Jul 12, 2014
06:00 AMStyle & Shopping
New B&B by Connecticut Couple Opens in Provincetown, With French Flair
Editor's Note: As the Tweet below shows, the new B&B Roux Provincetown has opened. This stylish project came together through the vision of principals who moved to the Cape from Connecticut.
"Yesterday, Roux welcomed her first guests," the owners say in a July 12 email. "That we accomplished this massive renovation in four months would be remarkable enough, but it was the sense of community, the pulling together of old and new friends to open her doors that transformed what others would call a project into a cause."
"We are delighted," they add.
Read on and discover the story behind Roux; you'll sure be deligted too.
Why are we so calm? #openingtomorrow— Roux Provincetown (@RouxPtown) July 11, 2014
‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’
There’s no Louis in the “screenplay” about a recently transplanted Connecticut couple creating the newest bed-and-breakfast, and surely one of the most stylish, in storied Provincetown, Mass., but there are beautiful friendships of more than one variety.
Besides, the sense of sophisticated romance at play in the narrative of Roux, its refined and worldly version of hospitality that rises to the standards of bygone eras, and its Francophiles’ inspiration (roux is the marriage of butter and flour at the heart of French classical cooking) evoke a feeling similar to that sparked by the expatriate exoticism underpinning the plot line of “Casablanca,” set in French Morocco.
Consider that one of the six gorgeous guest rooms—all in the process of being renovated, like the entire historic Victorian in P’town’s East End Gallery District—is named Blame it on Mozambique (below) for its rich colors and African coastline décor. (Room illustrations by Carly Larson; www.carlylarsson.com)
The description on Roux’s website gives a sense of the level of style and comfort being conjured by owners Allison Baldwin and Ilene Mitnick:
“The room is adorned in carved wooden masks and features a lavish queen bed, new hardwood and tiled floors, brand new en-suite bathroom with larger tiled shower, individual climate control for heat and A/C, blackout pla ntation shutters, free WI-FI and many other amenities. You can uncork a bottle of fine South African wine, kick back on the most spacious of Roux’s private balconies and enjoy a view of Roux’s terrace and gardens.”
Another room is a playful riff on the name of the famous French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec:
“Too Loose to Trek is Left Bank chic, elegant and romantic. … the room features refinished antique pine floors, 10-1/2 foot ceiling with original Victorian medallion, newly outfitted private en-suite bathroom with tiled shower, lavish Queen bed, individual climate control for heat and A/C, blackout plantation shutters … . We hope you will be entranced by the beauty of this Parisian bijou. The room is situated across from the inn’s kitchen.”
If the setting, the style, and the passion and devotion of the owners aren’t enough of a draw, the room tariffs at Roux—so new it will welcome guests for the first time starting in mid-July—are at such a welcoming level they will close the deal. Blame It on Mozambique starts at $285 a night, for example, when July reservation dates are plugged in, Too Loose to Trek at $271 and a smaller but equally charming room called Salt at just $240.
But (in order to make the point that you’ll be instantly attracted to Roux’s magnetism and may experience Provincetown-style magic of the universe delivering an epiphany while you’re there) those details are getting ahead of the story.
“We are passionate about entertaining and cooking and sharing incredible food experiences with others,” Baldwin and Mitnick say on the Roux website. “To us, life is a party. And, so, we decided to host an ongoing one for you.” (At right, Mitnick, left, and Baldwin on the porch of Roux as work progresses.)
Fine food and wine will be integral to the Roux experience, from the full gourmet breakfasts to “savory small bites and a sip of something special” for the daily teatime transitional period (“the perfect way to kick off a memorable night in Provincetown”), and, of course, there will be good coffee at the ready 24/7. Eventually, there may be off-season chef-led events at Roux.
But, again, that’s getting ahead of the narrative.
The thing that makes clear how stylishly special Roux will be—even amid the succession of Twitter and Facebook posts and pictures about a B&B very much still under construction—is the underlying philosophy of Baldwin and Mitnick about the “art of staying,” which is Roux’s tagline.
It’s the difference between “tourists” who bump into places and experiences and bounce off without ever engaging in a meaningful embrace and “travelers” who soak in the fullness of a destination at an elemental level, alchemizing attractions and experiences into the equivalent of air, water and wine—and being forever marked and changed by each artistic voyage and stay.
You can hear that in everything Baldwin and Mitnick say in a chat in which they describe themselves, their backgrounds and their journey to opening Roux.
“We’re providing a blank canvas for people to create their own experience,” they say on a blustery spring day when Roux is still part dream, part reality. This will be a blank canvas, though, that comes with lots of inspiration—and one built on a savory base, the roux in Roux.
