Skift Take

Acquire a boutique hotel with charming buildings in a resort town's center, connect it with green space, and boom, you have Blue Flag Partners’ Faraway campus concept. Are immersive concepts like this a fad or a growth area?

At first glance, Faraway Nantucket, a 62-room boutique hotel created by the real estate investment and development firm Blue Flag Partners, may seem like just another shingle-clad property on the Massachusetts island. But take a step inside, and the interiors seem anything but traditional or ordinary.

“We thought: Let’s see if we can give you something you would see in Paris, London, or New York, and will people like it?” said Jason Brown, managing partner at Blue Flag Partners. “We worried that maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe we’ll open, and they’ll be like, ‘We love the old charm of Nantucket, we hate this cool boutique thing.'”

“But it has worked out pretty well, and we’ve kept going,” Brown said.

Now, Blue Flag is launching its second Faraway hotel — the 58-room Faraway Martha’s Vineyard, also in Massachusetts, this month.

While Blue Flag does stand-alone hotel launches, the Martha’s Vineyard property fits under the Faraway umbrella, considering both hotels are made up of multiple buildings that connect together, which they refer to as a “campus.”

On Nantucket, for example, the hotel consists of eight 19th-century buildings, including an old captain’s house, a meeting house, an old inn, and a private home. On Martha’s Vineyard, the hotel is made up of nine buildings, like the Kelley House (dating from 1742), as well as a building that was constructed to house the film crew for Jaws.

“All of that is just one large enclosed campus with all this greenery as you walk around, and you can eat and drink anywhere, and it’s really quirky and interesting and fun,” said Brown.

Blue Flag is hoping that guests like a specific building on campus and request to stay there year after year. Each building on the campus is called by its historic, original name, and every building, they said, feels different from the others.

So far, the campus-style concept is working on these two New England islands, especially since, they said, more people post-pandemic have realized they can work from the islands, which extends the hotel’s season. They’re also kicking off a partnership with Tradewind Aviation, so travelers can visit both islands — and stay at both campuses. 

In the past five months, Blue Flag has acquired two hotels on Long Island, New York — one in Greenport and another in Montauk. Blue Flag must now decide whether these hotels will become Faraways or stand-alone hotels with a concept of their own. 

Guest rooms at the Faraway Nantucket boutique hotel. Source: Faraway.
Guest rooms at the Faraway Nantucket boutique hotel. Source: Faraway.

Faraway, But Close to Home

The name Faraway comes from the Algonquin word “Nantucket,” which many say means faraway land. While the islands might seem far off the New England coast, it’s familiar territory for Brown and his partners.

Brad Guidi [another partner at Blue Flag] grew up going to Nantucket like Brown did, and they’ve bonded over that fact.

“When I met [Brad and his team], they had done a few residential development projects and were interested in hospitality, including markets that we were all trained never to invest into —seasonal markets with small bed counts, in complicated old buildings,” Brown said.

When Blue Flag acquired the old hotel on Nantucket in 2019 — formerly called The Roberts Collection — located right in the heart of town, it seemed like the perfect experiment.

“We looked if we could try and build lifestyle hotels in these urban cores of a resort market like Nantucket because there are old grand dame hotels on Nantucket, but there wasn’t anything lifestyle or interesting,” said Brown.
 
On both islands, too, they saw a mismatch. “When you look at the demographic of people that are going there, particularly in the peak season, these are some of the best-traveled, wealthiest individuals in the world, and yet the places they are staying or putting up friends are these old, tired inns,” said Brown.
 
They dove into storytelling to create a place that felt more upscale and unique.

For Faraway Nantucket, for example, which opened its doors in 2021, they drew inspiration from Gertrude Stein’s apartment in Paris and imagined a female character who grew up on the island during this era but left to sail the world — visiting the likes of London and Paris — before coming back decades later to buy up the best plot of land in town (and show off her acquired treasures).

“It has a Parisian meets bohemian vibe, which is something different than Nantucket has ever seen before because Nantucket is traditionally white saltbox, very beige and clean,” said Brown. The hotel also has an outdoor lounge, the first in town, which is part of its restaurant called Sister Ship, which won Boston magazine’s best restaurant on Nantucket in 2022.

In the hotel, you’ll find decor elements from around the world, like glass vases and decanters from France and Italy, mirrors and lighting from Morocco, and antique handcrafted Asian baskets, said Guidi.
 
On Faraway Martha’s Vineyard, which is located in the town of Edgartown, its main building was constructed in the 1960s, so they opted for a more mid-century design.
 
“We came up with a story, again with a female-centric character, who was living on this property in the 60s and had these beautiful gardens and got into the mixing of botanicals, and at night she would throw these big lavish parties and serve elixirs,” said Guidi.

Because of this, botanicals are an important part of the design. They planted new gardens throughout the property, and a floral artist is creating an installation in the lobby so that its bookcases overflow with flowers.
 
“When you think about Martha’s Vineyard, a lot of people think James Taylor, Carley Simon; it all started making sense with this mid-century, free-spirited vibe,” said Guidi.
 
While the eras will seem different at each campus, they hope guests will feel the brand continuity. “One of the cornerstones of the Faraway aesthetic is pattern-on-pattern and a little bit of maximalism, so we’re not letting that go,” said Guidi.

faraway nantucket boutique hotel restaurant Sister Ship Matt Kisiday 3
Faraway Nantucket, a boutique hotel, has a restaurant called Sister Ship. Photo: Matt Kisiday. Source: Faraway.

Building a Brand, But Other Concepts, Too

While Blue Flag isn’t opposed to creating more Faraway hotels, its ultimate goal isn’t to scale the brand.
 
“It goes back to who Brad and I have as heroes in the industry, such as Ian Schrager, André Balazs, and Bill Kimpton, who really looked at every project and said, ‘What does this deserve to be?’” said Brown.

Brown actually worked in Kimpton’s corporate finance department before leaving to become the chief development officer for Yotel. But his connection to the industry actually goes deeper. His “uncle” Leonard Stern opened the Soho Grand (as well as The Roxy Hotel in New York City), and when Brown was fourteen he lived and interned at the Soho Grand.

As for Blue Flag’s game plan, their goal is to look at each hotel as a brand of one, and see where it takes them.

“We’re really focused on making sure that we’re building each individual project, creating a story and a brand for that project, and if out of that comes the opportunity to build more Faraways because we think that’s what will translate in the market, we’ll absolutely do that,” Brown said.
 
The next hotel in the Blue Flag collection will start with construction this fall. They’ve acquired a two and a half-star, 90-room motel on Nantucket, called Beachside, which they’ll convert into a family-friendly luxury boutique hotel (which may sound like an oxymoron, but is actually a category gap in the boutique hotel space), complete with a game room, a kids-section of the pool and large lawns for children to run around.
 
“Brad and I aren’t sacrificing our need for interesting design, service and experience, and we aren’t worried about our kids running around because they’re going to have a great time, too,” said Brown.

Blue Flag is also focusing, for now, on its island beat — considering its latest two acquisitions are on Long Island — and they plan again to do detailed renovations.  

“Instead of just painting walls and making them look better, which is what a lot of boutique folks do because it’s cheaper, we think about this as if we’re going to own this for the rest of our lives, and so we go all the way back to the studs of these buildings and rebuild them, which is super expensive, but it’s what these buildings deserve,” said Brown.
 
What the buildings will become, though, whether it’s another Faraway or something completely different, is still to be determined. 

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Tags: boutique hotels, future of lodging, hotel development

Photo credit: The patio bar area at Faraway Nantucket, a boutique hotel in Rhode Island. Source: Faraway.

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