At Maine’s Funkiest Airbnb, All the Furniture Is for Sale

Design firm Pieces by An Aesthetic Pursuit has gotten into the vacation-rental game with this shoppable hotel in Kennebunk.
In the dining room, Jasper Morrison for Vitra All Plastic chairs surround a Pieces Court series dining table.
In the dining room, Jasper Morrison for Vitra All Plastic chairs surround a Pieces by An Aesthetic Pursuit Court series dining table on a Pieces Wavy runner. All photos by Claire Esparros

Imagine you book an Airbnb in Kennebunk, Maine, for a summer weekend. Ready to flop into bed, sun-tired and still feeling the waves after a day at the beach, you stop to admire how cool the pink perforated-metal headboard looks in the papaya-orange bedroom.

In the morning, you splash water on your face from this totally rad vessel sink that sits on a mod terrazzo bathroom vanity. Later, you buy peonies to put in a whimsical blue ceramic vase that looks like a cartoon tree stump with a cut-off branch.

Suddenly, you realize you can’t live without any of these beautiful things. Well, you’re in luck: It’s all available for purchase.

The master bedroom has art by Dan Covert over a Peony vase by Pieces.
The peachy master bedroom has art by Dan Covert over a Peony vase by Pieces.

“The future of retail is experiential,” says Jenny Kaplan, one of the design trio responsible for this quaint New England town’s first “shoppable stay hotel.” The idea had its genesis a few years ago. Kaplan and her husband/business partner, Chris Corrado, run a Brooklyn-based creative agency called An Aesthetic Pursuit, as well as its furniture and accessories arm, Pieces by An Aesthetic Pursuit, born out of Kaplan’s interior design work.

“It was always a challenge to find pieces I liked and that fit correctly,” Kaplan recalls. “So, we started making bespoke furniture and accessories for clients and launched Pieces in 2017.” They brought in a third partner, Taisha Coombs, who had valuable (and needed) production experience.

Stairwell of the circa-1878 house, where guests can even buy the wall paints.
Guests who stay in the ca. 1878 house can even buy the Backdrop wall paints. Pieces made the large yellow Cone planter seen through the door

It wasn’t long before the three began dreaming bigger. Looming large in their minds was the idea of a shoppable stay hotel, a vacation home that would showcase their own furnishings as well as those of various partner companies.

“It was very important to hand-pick brands that aligned well with Pieces and filled in the gaps in terms of product categories we do not offer,” Kaplan says. Any additional voids would be filled with vintage finds.

An Artek Beehive light above a Pieces Flux table in the breakfast nook.
In the breakfast nook, an Artek Beehive light hangs above a Pieces Flux table.

The concept remained just that until, two years ago, Melissa Shelton, president of Vitra North America, appeared on the scene. The venerated Swiss furniture company, established in 1950, is responsible for developing and producing such iconic designs as Verner Panton’s 1967 Panton chair, as well as licensing official reproductions of other modern classics, by Jean Prouvé, the Eameses, George Nelson, Alexander Girard and others.

The living room has a Jasper Morrison for Vitra Modular sofa around a Dose coffee table.
The living room contains a Dose coffee table, Three Stripe rug and various planters, all by Pieces, as well as a Jasper Morrison for Vitra Modular sofa.

Shelton was searching for a good location to produce a photo shoot of Vitra’s furnishings, and her photographer, Claire Esparros, suggested Kaplan and Corrado’s Brooklyn house. They struck a deal, and, a year after the shoot, the Pieces partners asked Shelton whether Vitra might want to come on board with the vacation home. By then, Corrado and Kaplan were in contract on a house in Kennebunk, Corrado’s hometown (Kaplan is from Eliot, just 30 miles down the Maine coast).

Alvar Aalto’s High Chair K65 provides seating at the kitchen counter.
Natural plywood versions of Alvar Aalto’s High Chair K65 provide seating at the kitchen counter. The Pipeline fixture above is by ANDlight.

Recalls Shelton, “I saw it as an opportunity for brand exposure and a collaboration with designers whose aesthetic worked well with Vitra and Artek.” (In 2013, Vitra bought Artek, another legendary company, established in Helsinki in 1935 by Alvar and Aino Aalto with two other partners.)

“Their work is colorful and has an element of whimsy, but at the same time display a quality of materials,” she continues. “The guests who are drawn to a place like this are like-minded, but they might not be familiar with Vitra and Artek. It was an easy yes.”

Pieces designed the Hybrid side table and Finish Line rug in this bedroom.
Pieces designed the Hybrid side table and Finish Line rug in this shared bedroom. The sheets are by Brooklinen.

The 3,000-square-foot circa 1878 home has four bedrooms, two baths and a fully equipped kitchen. Aside from Vitra and Artek, Kaplan and Corrado partner with 12 other firms, including Eny Lee Parker (lighting), Uprise Art (various works), Brooklinen (bedding) and Nood Co. (concrete sinks). “It was a store when Chris was growing up,” Kaplan says of the house.

In a way, it still is.

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