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The iconic White Barn Inn gets reimagined

After recent renovations to the Kennebunk, Maine, property, it’s like a sea breeze blew through the rooms, airing out the space

Take a bike ride, or join one of the new guest programs, like chocolate-making and ice cream churning classes, and excursions to local orchards.
Take a bike ride, or join one of the new guest programs, like chocolate-making and ice cream churning classes, and excursions to local orchards.Pamela Wright

“It’s not Grandma’s little cottage anymore,” one guest remarked when she saw the recent renovations at the White Barn Inn.

Gone are the deep, jewel colors, the dark furniture, the heavy fabrics, and the carpeting. The iconic White Barn Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection in Kennebunk, Maine, has received a major facelift, bringing it into the 21st century. What we like: New York-based designer Jenny Wolf didn’t go over-the-top contemporary. Instead she respected the historic aspect of the property and its near-the-sea setting, lightening spaces with just enough modern touches and tones. It’s like a fresh sea breeze blew through the rooms, airing out the space.

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The change is immediate as you walk in the front door. Light green, sea foam hues brighten the room, and a lovely, whimsical wallpaper of flying ducks harkens to the surrounding natural setting. Carpeting has been replaced with light, vinyl plank flooring. There’s a collection of antique duck decoys hanging on one wall; a rustic, wooden bench lines another, adding texture and bringing in the old with the new.

“We had a lot of stuff — paintings, furniture — stored in the attic in the barn,” says Daniel Braun, general manager of the resort. “The designers climbed up and went shopping.”

Similar serene hues and new flooring continue into the living room, where traditional furniture, like wing chairs and a Victorian settee, with modern, bright fabric coverings, surround a fireplace. A zebra skin rug adds a bit of whimsy, and a fun painting of a dressed-up royal rabbit sits on a table filled with take-away snacks and drinks.

A fun painting of a dressed-up royal rabbit sits on a table filled with take-away snacks and drinks, adding a bit of whimsy.
A fun painting of a dressed-up royal rabbit sits on a table filled with take-away snacks and drinks, adding a bit of whimsy.Pamela Wright

All 27 rooms have been updated, featuring spindle beds, antiques, and traditional English and Gustavian-style pieces mixed with patterned pillows, wall and window coverings for added color and warmth. Rooms also feature elements from local Maine suppliers, like throw blankets from Evangeline in Portland and Adirondack chairs from Chairman of the Board. Private bathrooms have been brightened, with white and neutral colors, marble touches, and spa-like showers and/or soaking tubs.

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Thankfully, the elegant White Barn Inn Restaurant remains the same. The rare AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star dining experience was revolutionary when it opened in 1973, offering fine dining in a 19th-century barn, pioneering the “rustic chic” style. It remains one of New England’s finest restaurants. Now, they’ve opened a second restaurant, Little Barn, with more casual fare. The space was once an annex to the barn and served as an overflow area for diners. Now, it has its own bistro-style ambiance, with indoor and outdoor dining.

The new Little Barn restaurant has its own bistro-style ambiance, with indoor and outdoor dining.
The new Little Barn restaurant has its own bistro-style ambiance, with indoor and outdoor dining.Pamela Wright

“This is where Chef Matthew Padilla gets to play,” says Braun. “It’s a completely different style than our main restaurant.”

Padilla, who’s also the executive chef for the White Barn Inn Restaurant, says that the food he prepares for Little Barn, is “more of the type of food I enjoy. It’s what I like to cook for myself.” The menu displayed on a chalkboard changes every few days. We tried a sampling of creamy burrata with pesto and blistered cherry tomatoes, Mexican street corn sprinkled with cotija, a crisp, light pea salad, and deviled eggs with pickled beets. The seasonally inspired food was simple, fresh, and flavorful. It’s the kind of place we’d return to again and again, making it a nice complement to the fancy, special occasion main dining room.

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Also new for the resort, is a lineup of guest programs, like chocolate-making and ice cream churning classes, and excursions to local orchards.

We’ve always loved this gracious, luxury property, but as the saying goes: There’s no standing still because time is moving forward.

“Other luxury properties were improving, while we were standing still,” says Braun. “The update was really needed.”

Nice job moving forward. 833-242-8847, www.aubergeresorts.com/whitebarninn; room rates start at $599


Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com