Getting to Know Kevin O’Shea and David Bowd of The Salt House Inn

The Provincetown proprietors talk good design, local appeal and their latest hospitality project.



What happens when two hospitality-industry heavyweights team up to create a bed and breakfast in the picturesque Cape Cod hamlet of Provincetown?

In the case of The Salt House Inn–a labor of love conceived by Kevin O’Shea, a one-time lead designer for Morgans Hotel Group, and David Bowd, the COO of Andre Balazs Properties–the answer is flawlessly designed, devils-in-the-details magic.

From the start, O’Shea and Bowd, who met while working together under famed hotelier Ian Schrager, meant the Inn to be a culmination of their industry experience. “We’ve both had the pleasure of working with some of the most influential people in the hospitality industry,” says Bowd. “I worked alongside Ian Schrager and most recently Andre Balazs for many years and Kevin helped shape the design department at Morgan’s Hotel Group after Ian’s departure from the company. So we both got to see how truly unique, groundbreaking hotels are run and developed and we apply many of those same principles to what we do.”

In addition to calling upon their career expertise, they also focused on refining points they’d always felt were amiss at traditional bed and breakfasts. “We have both stayed in many B&Bs over the years and always felt as though you were intruding in someone’s home,” says Bowd. “There were always a lot of rules and you felt like you were sneaking into your parent’s home when you came back at night. We got rid of all the rules and treat the inn like a hotel so people feel comfortable and have privacy, but still get that really personalized service that B&Bs do really well.”

So far, it seems like the pair have hit a home run. The Salt House Inn has been featured in The Boston Globe and Boston Magazine, and even garnered a spot on Condé Nast Traveler‘s Hot List for 2014. O’shea and Bowd also recently took over ownership of a second P-town property.

We caught up with the busy duo ahead of their curated sale for Joss & Main, launching Sunday, May 11. Find out what they had to say about the draw of P-town, the status of their new property, and more, below.

2-salt-house-innThe Salt House Inn just opened for its second season. How did the first year go?  Is there anything new planned for 2014? 
Our inaugural year was a huge success, we understood that there was a need for chic, modern accommodations in Provincetown that combined the personalized service of a B&B with the comforts and amenities of a luxury hotel, and people really responded to this. For 2014 we are really excited about our latest venture in Provincetown, The Fairbanks Inn.  We took ownership over the winter and are in the process of redeveloping it to be our second redefining property in the market.

So clearly you love Provincetown! What draws you to the area? What do you love about it?
Provincetown is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its long, illustrious history of drawing artists because of the incredible light rings so true once you have spent some time here, and the natural beauty of the National Seashore combined with the vibrancy of town make it such a special place.  People who have never visited are always surprised at how much there is to do here: fantastic shopping and art galleries, unique and varied dining options, loads of outdoor activities and, if nothing else, just sitting on a bench and watching the diverse parade of people walking down Commercial Street.  

You both come from the world of hospitality. What made you decide to open The Salt House Inn on your own?
We are both incredibly passionate about hospitality and both come from diverse backgrounds in the industry. David has been in operations and Kevin was in design, and food and beverage. We bookend each other nicely in our skill sets and, for us, getting back to the roots of hospitality and being able to shape something on our own was really an exciting prospect. David, for example, had been at the corporate level for the many several years and really missed interacting with guests on a personal level and being able to deliver really tailored service. Kevin had attended culinary school many years back but decided to then focus on design, so this was a fantastic opportunity to blend those experiences into a single concept.

Provincetown is known for its history and its beautiful scenery. Did the landscape inspire the design of the Inn at all?
The interiors of the inn were inspired first by the property’s history—it used to be cottages for salt mine workers back in the mid-1800s. The building had been modernized many times since then, but some very historic details had survived, so the first priority was dialing back the clock a bit and adding more of that historic charm to the interior architecture. Then it was about creating a departure from the typical B&B model of heavy, Victorian-like interiors and instead finding inspiration in the many beach cottages and dune shacks that dot the landscape on the Outer Cape.   

Overall, what was the look you were going for when decorating it?
We wanted to celebrate summer, we wanted the each room to be an oasis of calm and white.  We wanted people to really feel connected to the locale through the interiors, the collections of curiosities over each bed were all sourced from around New England and relate in many ways to the area. 

1-salt-house-innDo you have favorite rooms or details throughout the Inn? What are they?
The sun terrace is a really special place, we have a beautiful old iron bed with outdoor cushions and it is the perfect place to grab a book and soak up some of the Cape Cod sun in the afternoon.  The Loft, which is our largest suite is a space that was never open to guests before the renovation, so this is a new space that is so spectacular, it is a true retreat in town with the claw foot tub at the end of the bed under the soaring timbered ceilings, it’s the perfect special occasion room (lots of honeymoons and anniversaries up there).

The collections of curiosities you mentioned are so fun and unique. Where did you find these collections, and how did you choose what went into each room?
The collections were sourced all over New England. Kevin went on these epic antique runs scouring small towns throughout the area. Most of the objects have some reference to the local area some were simply grabbed for their unique visual appeal. The collections provide some whimsy and uniqueness to each room and are always a great conversation starter.    

Your new property, The Fairbanks Inn, is somewhat of a historic landmark in Provincetown. What sort of design approach are you taking to it?  Will you be preserving the history? Going for something more modern?
The centerpiece of The Fairbanks Inn is a stunning brick 1750s federal-style house.  The house has a long illustrious history and was even a house museum for many years so the architectural details were very much intact.  That house is the inspiration for the interiors, we are doing a modern update on the federal style, showcasing some of the amazing antiquities we found in the building in a very neutral palette.  The rooms are larger at The Fairbanks Inn so we have had the opportunity to make them a bit more lush with upholstered furnishings and some other great details.

What are you most excited about with this new property?
Once we finish the renovations next winter the property will be re-branded and serve as our higher-end product in town, because of all the space we have over three buildings we have the opportunity for some really amazing suites and some really amazing areas in the gardens. We are excited to bring a new level of service and style to a different market segment in town and be able to provide superior accommodations for an even wider range of visitor. Both properties will complement each other and we think appeal to people in different ways which makes running both of them really exciting for us.

You both seem to be very involved with Salt House. How do you plan to handle both places?
We are very involved in the day to day and plan to remain so, we are bringing on some really great team members the season who share our passion for the industry and for hospitality and we are confident our guests will come to build amazing relationships with them as we have been able to do with our guests in the past.  We are standardizing some of our most loved amenities in particular breakfast between the two hotels which means guests at both inns get to benefit from the delicious offerings we create each morning.  We are most excited about all the new people we are going to get meet this summer and hope that everyone reading this has a chance to come visit! sign_off

-Kaitlin Madden