CHATHAM -- We almost forgot to pay the bill as we were leaving the Cyrus Kent House. We had spent the weekend feeling like treasured guests in a wealthy sea captain's home; the need to check out was a wake-up call.
Just a block away from Chatham's Main Street, the inn was built in 1877. Cyrus Kent, a Chatham sea captain, bought the property in 1889 and lived there until 1920.
The first time we entered, I was struck by the bold blue floral wallpaper that covered not only the small foyer but also ran up the back of the stairway. The space was lighted by a sparkling chandelier. To our right, we glimpsed a gracious front-to-back parlor with deep bow windows and a fireplace. The beautiful furnishings included Tiffany-style lamps, several chiming clocks, and a baby grand piano. In this room, visitors can read the newspaper, peruse several coffee-table books on Cape Cod, or browse the collection of local restaurant menus.
In the small breakfast room, with blue-and-burgundy print wallpaper accented by a striped border, tables are set with china and crystal on white eyelet runners. On the fireplace mantel is a display of old silver coffee and tea sets. The walls are hung with oil paintings, many by Romaine Rellich, the mother of Sandra Goldman, who owns the inn with her husband, Steve. Classical music plays softly.
Unfortunately, we visited on a weekend when the Goldmans were away. But Peggy Fuller, the inn's manager, filled in admirably, offering umbrellas on a rainy night, recounting the story of the famed Chatham Break caused by Hurricane Bob in 1991, and serving a delicious breakfast of juice, warm fruit compote with granola and whipped topping, muffins, and coffeecake.
We stayed in the Hydrangea Room, where we were impressed by the creative use of space. A chimney running up the center of this dormer room might have presented a design problem. Instead, it is an attractive accent and also serves to separate the four-poster canopied queen bed from a small sitting area, where two blue wingback chairs face a gas fireplace. A bright and attractive reading lamp sits on a cleverly designed triangular drop-leaf table between the chairs. There is a television and a VCR/DVD player set on an old sea chest against the wall. The inn offers a library of some 600 movies, a legacy of Steve Goldman's former career with Paramount Pictures.
Someone had fun making sure the Hydrangea Room lives up to its name. The walls are a soft blue with cream accents. Three paintings feature hydrangeas, and there is a dried arrangement on the tall dresser and a dried wreath on the center chimney. Pretty pale blue fringed shades cover the high six-over-six windows. Blue and white porcelain candlesticks are on the mantel.
The bath is small, but the space is used well. There is a large sink set into an antique pine reproduction washstand, with good, bright light overhead, and a hairdryer (on a doily) on the shelf beneath. The shower stall, however, is claustrophobic. In a phone interview later, Sandra Goldman said she and her husband plan to replace it with a glass version this spring, which will not be appreciably bigger but will feel more open and airy because of the glass. Thick towels monogrammed CKH foster the fantasy that you are staying in someone's private mansion. Toiletries included conditioning shampoo, lotion, pine-scented soap, and Tom's of Maine toothpaste.
The one two-bedroom suite in the main house and two suites in the carriage house offer spacious accommodations with private entrances.
From the landing on the stairway to our room, we looked out onto a manicured yard, with a brick patio and white lattice gazebo. Seven gardens surround the inn, which earned an award from the Chatham Garden Club last year for ''the best large-scale landscaping" (according to the wording on the plaque) in Chatham.
At Sandra Goldman's recommendation, we had dinner at the Impudent Oyster, less than a five-minute walk away and clearly the place to be on a Saturday night in the off-season. The restaurant offers creative spins on local seafood, such as mussels in a wine, garlic, onion, and parsley bouillon, Cape scallops in a Thai peanut sauce with noodles, and Portuguese cod stew.
Main Street offers plenty of dining and shopping options. We indulged our sweet tooth at the Chatham Candy Manor, where the truffles are fabulous and the apothecary jars of penny candy took us back (way back) to our childhoods. South Beach (also called Lighthouse Beach) and Oyster Pond are both within walking distance of the inn.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.