12 Ways of Looking at a Tent
Last summer, 12 interior designers and artists created a series of glamping (a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping”) tents at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport. The designs ran the gamut from nautical to woodsy, globally eclectic to hyper-local, and each one functioned as a miniature showcase of the designer’s talents and aesthetic. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go glamping!
From the moment you enter Deborah Chatfield’s preppy sailing- themed tent, your eyes go straight to the bright and boldly painted headboard. The sturdy natural wood bed frame is topped with a striking painting by artist Semper Lockwood. Lockwood’s piece was inspired by a 1653 nautical chart that Chatfield found that “has great coloration.” She says the map “set the tone for the rest of the tent design.” “We kept everything nautical in nature, but with some organic elements as well.” Chatfield brought in a chandelier made from New England–grown oyster shells to inject some texture into the room, which contrast neatly with the sleek brass boat cleats she installed on the punchy green dresser. She worked with Alfred’s Upholstery to create pillows for her rattan armchairs and sourced one-of-a-kind vintage pieces from Rockport Antiques and Design in Rockport and Suburban Home Outfitters in Scarborough to give the space a homier feel. The result is like walking onto a well-appointed sailboat—Nautical Nights feels like a cozy place to retreat following a day of adventuring in the Kennebunks.
Bronwyn McCarthy Huffard drew the inspiration for her tent from the “Yankee sensibilities of most Mainers.” Every element inside the space, from the black iron bed from Four Hands to the round metal coffee table, was chosen with an eye toward durability and practicality. “Nothing is too fussy or fancy, but it’s all great quality,” Huffard says. “I was after a casual, fresh, welcoming style, and so I used navy blue, white, and some pops of red and yellow.” These hues harken back to Huffard’s time spent sailing up and down the Maine coast, but rather than present a straightforward nautical-themed tent, Huffard decided to mix in some global elements. She picked out ikat throw pillows, wicker chairs, and an indoor/ outdoor rug in blue and white from Williams Sonoma. Toward the end of her design process, Huffard noticed that she had an empty space to fill above the bed. “I couldn’t find just the right thing, so I tried my hand at painting,” she reveals. The funky red and white print was just the ticket, and she adds that making it gave her a “new appreciation for how hard artists work at their craft!”
“I chose a theme that would reflect my own philosophy of incorporating design elements that have the least possible amount of negative impact on our environment,” explains Jan Robinson. Her tent pays tribute to Maine’s natural bounty; she chose a headboard made from a live-edge pine slab as a nod to the Pine Tree State’s forestland and an area rug printed to look like river stones. “The color scheme was chosen to reflect the colors of the Maine woods,” she says. “I used moss green, beige, brown, and a few pops of pink.” Above the bed, Robinson hung a piece of art she created using live moss (cut into the shape of the Maine state boundaries) set behind an old window frame. When Robinson herself needs to unplug and relax, she heads for the woods. “The forest centers me,” she says. “My ultimate goal for the tent was to design a place where someone could come, stay, and feel at peace.” Visitors to the Modern Earth tent told Robinson it feels “very zen,” which is “exactly what I was going for,” she says. “It felt wonderful to hear that.”
Lisa Teague, owner of Quiet Home Paints, wanted her tent to feel serene and reflective of the Maine coast without seeming overly “beachy.” “I chose to work with a classic palette of blues and white, and I brought in rustic boards salvaged from a New England barn for behind the bed,” she says. “I chose a chandelier made of rope from Shades of Light to give a nod to the fishing industry, and other small accessories had a coastal vibe.” Teague played up the airy nature of the tents through an original piece of artwork she painted specifically for the tent that depicts a slice of brilliant blue summer sky and white fluffy clouds. She worked with craftsman Matt Bataran from Berwick to create the oversized headboard, which divides the room into two and shields the dresser and storage from view, effectively creating a small dressing area behind the bed. She brought in blue textiles and a porch table and chairs from Vagabond Vintage to round out the rustic-yet-light design. “The barn board set the tone for the room while the painting set the palette,” she explains.
Louise Hurlbutt drew from the aesthetics of two very different locales for her tent. “I went to camp in Maine as a child, and then later in life I went on safari in South Africa,” she says. “I wanted my tent to have the feel of sophisticated camping,” complete with some of the same luxuries you might find in a British safari camp. She worked with local craftsman Ben Welch to create the one-of-a-kind birch-bark clothes rack and sourced antler lamps from Barbara Cosgrove Lamps. She layered a soft cowhide rug tracked down from Santa Fe on top of a 100-year-old oriental rug to create a plush, romantic atmosphere from the ground up. Hurlbutt chose a distinctive color palette of black, gold, and seafoam green. Once she nailed down her colors, she found a black metal bed with linen upholstery, to which she added black and gray striped bedding. “That bed so reminded me of my days at camp,” she enthused. “Each piece I found added more excitement to the room. I could imagine myself staying in Wanderlust for a week.” She adds, “My age group wants to be in nature with all the conveniences.” Cushy yet adventure themed, Wanderlust hits all the right notes.
Annie Stickney fondly remembers summers spent in Kennebunkport at her grandmother’s house. It was a large old New England home, with woven sea grass rugs, splatter-painted floors, and a “puzzle room.” “We would have a puzzle going all summer long,” Stickney remembers. “My tent is an homage to my grandmother.” In order to stay within budget, she sourced almost all her items from online shops, including Garnet Hill and Vaxcel Harwich, where she purchased the pendant lighting. She bought metal chairs from Flash Furniture, which she and her husband customized with layers of joyfully applied splatter paint. She used Safavieh rugs to create texture on the floors and dimmable pendant lamps to set the mood. Stickney chose colors that “took me back to my childhood,” she says. “I wanted soft blues, cream, and pops of orange.” She wanted guests to feel immediately at home and beset with the childlike desire to “run straight to the beach.”
