You know the drill with the major brand, cookie-cutter hotels and resorts. The location may be different each time but the lobby, rooms, restaurant, bar, spa, pool and gym all have that familiar same-old look and feel – with few, if any, distinguishing features to speak of.
Enter Lark Hotels, a relatively new and rapidly growing collection of boutique retreats that is rustling feathers and creating very different kinds of nests in the fiercely competitive vacation hotel market.
Located in coveted coastal, island, country and city destinations from New England to California, all 18 hotels offer a true sense of place and deliver an authentic, relaxed and fun getaway experience with historic nuances, luxury touches and spirit-lifting splashes of vibrant color.
“Our tagline is ‘Service you remember, amenities you desire and a touch of mischief,’ ” says Dawn Hagin, one of Lark Hotels’ three partners and the company’s CIO – chief inspiration officer.
“Generally our hotels are a little on the smaller side, located in once-distressed properties that needed a little love, and situated in the heart of a community in an iconic destination,” she adds.
While each hotel’s design and décor are infused with contemporary style, the company isn’t competing with luxury hotel brands.
“We don’t want to be luxury, nor do we want to be cheap chic,” says Hagin. “We want to be in that middle range, and at the right price point where we can always exceed guest expectations.”
Lark Hotels, which launched in 2012 with just four New England properties, operates as a branded hotel collection and marketing and management company.
Today, ten of the hotels are privately owned, eight are owned by various groups of investors and all are marketed and managed by Lark Hotels to create a cohesive brand and guest experience.
The locations offer an array of vacation options: three hotels in Camden, Portland and Kennebunkport, Maine; one in Stowe, Vermont; two in Portsmouth, N.H; seven in Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket; three in Newport and Narragansett, R.I.; and two in Mendocino and Napa, Calif.
The portfolio also includes three restaurants at the Camden, Stowe and Narragansett properties.
While founder and CEO Rob Blood oversees Lark’s investment and management portfolio, and Hagin heads up the marketing arm, a third partner adds another crucial dimension to the firm’s early success.
Leading Boston-based designer Rachel Reider drives the brand’s interior design aesthetic. She is the creative force behind 10 of the 18 hotels and participates in the design conversations about every new property.
“All three partners are very involved in the look and feel of the hotels,” says Hagin, “but Rachel is brilliant at interpreting our vision.”
While the historic structures of some of the hotels bring challenges – Summercamp on Martha’s Vineyard, for example, suffers from wafer-thin walls – Reider’s clever use of white walls and ceilings, vibrant color pops and tactile fabrics and furnishings create a fun, happy and thoroughly relaxed vibe across the collection.
“We try to steer clear of anything too whimsical,” says Hagin. “We want it to be stylish, but we’re always trying to push the envelope a little.”
Each Lark hotel aims to embrace its community and surroundings, and many are located within easy walking distance of local restaurants, cafes, shops and attractions.
Signature lobby lounges – some with table tennis, pool tables and board games – encourage guests to relax between excursions.
This little bird isn’t resting on its feathers. The collection is expanding –with at least one new hotel by summer 2017 in historic Salem, Mass., and more certain to take flight – without a cookie-cutter in sight.