Boston Home

Castle by the Sea

In coastal Maine, a historic inn’s original character shines with just the right amount of contemporary detail.

In the hotel entry, the original stone, wood floors, and leaded glass windows greet visitors. / Photo by Hannah Hoggatt

Nestled along a scenic stretch of Route 1 overlooking Penobscot Bay in Camden, the Norumbega Inn began as a private residence for Joseph Barker Stearns. Known for the invention of the double telegraph and revolutionizing the fire alarm system, Stearns hired New York architect G.B. Jennings to design the sophisticated stone-and-wood Queen Ann–style structure. Completed in 1887, there was no expense spared to furnish the home, which included the era’s new innovations: electricity and steam heat.

Converted to an inn in the 1980s, new owners purchased it in 2022 and embarked on an aesthetic revival. They tapped Lisa Galano and her team at Studiocake to lead the project. “The design intent was to give the hotel a refresh while honoring the history of Norumbega and maintaining its essence,” says Galano, noting the ornate architectural moldings and original wood floors, which were preserved. Contemporary elements were delicately layered in to introduce a notion of modernity.

Each guest room and common space in the inn features a different wallcovering to create curated moments that add an element of discovery. By not repeating wallcoverings, spaces exude an individual sense of identity, says Galano, while still maintaining cohesion with the rest of the inn. All bathrooms were reimagined, and custom touches abound; among the most distinctive are the runners that adorn the timeworn staircases. “Individual runners were handselected and then handstitched on-site to create a continuous pattern that carefully drapes over each step,” Galano adds. As guests venture up the stairs to their room, it’s impossible not to wonder what surprising design detail they’ll encounter next.

First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Winter 2024 issue, with the headline “Castle by the Sea.”