Do Celerie Kemble on her design vision for the Mayflower Inn and Spa
Interior designer Celerie Kemble splits her time between Palm Beach and New York City, but she felt a kindred spirit with the Connecticut charms of Mayflower Inn & Spa as soon as she walked through its doors. “I went to boarding school and I love the tiny history of it being a boy’s boarding school at one point,” she says. Indeed, the Inn was originally the Ridge School, built in 1894 as a private school for boys that closed in 1919 and was converted to the Mayflower Inn the following year by former student Harry Van Sinderen.
A fun fact, but one that factored very little into Kemble’s vision for the Inn. The goal was to make it “fresh, fun and vibrant,” she says. “Also, to make it pretty, but take the fuss out. These days, travelers aren’t looking for formality, which can be generic. They’re looking for personality and authenticity.”
Kemble approached the redesign to Mayflower’s historic site with “great trepidation, respect and a sense of enthusiasm.” More than a hotel, she says the Mayflower Inn & Spa feels like someone’s home, with a sense of gracious hosting, comfort and personality. The idea was a refresh, not a demolition.. She picked out the things that were worth preserving, that had aged well and brought a sense of authenticity to the site, including mahogany four-poster beds and lamps, refectory tables, chinoiserie chairs, a papier-mache chinoiserie coffee table and game tables. She mixed in Scandinavian and colonial American design influences with sisal carpets, Turkish rugs, hand-crafted ceramics, wicker, as well as textiles from Schumacher, Sister Parish, and Penny Morrison.
Perhaps more than anything, Kemble’s sense of color is most impactful. The rooms are awash with shades of pink, green, blue and yellow all used generously. “They’re garden-bloomy colors,” says Kemble. “I wasn’t afraid to use a lot of them because then it becomes more palatable. Often, people will use bright or feminine colors so judiciously that they almost stand out too much.” Here, it becomes a joyful background.
Each room has its own personality, which was key to her vision. Some are more pubby and stately, such as the Tap Room, others are more fanciful and darling. Then there’s the spa, a zen oasis of serene white. One of Kemble’s favorites rooms is the yellow parlor sitting room. It had previously been a shade she likens to mayonnaise and has been reimagined in a sunny gold inspired by the stamen of a flower. “I wanted a color that was richer and brighter and happier and sunnier but wouldn’t make it feel like just a summer room,” she says of the golden paint chosen. The rest of the room is layering in vintage pieces, shaving mirrors and things that sparkle, such as tinsel art or reverse painted glass. “It was a craft that American women did in the 1700s and 1800s essentially using tinfoil,” explains Kemble. “The vocabulary kind of wrote itself.”