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Fussy? No way

Sleek and sophisticated retreats can indulge modern sensibilities

By Necee Regis
Globe Correspondent / October 10, 2010

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Pity the poor Modernist in search of a place to stay in New England. Oh, sure, there are many fine inns, tucked amid rolling hills or perched on cliffs with ocean views, but most share a quintessential New England style, a Victoriana aesthetic that seems to define the region. If you, like me, feel claustrophobic at the sight of floral wallpaper and doilies, and if teddy bears send you screaming for the latest issue of Wallpaper magazine, take heart. Contemporary styles and sleek designs are alive and well in Massachusetts. You just have to know where to look.

Modernist aficionados will swoon over the art, architecture, and furnishings at The Guest House at Field Farm . This Bauhaus-inspired house, built in 1948, is filled with period art and furnishings designed by midcentury luminaries such as Eileen Gray, George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi, Vladimir Kagan, Hans Wegner, and Charles and Ray Eames. Located on 316 acres of conservation land, the six-room guesthouse offers stunning views of Mount Greylock, as well as access to four miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails. 554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, 413-458-3135, www.thetrustees.org/field-farm, $150-$295

Any inn that combines the terms “retro-chic’’ and “boutique’’ on its website is worth considering as an alternative to Victoriana. At The Veranda House you’ll find a sophisticated and contemporary retreat located within a 19th-century structure. True, it’s more luxurious than many bed-and-breakfast inns, offering Frette bed linens and robes, subway tiled rainfall showers, flat panel TVs, and Wi-Fi access in its 18 rooms, but who’s complaining? It’s an easy walk to restaurants and shops in town, or you can enjoy old-fashioned harbor views from one of three wraparound verandas. 3 Step Lane, Nantucket, 508-228-0695, 877-228-0695, www.theverandahouse.com, $149-$609

The South End neighborhood in Boston is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the largest existing Victorian residential district in North America. However, it’s possible to find contemporary digs in these historic brick buildings, such as those at the Clarendon Square Inn . This six-story, 19th-century townhouse has been meticulously renovated and restored, and the three guest rooms are outfitted with designer fabrics, limestone and tile baths, iPod docking stations, and original artwork hung on walls blissfully free of decorative patterning. The garden terrace is a sunny spot for morning coffee, though nothing beats stargazing from the rooftop Jacuzzi hot tub. 198 West Brookline St., Boston, 617-536-2229, www.clarendonsquare.com, $195-$420

Encore is another cozy South End B&B offering classic contemporary furnishings in a historic 19th-century townhouse. Each of its three rooms, named after a 20th-century composer, playwright, or choreographer, has simple painted and exposed brick walls, sleek queen-size platform beds, flat-screen TVs, and Bang & Olufsen radios. With Philippe Starck Dr. No armchairs in the dining nook, as well as Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chairs, Eileen Gray glass and chrome tables, and Italian-designed leather swivel chairs scattered throughout, you might think you’re vacationing in Europe. 116 West Newton St., Boston, 617-247-3425, www.encorebandb.com, $140-$240

In the Berkshires, Stonover Farm is a contemporary oasis in a landscape awash with calico, taffeta, and lace. The owners lived in Los Angeles for 23 years before opening this B&B, which might account for the stripped down elegance of the decor and the first-class attention to details, such as bathrooms with two-headed showers, deep soaking tubs, and marble benches. The sprawling stone and wood farmhouse, circa 1900, has been completely renovated yet maintains a country feel with stone fireplaces, library, greenhouse, and breakfast room overlooking a duck pond. The inn can only accommodate 10 guests, guaranteeing a high pamper factor. A bonus: It’s less than a mile to Tanglewood, and two miles from Lenox Village. Stonover Farm B&B, 169 Under Mountain Road, Lenox, 413-637-9100, www.stonoverfarm.com, $275-$575

Sand, sun, and the wide flat horizon where the bay meets the sky is what Provincetown is all about. The recently renovated White Porch Inn captures this spirit by combining casual elegance with contemporary design in a style they call “beachy-chic.’’ The main house and carriage house date to the 1800s, and the nine rooms in this B&B retain the classic feel of old Cape Cod with tongue and groove beadboard paneling and polished hardwood floors. The property catapults into the 21st-century with spa tubs, free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, and luxury amenities such as pillowtop mattresses, goose down comforters, and beach towel service. Though not directly on the beach, the inn is steps away from the bay and some rooms offer water views. 7 Johnson St., Provincetown, 508-364-2549, www.whiteporchinn.com, $99-$399

If you dine in Provincetown at Enzo, you might not realize the second floor houses a five-room B&B. Don’t let the building’s Victorian exterior, complete with turret, deter you from visiting. It’s named after Enzo Ferrari, and the decor in each room reflects the sleek modern sensibilities of a racecar combined with the muted tones of the Provincetown dunes. The five rooms, though small, have queen size beds with smooth blond headboards and luxury linens, and marble-tiled bathrooms. Each room also offers a distinctive amenity: One has a Jacuzzi tub, another a fireplace, a third offers multiple showerheads. The location on Commercial Street, at the start of the West End, guarantees a lively atmosphere just outside the door. 186 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-487-7555, www.enzolives.com, $129-$249

The light-filled simplicity of The Outermost Inn is the polar opposite of Victorian fussiness. The seven rooms in this contemporary structure have pale wood floors, doors, headboards, and bookcases, with area carpets and kilims, recessed lighting, and discreetly placed art. Think of a Shaker sensibility with fine linens and fluffy comforters. Located on the Gay Head Cliffs, the views encompass 20 acres of meadows and the sea, meaning you can hike, bird-watch, surf, swim, and fly-fish without needing to get in a car. The inn was designed and built, and is owned and operated, by Hugh and Jeanne Taylor. (Yes, those Taylors, as in James and Livingston, Hugh’s brothers.) Aside from dust ruffles adorning the beds, it fits the bill for frou-frou-free lodging. 81 Light House Road, Aquinnah, 508-645-3511, www.outermostinn.com, $310-$430

The Porches Inn seems unlikely to have contemporary interiors. Though not exactly modernist, it avoids Victorian clichés by infusing an ironic sensibility into its decor. Often described as “retro-edgy, industrial granny chic,’’ this 47-room inn plays off its industrial past, and its proximity to the sprawling, 19th-century mill complex that now houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. Painted beadboard walls, wood and slate floors, luxurious bedding, linens, and padded headboards (all white) play against a self-consciously hip palette: avocado, periwinkle, ochre, gray, and peach. Quirky lamps and paint-by-numbers art are the icing on its retro-themed cake. 231 River St., North Adams, 413-664-0400, www.porches.com, $130-$245

Necee Regis can be reached at neceeregis@gmail.com