Not a whole lot goes on in Little Compton, Rhode Island. That’s the way people there like it, and it’s the reason the Stone House (which opens today) has got them talking.

The Stone House is a lovely, historic 13-room hotel—not exactly the sort of place you’d expect to raise eyebrows in a posh coastal New England town. But Little Compton (pop. 3,500) isn’t Newport. The town commons basically consists of a diner and a general store, and thrifty flash-adverse locals like to keep a low profile. (Despite the fact that some of New England’s wealthiest families have houses here, the country club not long ago took Haagen Daz off its menu because its members complained it was too expensive.)

Opening a hotel, even a small one, in a well-heeled enclave as fiercely protected as this one is a tricky operation. Even a careful renovation of an Italianate mansion (built in 1854 by the man who invented the three-ring binder) has got conservative locals worrying that Little Compton is about to be overrun by out-of-towners. It’s not so much that it’s a hotel—it’s that it’s a new and unabashedly upmarket, with its own yacht, spa treatments, and spacious rooms that start at $295/night.

When I visited a few weekends ago, the place still looked like a construction site. Still, there were plenty of charming old-fashioned details: wide porches, original moldings, newel posts that open like cookie tins. (Guests at the old hotel used to leave each other
messages in them.) And it was nice to see that the windows open in the Cupola Suite, (from $750 a night), which has a glass spiral staircase that leads up to the widow’s walk. The beach is a ten-minute walk away—quicker, if you opt for chauffeured golf cart—and the owners are vowing to limit weddings this season to “a dozen or so.”

Once a speakeasy, the basement is now a casual restaurant called “1854” that will be open year-round. The renovated barn next to the main building contains a handful of suites and Pietra, the hotel’s Tuscan-inspired restaurant. Most of the produce comes from the area, and Chef Paul Jonathan Wade will be making his own ricotta, crème fraiche, and honey—three more reasons to visit this traditionally closed-off little corner of New England.

See a slideshow of our favorite seaside inns, including Stone House.

Guest Blogger Darrell Harman is frequent contributor to Travel + Leisure.