If you live with flannel sheets, hunting and fishing gear, canvas tote bags, rustic furniture and those sturdy leather-on-top, rubber-below boots, then you must be in Maine. Or you get a lot of your stuff at L.L. Bean, the venerable purveyor of clothing and outdoor equipment founded by Leon Leonwood Bean in 1912. With annual net sales of $1.6 billion, the company is privately held by his descendants and still located in Freeport, Maine.
The historic coastal town has grown into a busy center for outlet shopping, thanks in part to the appeal of the L.L. Bean flagship store, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A perennial crowd pleaser is L.L. Bean’s Home Store, full of classic, comfortable furniture, plaid dog beds and fireplace accoutrements.
Those furnishings can be tried out a block away, at the L.L. Bean Guest House at the Harraseeket Inn.
“I bought the little house next to the inn and renovated it,” says Chip Gray, owner of the venerable 94-room luxury hotel that anchors the north end of Freeport’s Main Street.
A one and one-half story frame house built in 1850, it was “Frozen in 1980,” Gray says. “We removed the knob and tube wiring and the shag carpeting, took a little bit of the garage to install a downstairs bathroom, and put in heat pumps for air conditioning.” He refinished the hardwood floors hidden under the shag carpeting, upgraded the upstairs bathroom and painted the walls. However, he left charming original elements like the push-button light switches with their mother-of-pearl faces. Then he turned to his business neighbor down the street with an idea.
“He came to us and suggested that we furnish the house with our products. He offers it to guests for nightly stays as part of the inn while we get to show off our products,” says Jennifer Benevides, Corporate Merchant Manager at L.L. Bean’s Home Division. “It’s a way for us to bring the brand to life.”
The result is a three-bedroom, two-bath home that sleeps nine. A night at the guest house brings all the amenities of the Harraseeket Inn, including housekeeping, a full buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and use of the pool and fitness facilities.
The guest house’s living room has a wood-burning fireplace; there is dry firewood and kindling in an L.L. Bean log cradle, accompanied by the company’s fireplace tools and gloves. Above the mantel is a print on canvas of their iconic Maine Hunting Shoe. The comfortable sofa, live-edge coffee table, leather chair and matching ottoman, compass rose metal wall art, the pale blue rectangular braided rug – all are available at L.L. Home just down the street.
“This is not a showroom, this is an experience,” says Benevides. “We looked at this as a house visited by lots of different kinds of people, so it has to be supremely functional. For example, we did not place any furniture where people roll in suitcases.”
Gray says that the Guest House is proving a great success with families, couples, girlfriend weekends and wedding parties. On Friday and Saturday nights the rate is $800 per night; Monday through Thursday costs $600. The rates are for up to six people; additional guests are an additional $25 per night. Pets are not accommodated.
“The L.L. Bean décor is a big thing,” Gray smiles. “People walk out the door and head straight for the store.”