The Discreet Charm of the Maine Woods
INN PLACE – SEPTEMBER 2008
By Candace Karu
Photography François Gagné
Making a magic connection at Hidden Pond
Hidden Pond, New England’s newest and arguably most innovative luxury resort, opened in July with dramatic style to great acclaim. Located near Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport on more than sixty acres of pristine Maine woodlands lush with balsam and sweet ferns, birch groves and exposed granite outcroppings, Hidden Pond is an inviting study in contradictions. The destination offers guests an experience that is at once rustic and luxurious, simple yet refined, a vacation outfitted with every modern convenience in a setting that serves as a nostalgic reminder of times gone by.
Developers Tim Harrington and Juan Urtubey fell in love with the land when they first saw it in 2006. The pair knew they wanted to create a tranquil retreat in Harrington’s beloved Maine woods, where they could share their own delight in the state’s abundant natural gifts with vacationers from around the world. Shortly after purchasing the property, Harrington and Urtubey traveled to the Spanish resort town of Ibiza and stayed at one of the area’s most popular hotels. “It is located in the middle of a huge orange grove, and guests stay in casitas, or cottages,” Harrington remembers. “It was simply a magical place. I wanted to bring that feeling back to Maine.” And so, on a small island off the coast of Spain, the concept for Hidden Pond was conceived.
Harrington’s goal in creating Hidden Pond was to distill the essence of Maine’s unique appeal and foster a sense of community, as well as forge an enduring bond with the land and the water. Housing guests in cottages—each complete with a screened porch, full kitchen, and gathering room—helps to capture the feeling of home away from home. As Harrington and Urtubey’s vision began to coalesce, they began to put together a team that would help them take Hidden Pond from concept to reality. Their first call was to their friend and colleague Ted Carter of Carter Design Group in Buxton. The three have worked together on projects for more than fifteen years, most recently at the Cabot Cove Cottages in Kennebunkport, where Carter was the garden and landscape designer. Hidden Pond proved to be a project that spoke not only to Carter’s design sensibilities, but also to his deep spiritual connection to the natural world.
“I wanted to create a space that was not about escape, but about connection,” explains Carter. “Connection to the spirit of the land and forest, as well as a connection to family and friends.” Carter treated the land as a living entity and came up with a landscape design that was consistent with the existing growth. His colleague Gina Marianacci worked with Carter throughout the process. “Ted creates the canvas with his ideas and design,” says Marianacci. “Then I can come in with the details that complete it.”
Respecting the natural beauty of the land was a priority for everyone involved in the project. Many developers, in an attempt to save time and resources, will simply clear-cut trees and undergrowth during construction, and then replant around the new structures. At Hidden Pond, all the buildings—the cottages, outbuildings, and lodge—were nestled into the natural contours of the land in ways that left the established growth undisturbed. Carter and Marianacci also worked to make the environment as interactive as possible. Along with Harrington and Urtubey, they designed a two-acre farm at the entrance to Hidden Pond. Guests can “shop” among the garden rows, which are dense with vegetables and flowers in the summer. A small farm stand operates on the honor system; shoppers pay for their purchases by leaving money in a jar on the counter. There are hundreds of blueberry bushes on the property, and the fat berries are ready for picking from mid-July to the end of September.
Christy Reid and Pete Giles, the husband-and-wife team that manages the resort with help from their dog, Scupper, direct the activities at Hidden Pond from their office in the lodge. On this day, there is a small Russian flag flying outside the front door, to honor a family from Russia visiting Maine for a wedding. Reid is checking the contents of a breakfast basket before it is sent to a cottage, the smell of warm muffins and coffee trailing in her wake. Giles has gathered kits for making s’mores around the lodge’s fire pit, an evening ritual loved by children and adults.
“This is the ideal scenario to get to know the people who stay here,” says Reid. “Because the cottages are like homes, guests can stay longer. We all start to feel like part of a community.” Hidden Pond is emphatically and intentionally seasonal—the resort is open from May through October—encompassing Maine’s fleeting spring, its glorious summer, and the state at its autumnal best. “Maine has become a year-round destination, but when I was growing up, the season had a beginning and an end,” explains Reid. “It’s like that here, and I think it makes the experience even more special.”
Harrington and Urtubey wanted each of the fourteen cottages at Hidden Pond to have a unique sensibility, so they invited their favorite local designers to interpret the Maine cottage style. The result is a range of decor choices from classic to contemporary, each cottage reflecting the Hidden Pond philosophy and the designer’s personal aesthetic. The lodge, which is the first stop when checking into Hidden Pond, also serves as a communal gathering place, and guests are often found in front of the massive stone fireplace or on the sweeping porches and poolside decks. “I wanted the lodge to have a cooler, hipper feeling, but still be rooted in Maine traditions,” says Urtubey.
Certain details are consistent throughout the property—every cottage has two bedrooms en suite, a screened porch, a fully equipped kitchen, and a working fireplace surrounded by granite stonework. The linens are Frette and the flowers are fresh. There are even Hidden Pond candles that capture the scent of the surrounding woods: sweet fern and earth with a top-note of balsam.
If the philosophy of Hidden Pond revolves around connection—to nature, family, and the magic of Maine summers. While planning for the grand opening, Harrington and Urtubey decided to create an extended Designer Showcase. The event would benefit three of their favorite local charities and would allow visitors to explore the resort before guests began arriving. During the event, the fourteen cottages were open for tours to showcase the work of the participating designers. Proceeds from ticket sales were divided among the Child Abuse Prevention Council, River Tree Center for the Arts, and the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.
On the night before the Showcase began, the developers staged a Preview Gala, inviting everyone who worked on the project, from designers to subcontractors, as well as representatives from the three beneficiary charities and friends from near and far. The party gave Harrington and Urtubey a chance to thank all the people who helped make their dream a reality. Guests strolled around the property and gardens and through the cottages. The winding lanes were dotted with serving tables constructed of birch logs and laden with hors d’oeuvres. Waitstaff served champagne-infused lemonade, and partygoers danced under the stars, a few finding their way into the pool before evening’s end.
In July, after the Gala and the Designer Showcase, Hidden Pond opened for business. The first group of guests arrived to celebrate a very special occasion—the joyous union of Tim Harrington and Juan Urtubey. For many years, they had been partners in business, but on this clear summer afternoon, in the fern-scented shade of balsam and birch, surrounded by friends and relatives from around the world, they were joined as partners in life.
See Resources for more information.