By Marie-Claire Rochat
The Boarding House opens tonight for its 20th season. Prepare to be wowed.
There’s a new chef in the kitchen (Stephen Maucarelle, formerly of Minneapolis’s Victory 44, will take the helm) and some new paint on the walls of the dining room. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like a big deal, get ready for a surprise: while the fresh new take on the cuisine of this beloved corner eatery will delight your palette, the fresh paint will awe your eyes.
For the last month, Latvian-transplant and 15-year resident of Nantucket, Evita Caune, has been elbow-deep in plaster. Drawing on a centuries-old art form used first by the ancient Egyptians and later by the great architects of the High Renaissance, this gloriously rich and textured finish is created by applying thin layers of buttery plaster with a trowel, then burnishing the surface to create a smooth and seamless finish. It’s hard work, admitted Caune recently, as we stood in the middle of the dining room – she, weary after a day with trowel in hand – and I, stunned by the reflection the lighting cast on the glossy, Burnt Sienna-colored walls. The effect, even without the tables, chairs, proper lighting and waiters’ stations in place, is truly extraordinary. Different seating “zones” have been created through the interplay of different finishes: there is an embossed stencil over a banquette which is bathed in soft, candle-like light and, in the “owner’s corner,” a silver and gold leaf design romances diners. The whole effect is warm and inviting and cozy and intimate – and fantastically chic, too.
For the artist, the opportunity to showcase her talent in the main dining room of this popular restaurant is sweet reward after years of supplementing her decorative painting career with house painting. For Boarding House owners Seth and Angela Raynor, the chance to re-decorate the dining room of the “firstborn” in their mini restaurant-empire (which includes The Pearl and Corazon del Mar), became a necessity after a major disaster last summer.
When the ultra-cool, 475-gallon, salt-water fish tank on the floor above the Boarding House dining room ruptured last July, the room was destroyed in a matter of hours. Insulation was coming down in clumps, recalled Seth, and it didn’t take long before the floor was buckling and the electrical wires were corroding. Island-based Arena Construction worked miracles and The Boarding House was serving diners 12 days later. It was the quick fix they needed, but the dining room lacked the aesthetic the Raynor’s wanted. They knew that they would re-do the space when the restaurant closed for the season.
The result of that re-do is stunning. Inspired by trips to Burgundy and Montreal over the fall and winter, the design was very much a collaborative effort between owners and artist, explained Angela.
Seth and Angela are thrilled with the result and are quite sure that Boarding House devotees and first-timers alike will be share that feeling when they walk down the stairs from the bar for the first time. Cheers to a very good year!
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Marie-Claire Rochat is a Nantucket-based writer, public relations consultant and real estate agent. Favorite topics to write about are design, art, fashion, food – and people who have an interesting story to tell. Hobbies include running, skiing and poking around New York or Boston whenever possible, as well as spending time with two busy children, Mia and Stefan. Her new column will be a regular feature in Mahon about Town.