Under the Indigo Sky
Ingunn Milla Joergensen describes her neutral-toned tent as a “boho luxury nest,” perfect for lounging and soaking in the salty ocean air. She used natural materials throughout the tent, including wood, cotton, linen, and wool, with the intention that these items would become “softer and more beautiful with time and wear.” Her husband made a set of traditional Adirondack chairs that she stained “the same color as the sand on the beach.” Joergensen also brought in huge whitewashed logs that she found on Kennebunk Beach to serve as side tables. “It took me two hours to haul them across to where a friend could put them in his truck,” she remembers. While Joergensen used primarily stormy grays and unbleached cottony beige, she did bring in bits of indigo here and there to add depth and dimension. She purchased heavy cotton throws from Maine Woolens in Brunswick, in case the nights in the tent ever felt chilly. But overall, Joergensen kept her space sparse and clean. “I didn’t want my tent to have too much stuff—I need to breath and move in a space, and I like to think others want the same thing,” she says.
Nicola Manganello of Nicola’s Home believes that “ambient, dramatic lighting is the pinnacle of good design,” which is why, when she was designing her decadent and bold tent, she started with standout chandeliers made from seashells. “I wanted visitors to feel as though they were in another world,” she says. “As if they had traveled from far away and opened a chest of precious things.” Her tent feels like a bohemian fantasyland, with beaded valances on the screen windows, rattan chairs, a mosquito net–draped canopy bed, and quirky chic items piled on every surface (many of the items were sourced from Antiques on Nine). She even incorporated some personal items, including a pair of taxidermy animal heads. “They were left to me by a dear friend who passed away,” Manganello explains. While some visitors were a little wary of the animal items, Manganello says she likes how wild the space feels. “One woman told me, ‘I want to spend a rainy day here with a good book, lying in bed.’ That, I understood.”
Krista Stokes describes her tent as “Out of Africa meets Walden Pond and then goes to a Guns N’ Roses concert,” and as quirky as this explanation sounds, it fits. With a focus on functionality, Stokes created a comfortable yet slightly wild space with sheepskin throws on the bed, a vintage gaming table, outdoor poufs for lounging, and a hightop dining and bar area for guests to “unload provisions, prepare snacks and cocktails, and play games.” Stokes says she was inspired by her father’s career; as a child of an Army Ranger, Stokes spent much of her childhood traveling and camping. The space is “rugged, versatile, sturdy, practical, with the heart of an adventurer.” She also worked with Jess Jenkins and her team at Daytrip Society and Daytrip Jr. to create a tagalong teepee for children, with two cozy little beds, two cushy log-printed nightstands, and a black shiny chest for treasures.
Sunny and bright, Nicki Bongiorno’s tent is a celebration of blossoms. “Wildflower Retreat’s graphic palette of black and white, accented with pops of colorful floral, is inspired by the current lines at the fashion houses of Prada and Yves Saint-Laurent, and is intended as a nod to my mother,” Bongiorno says. She chose furniture based on its durability, function, and style, mixing in metal details (like the wire and wood coffee table and the seafoam green double-rocking metal lounge chair) alongside wicker and rattan. “The ebony-limed oak bed that I designed is one of my favorite features,” she says. “I love the way the liming process brought out the grain in the wood and how it stands out against the ebony stain.” She also notes how this piece created a separate changing and storage area for guests. Alongside the vanity, “these comforts of home are unexpected in a tent,” she says. Bongiorno also used succulents purchased at nearby Snug Harbor Farm and perennials from Estabrook’s to add a living element to her playful and artistic space.
Plein air is an outdoor painting style popularized in the nineteenth century, and James Light’s tent salutes and celebrates landscape artists. On one side of the tent, he created a small dining space that is lit by a black iron drafting lamp and could easily be transformed into a workstation for watercolors. Light mixed industrial-style furniture and midcentury modern pieces throughout the open and airy room to create a trendy yet timeless space. He also included a selection of art supplies for visitors to try their hand at painting, plus Scrabble and cribbage for less artistically inclined guests. “I’m hoping that my tent will draw out the artist in all of us,” he said.
Beverly Bangs, owner of Antiques on Nine in Kennebunk, brought an eclectic retro sensibility to her Hemingway-inspired tent. Named Nomad, this space calls to mind the “bohemian Parisian lifestyle and the arts and design of Morocco,” explains Bangs. “I wanted it to be funky, but not too funky. I wanted it to be the kind of place where you might find really valuable pieces mixed in among some cool found objects.” She sourced old vintage portraits, which she framed and placed on the table, and threw a World War II–era leather bomber jacket over one of the chairs. “I sourced that from my colleague’s grandfather,” she revealed. “I wanted the tent to feel as though there is a person who could have lived here, and that person had traveled all around the world and lived a full, rich life.” Aside from the small, personal touches, Bangs also added a few large showstopper items, like the bed, which has “extra-tall bedposts to match the high ceiling,” and the chandelier. “It took the form of a classic chandelier, but made with unfinished wooden beads in place of the crystals,” she says. “With the black iron and the wood, it’s been knocked down a notch, and that works perfectly inside a canvas tent.”