“Metaphorically everything starts with the base,” or the roux, in French cooking, Baldwin and Mitnick say. (They didn’t always speak in unison on the phone, of course, but a unified voice, like the song of the sea off Provincetown, feels right.) Foundational metaphors come in lots of varieties, but it was always obvious that the cultural association for this couple's B&B would be a French one.
“We love French wine and we love great food and we love a party,” says Baldwin, a professed Francophile. In one magical moment in France, they discovered the noble Châteauneuf-du-Pape of Mont-Redon, a robust and sublime red wine whose heritage dates to Roman times on land once owned by the Roman Catholic pope. “We had our Mont-Redon wine at Mont-Redon,” Baldwin recalls, saying they first encountered the legendary wine at a café before seeking out the estate that welcomes guests. (Call it the Roux rubric; perfecting “the art of staying.”)
“We’ve known for a very long time that we’ve wanted to open a B&B,” says Baldwin. Both she and Mitnick had been in the corporate world. That experience, combined with expertise in hospitality, retail and marketing, and an innate desire to bring the best of life “close to the customer, the guest,” created the perfect foundation for them.
They just didn’t know where the B&B should, or would, be, and decided to “let the universe kind of deliver.”
“On a visit to Provincetown a couple of summers ago, we said, ‘Why haven’t we considered Provincetown?’” Rich in the arts, culture, blessed with a windswept beauty (à la a Mistral with Proustian powers), and defined by a sophistication that extends to dining, it was the perfect backdrop for their dreams.
It was a moment of illumination that began a search in February 2013 for the right property.
“Roux found us,” they say. “We just fell in love.”
And it was meant to be. Baldwin notes that her family heritage extends back to the folks who came over on the Mayflower, whose passengers prominently included John Howland and William Bradford, who would become governor of Plymouth Colony. The house that’s being remade as Roux is on the corner of Howland and Bradford streets.
Mitnick first saw the house on Feb. 21, 2013, and they moved into the beautiful old Victorian on Feb. 22 of this year (which meant selling a house in East Haddam, Conn., and a family house in Newtown).
“We had a year to really design and imagine,” they say, and, employing their background in marketing, they carefully and passionately worked on the plans, the room designs (hiring an artist to produce the gorgeous renderings of the guestrooms) and designing the guest experience.
“That has been the most exciting and most thoughtful part of the process,” Mitnick says, describing how they envisioned the need for a romantic room, and a room that would provide solace, a sanctuary, for those with hearts on the mend.
There are six guest rooms in all, including a two-bedroom suite with a kitchenette. Mitnick and Baldwin wanted the rooms to be fun, with names that touch on art, all things French and cooking, “and they needed to be a little campy.”
The sexy, whimsical pink room (above) is called Not Your Mama’s Rouge, and the suite (below) is called Paris Trance:
"If you’re up for a Parisian Flea Market - but can’t make the flight, Paris Trance is for you. This boho-chic, two-bedroom suite with private bath and newly renovated furnished kitchenette is ideal for friends, couples or families traveling together. With a spacious main bedroom and Edith Pilaf - its second, cozier boudoir - you’ll feel invited to stay for a few days, a full week or for as long as you possibly can."
“Allison and I are so happy to be here,” Mitnick says. “We are walking on air. Nothing’s bothering us, the dust, the plaster in my hair.” She described them walking home at night from dinner, stopping to look at the water and saying in a state of semi-awe, “We live here.”
Later, in May, when Roux’s website was live, reservations for stays starting in July were being accepted and work on Roux proceeded, Mitnick and Baldwin remained unflappable. Told in an email that this story was in the works and would be online around mid-May, they wrote:
“We are deep in the throes of renovation currently. We're like two powdered donuts covered in plaster - and you may quote us on that :). We will be opening for July. We are accepting reservations NOW. The timing is PERFECT! “
If the art of renovating can be so pleine de grâce, it bodes well indeed for the art of staying at Roux.
“Roux may be one of the newest additions to the Provincetown B&B landscape, but she has a history,” the website says. “Rich. Welcoming. Playful. A little chic. A lot of fun. She's a French girl about to hold a very wonderful party.”
“We want to share it with the friends we know and the friends we have yet to meet,” Mitnick says.
And Baldwin wants people to know that if they have a dream like Roux, they should take a leap of faith and follow their passion because “the universe delivers.” (Right, Roux under construction but already gleaming.)
“We are truly grateful to have such a beautiful home to share with others and, so, we are incredibly proud to share that Roux will donate a percentage of its profits to the Forty to None Project—a program of the True Colors Fund (Cyndi Lauper's organization)—that seeks to raise awareness and bring about an end to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth experiencing homelessness,” Mitnick and Baldwin say. “Forty percent of homeless youth are gay and no one should go without a home.”
New B&B by Connecticut Couple Opens in Provincetown, With French Flair