Photographs by Alexandra Ribar
Several years after opening the successful Pioneertown Motel just outside California’s Joshua Tree National Park, brothers Matt and Mike French turned their sights northward for their next hospitality venture. Following a visit to the historic Captain Whidbey Inn, the Frenches, along with their business partner, architect Eric Cheong, purchased the property, which sits on the shore of Washington’s Whidbey Island near Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Each member of the trio has a deep connection to the region—the brothers grew up in Portland, and Cheong currently lives there—and wanted to honor the legacy of the 1907 lodge, a hideaway that has served generations of Northwesterners seeking time away from the city. “The inn had everything on our list: history, character,” says Matt. “And it’s surrounded by nature.” Much as they’d done with Pioneertown, the three opted to preserve the original building, making limited structural changes and even keeping the original layout of the bar and restaurant.
In addition to the 26-room main hotel, three cabins onsite, dating back to the 1960s, have been redesigned by notable Northwest creatives. Holly and David Price, who own the independent shop Edit. Whidbey, say they went for an “aesthetic that reflects the mood of an island in the Salish Sea” in their cabin. It’s painted in Benjamin Moore’s China White, and they added details from local artisans, including an abstract quilt on the wall by fabric designer Marcia Derse and a firewood holder by Whidbey artist Scott Alexander. Forest Eckley and Andy Whitcomb of Seattle’s Glasswing boutique made a connection between the interior and exterior of their cabin a top priority. In addition to custom furnishings—the pair also own the contemporary handmade furniture company Brackish—they created a trilevel seating area outside: hammocks sway near the shore, a soaking tub is sunk into the deck, and outdoor seating is positioned just above it. Vancouver-based designer Kyla Ray drew from her childhood on Vancouver Island to create a laid-back, textured aesthetic in the third cabin, which includes pieces from Canadian designers Union Wood Co., New Format Studio, and Greenstems. No matter which room you stay in, the mystique of the region pervades the entire property. “We had this vision of the main lodge as an old ship run aground,” Cheong says, “and imagined the characters spilling out.” All are welcome to join this crew.