brian Kevin
August 25, 2014
Coolest B&Bs in Portland, Maine
Credit: Rare Brick / Courtesy of Pomegranate Inn

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.

Danforth Inn

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.

Mercury Inn

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.

Pomegranate Inn

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.