"When you check into most any inn on the Eastern Shore, you expect to see more than a few lighthouse paintings on the walls—a folksy homage to nautical décor. So when I learned that a new boutique hotel had opened in 375-year-old Lewes, Delaware's capital of quaint Victorians and colonial saltboxes, I was a little surprised. Wasn't that concept a little bit...city? After all, the last "boutique hotel" I stayed in was covered in leopard-print carpet and served a lot of strangely hued drinks. Not a place to sleep off eating a dozen blue crabs.
When we pull up to Hotel Blue's unassuming façade, it seems rather ordinary—the neutral-colored building evokes Lewes's older Victorians with its windows and towers but also contains condos and ground-floor retail, resembling other well-heeled complexes recently springing up all over the Eastern Shore. But when we peer into the lobby and spot large, orange lounge chairs and bowls of flowers, we know we're in for a treat.
Owners and longtime Lewes residents Scott and Donna de Kuyper have designed a sophisticated oasis, with cool blues and bold accents, custom-designed modern furnishings, and a healthy shot of fun. "I didn't want coy, I didn't want clever—I just wanted clean design," says Scott, patting the glittering blue glass tiles of the front desk. The hotel does have a bright, relaxed feel, but on one point I beg to differ: The decision to create this cosmopolitan retreat was definitely clever.
Hotel Blue is full of personality and style, and when I meet the de Kuypers, it is immediately evident where it comes from. Donna once performed on Broadway, while Scott, a dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur, has worked in everything from advertising to designing hand-painted clothing. But Scott is not new to the hotel business, having run Lewes's old Anglers Motel for a decade before tearing it down to make way for Hotel Blue and the private, 2,000-square-foot condos and retail shops that share its façade. "We wanted it to look residential," says Donna as she flips on the gas fireplace in the lobby. To this pair of hoteliers, it's not just a hotel, it's home; they and their two teenage daughters have moved into one of the condos next door.
When Donna opens the door to the Tower Suite, we can't believe our luck. We live in a rowhouse in a perpetual state of renovation, and, to us, this large, bright room is bliss. The design is clean but not spartan, with chocolate-brown walls and a light blue couch providing a splash of color. There is not a seashell collage in sight. A lazy wicker fan above the bed gives the room an understated touch of the tropics. The queen bed, set in an octagonal niche, is surrounded by windows with a view of the harbor. The large sofa and chair, set in front of the big, flat-screen television and large gas fireplace, call out for a test run. Off goes the cell phone and on go the fluffy white robes.
The hotel has fifteen other rooms, all with gas fireplaces and water-view balconies. Each room has a queen-sized bed with a pillow-top mattress and accent walls and furniture in jewel and neutral tones. The large bathrooms all have soaking tubs and two unusual dimpled-glass sinks. Four rooms are 800-square-foot, deluxe one-bedroom suites, while two ground-floor rooms have a koi pond on the patio.
Scott de Kuyper has a name for some of Hotel Blue's more unique design features: "smile elements." He's right. You do have to smile when you switch off your bathroom light to reveal the blue-lit glass sinks, the most original nightlight I've ever seen. You grin when you grab your glowing ice bucket, and it changes from an apple green to a candy pink. You smile when you see the accent pillow on your bed—a stuffed satin beach ball. But the de Kuypers haven't overdone the whimsy. In the deluxe suites, the ultra-modern, concealed flat-screen TV doubles as the bedroom mirror, a subtle but elegant practical touch. And the hotel caters to guests' additional technology cravings by providing free wireless Internet access.
What's for Breakfast
If you hate the anonymous sameness of chain hotels—but don't particularly relish eating breakfast with strangers—then Hotel Blue is for you. But don't despair: The de Kuypers have catered to everyone's most addictive morning ritual—a good cup of coffee. There is an espresso machine and fruit in the lobby and individual coffee makers in each room. When our stomachs start growling, we pop across the street to the Lighthouse Restaurant, where we watch the boats go in and out as we devour enormous $6 breakfasts.
The rooftop pool, overlooking Delaware Bay, will suffice for those ultra-relaxed, lazy weekenders. But when you're ready to go out, there's plenty to do. Lewes is made for walkers, and most of its attractions are very near the hotel. The property is steps from the harbor, where you can charter a fishing trip or eat dinner overlooking the water. A quick walk over the bridge brings you to more restaurants, historic homes, shops, museums (this is, after all, the first town in the first state). Nearby are the Cape May/Lewes Ferry, Cape Henlopen State Park, and the outlets and boardwalk of Rehoboth Beach.
Bring the scented massage oil and put out the "Do not disturb" sign. Hotel Blue is an adults-only property, with no under-eighteens allowed, which makes it an ideal place for a second honeymoon.
What It's Gonna Cost
Prices range from $95 off season to $235 in summer. Suites range from $125 in winter to $275 in season.
Sara Edelson is a freelance writer from Washington, D.C.
as in Chesapeake Life