by Veronique Mcaree
Whether it’s unearthing a distressed armoire or scooping up one-of-a-kind watercolors from a local artist, face it, you love the thrill of the find.
Maybe you love the thrill of the hunt less and need a place to begin your home decor quest. On a recent field trip, we confirm that Hurlbutt Designs, Kennebunk’s home goods shop, is a must-add on the shopping itinerary of any home-design lover.
When not designing the interiors of commercial spaces (Kennebunkport’s Hidden Pond Resort and Earth restaurant, Tides Beach Club, and the Kennebunkport Inn, among others) and residential homes, owner and designer Louise Hurlbutt is busy hitting up trade events and sourcing antiques worldwide to bring a collection of uncommon goods to the Maine coast.
The gorgeous 4,000-square-foot shop and design studio Hurlbutt runs with her husband, Ralph, brims with art, ceramics, furniture (including Hickory and Mitchell Gold), and unusual, eye-catching objets d’art. I had my eye on a trio of vintage glass wine jugs, a collection of geometric porcelain tea jars, and textural ceramic birch vases.
Why add to the complexity of a robust interior design operation with a retail store? “It’s simple,” Hurlbutt says. “I really believe interior designers work best when the products can be seen and touched by their clients. The vignettes and room displays tell a compelling visual story and help clients understand the design process and how everything will work together in their home.”
The shop, of course, is also a destination for tourists and summer residents who drop in to scoop up a gift, find a treasure for their cottage, or just garner a dose of color and style inspiration from Hurlbutt.
Hurlbutt’s impeccable style and love of color and design come from some formal training at the New York School of Interior Design as well as more than 20 years of living abroad.
Since her time in Afghanistan as a young Peace Corps volunteer, Hurlbutt has called many places home: New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Philadelphia, and of course, Kennebunk.
In Japan, a job as a copywriter for world-renowned fashion designer Hanae Mori sparked the designer’s passion for fabrics and blue and white porcelain objects.
Also garnered from her experiences abroad: perhaps the longest contact list in Maine.
“I met so many people while living abroad, and have come to rely on these craftspeople who make really beautiful things, from furniture to fabric,” says Hurlbutt. Of course, in the shop customers can find loads of these carefully crafted pieces garnered from sources Hurlbutt discovered while living abroad.
Hurlbutt’s style is classic coastal with a twist. “In Maine, many clients gravitate toward a clean, sophisticated look and feel. They don’t want to compete with the natural beauty of the coast and tend to lean toward a nautical palette of blue and white,” she says. “But I like to punch things up, and bring in other colors to create a unique look and feel.”
One doesn’t have to look far or wide to discover these nautical tones and punched-up pops of color. Blue and white bedding, pillows, and porcelain lamps share space with a variety of nautical-themed antiques, vintage signs, and more.
“I’ve always been captivated by Kennebunk, having spent summers here as a child,” concludes Hurlbutt. “And my shop and business is a way to celebrate the natural beauty of the area.” Hurlbutt also offers customers great tips, information, and inspiration for just about everything, from fabric and travel to exploring the Kennebunk area. Hurlbutt Designs is definitely worth a visit. Make that several.
A style rule you live by?
“I love to create functional homes that fit with the family’s lifestyle and create a mood to enhance their living by adding style, color, and a sense of family and home.”
Your interest in decorating was sparked via your travels to Japan—what did the Japanese teach you about interior design?
“Living in Japan taught me so many things about design. The Japanese live in very small spaces with great simplicity, and you learn that less is more. I also loved learning about their approach to flower arranging, ikebana, and their exquisite tea ceremonies, and I took great courses in blue and white porcelain. But most of all, I loved (and still love) learning about exquisite fabrics and techniques from my mentor and former employer, Hanae Mori.”
“I love to collect wonderful art—and blue and white porcelain.”
What new products are you excited about?
“I’m helping to restore and decorate a historic home on Summer Street in Kennebunk, as well as the next hotel for the Kennebunkport Resort Collection.”
1. Owners Ralph and Louise Hurlbutt take a rare break for this photo op.
2. Slightly off the beaten path but still an easy walk from Kennebunkport, Hurlbutt Designs is a great style destination.
3. Dozens of pillows in a variety of prints and patterns are a key ingredient in the product mix.
4. Hurlbutt Designs makes alfresco easy with their assortment of outdoor furniture and accessories.
5. Accessorize a home or yourself with stripes.
6. Go green with a simple plant and decorative bowl.
7. Eye-pleasing objects from candles to cards are aplenty at Hurlbutt Designs.
8. Let there be light, and let Louise Hurlbutt walk you through the selection of cool lighting options to illuminate your home.
9. A lovely view from above.
10. Hurlbutt and team meticulously plan their interior work, as shown on this concept board.