By Katie McElveen
Set atop a rocky bluff overlooking the indigo-hued Atlantic, Cliff House has one of the most enviable views in Maine. Now, after a significant renovation, the owners have created a sanctuary where guests can take in the expansive seascape from nearly every point within the resort. And they didn’t stop there: beyond opening up the views, the resort has added new restaurants, expanded the serene spa and overhauled every inch of the resort’s 132 guest rooms.
“From our first glimpse, we knew the view had to be the focal point of the hotel,” says Kim Deetjen, a designer with Truex Cullins, who led the interior renovation. “The key was making it happen.”
Two years later, they’ve done just that, relocating the lobby to a building that would allow them to lift it onto a balcony overlooking a dramatic two-story wall of windows. “There’s no place like this in Maine,” explains Deetjen. “It was important to all of us that guests begin their experience at Cliff House with a connection to the landscape. Our goal is for Cliff House to become New England’s premier resort and I think we’re well on our way.”
Once the designers had worked out the logistics, which also includes an open staircase from the lobby that descends into a lively gathering space called Tidemark and transforms another space into a stunning glass-walled ballroom that lights up like a gilded conservatory at night, they set to work interpreting the owner’s vision of a classic Maine seaside retreat. “We wanted to bring in details that illustrate what it means to be in coastal Maine, but in a subtle and updated way,” says Deetjen.
Hallways and staircases, for instance, are lined with rope; transparent balconies are topped with wooden railings and the furniture is a pleasing mix of low-slung mid-century upholstered pieces, Shaker armchairs and chrome. And since no Maine cottage would be complete without a wood-burning fireplace, Cliff House has plenty—including the lobby, the library and within many guest rooms.
Guest rooms were designed to complement, but not compete with, the floor-to-ceiling view which now dominates each space. “When you open the door to the room, you see nothing but ocean,” says Marc DeSmet, who worked with Deetjen on the project. “It’s dramatic and beautiful.”
Although the 132 rooms and suites have varied details, all were done in shades of blue, cream and driftwood grey to echo the coastal landscape; traditional cottage plaids, board-and-batten walls and heirloom-style rugs round out the décor in traditional Down East style. Since the resort will now stay open all year long, the team upped the coziness quotient with warm tones, plush fabrics and thick drapes. There are clever maritime accents, too, like towel hangers that are actually boat cleats, mirrors set into portholes, throw pillows hand-painted in bold marine designs and yacht-styled tables that fold down from the wall and are printed with navigational charts. “Many of the pieces were created specifically for Cliff House; some of which were handcrafted, which adds artistry and makes the space feel unique and special,” says Deetjen.
The rooms are as well-designed as they are beautiful, too. Nightlights are hidden under dressers, which appear to float off the floor, wall lanterns replicate porch lights and sliding pocket doors maximize space. And if the sound of the crashing waves doesn’t put you to sleep immediately, the bed will: set atop a specially-crafted foundation, it’s supremely comfortable, supportive and squeak-free.
“We actually put a lot of time into the beds,” notes Deetjen. “In the hotel industry they say it’s all about the bed. Unless it’s about the view—and at Cliff House, you get both.”