I’ve written about d’Une île before, but this place continues to get better and better. Occupying the former stables of the medieval settlement in the French countryside, their buzzing workshop is a constant source of built-by-hand creations — a new bench with a spindle back, a rough-hewn wooden tree swing built by hand, a sunken bed built into the multi-level floor, a ladder made with found branches, all of it their own design. Owners Michel and Sofie sent over some recent images of their work at the inn, and as a part-time innkeeper (who understands how busy they are running an actual business, not to mention all the cooking, serving, luggage schlepping), I’m in awe of their dedication to expanding their offerings (they just added four new rooms) while sticking tight to their ideals by treating the physical space as a form of self-expression. The last time we talked, Michel described it as a “creative environment where we’re constantly playing with the things we love.” It strikes me as such a symbiotic relationship — this beautiful place provides them so much inspiration, which they keep pouring back into the space, which makes more and more guests happy, which makes their world an even more beautiful place. Will it ever stop? Let’s hope not.
It has been two years since we last went to one of our very favorite spots in Mexico, Casa Ninamu in Sayulita (above). While the house itself has remained exactly the same — an open-air paradise tucked into the jungle overlooking the beach — the years have brought some noticeable changes to the town: more traffic, more travelers, more new restaurants and shops, higher prices. It’s still a long way from being overrun (I mean, caballeros still tie their horses to a tree in the jungle for an afternoon), but that distinct feeling of being in on a secret is definitely starting to fade.
The biggest downside of Sayulita being so busy these days is it that it’s increasingly more difficult to book Casa Ninamu. Luckily, owners Johann Ackerman and Anne Menke seem to anticipate what you need before you need it. Not only have they added a couple rooms at their main outpost, TeiTiare Estates, but they also started booking reservations at a new penthouse in Punta Mita, about 20 minutes north. Part of a gated community, which might normally be a red flag for us, the perks are such a boon for families traveling with children. Guests get access to two beautiful beach clubs, including the St. Regis, where we swam in the giant infinity saltwater pool, ate lunch on the beach, took out kayaks, drank margaritas at sunset and played in the far more gentle waves of the Pacific. Our kids loved it, and anytime we didn’t feel like being around hotel guests, we could just jump in our golf cart and cruise back to our supremely private penthouse off-site. It’s the perfect resort experience for people who don’t like resorts (or think they don’t, like me).
Outfitted with bright whites, handmade Mexican textiles, floor pillows and natural, rustic materials, the clean-lined penthouse has a casual, beach vibe. On the giant driftwood coffee table sits fashion photographer Anne Menke’s limited-edition book, See the World Beautiful. A colossal ode to her talent, the gorgeous pages feature the personal work Anne pursued while traveling the world for fashion shoots. She captures the beauty of everyday moments in remote places, going “a little farther up the mountain, a little farther down that bumpy dirt road.” A few of the photographs in the book also hang on the walls, which lends the space a sense of casual exhibition, more intimate than a gallery. In the smallest measures, like turning down a hallway or waking up in the morning, you feel the sweeping, far-flung greatness of her work around you.
At least once a day, we headed into the truly tiny fishing village — lunch, dinner, surf lessons, fresh mahimahi from the fishmonger — and developed a fondness for its beachside restaurants, friendliness and easygoing vibe. Our son’s surfing instructor, Alex, who runs a biking/surfing/touring business with his family (my boys thought his sweet teenaged sons were so cool), explained that Punta de Mita, which is has fixed borders on each side, can’t get bigger, no matter how many travelers fall in love with its simple, laid-back charms. Book it by emailing Johann at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Teitiare.com.
After reading this travel piece by Charlie Lovett in The New York Times back in December, I realized, somewhat reluctantly, that I might be one of these people. Not about Jane Austen though. While I have no desire to traipse through Hamilton, follow stagecoach routes from London, or elbow my way through Chawton Cottage with busloads of self-described “Janeites,” I would blissfully brave a crush of the most ardent Bloomsbury groupies to visit Virginia Woolf’s homes and haunts. The magnitude of the Virginia Woolf mania is only slightly less immense than that of Jane Austen, yet it feels somehow more dignified, perhaps because of the intimacy of the places and spaces. Most compellingly, Monk’s House with its casually bohemian interiors, original writing shed, Leonard’s conservatory, the fanatically tended garden, fruit orchard, and South Downs trails. In her diary, Virginia wrote about Monk’s House: “I had so much of the most profound interest to write here – a dialogue of the soul with the soul – and I have let it slip – why? Because of feeding the goldfish, of looking at the new pond, of playing bowls… happiness.” I only recently discovered that you can stay overnight in the garden studio at Monk’s House, GASP. The absolute ultimate literary bolthole. And you can visit Charleston Farmhouse and Sissinghurst Castle while you’re there.
A few other literature-related travel destinations worth exploring:
You can book a stay in Keats’ apartment in Rome at the foot of the Spanish steps.
Or stay at this rustic organic goji berry farm in New Mexico, where both DH Lawrence and Aldous Huxley once lived and wrote.
This stone farmhouse in the rural village of Lacam de Loubressac overlooking the Dordogne River Valley is owned by a well-known poet who wishes to remain anonymous, and in case this legitimizes the lit cred, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath have stayed here. It looks beautiful.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I haven’t abandoned designtripper. I’ve been incredibly busy doing other things, not entirely unrelated. For starters, Gold Cash Gold, which is on the same block as Honor & Folly, is a project many years and many people in the making, and it finally opened its doors last month. About six years ago, back when the only businesses on the block were Slows and LJs (our beloved neighborhood dive bar), the giant pawn shop on the corner went up for sale. The three-story, 9,000-square-foot behemoth was listed for $150,000 — a fraction of what you’d pay for a windowless, one-room studio in most major cities. Yet It sat there, empty and foreboding, an oversized example of how there wasn’t exactly a crush of folks clamoring to open businesses in Detroit. Let’s say the real estate market was lagging; I believe this was right around the time of the rise of the $100 house sensation. It was before this piece about the block came out in Food & Wine (at the bottom of the page, you can see how photographer Marcus Nilsson captured the building three years ago), before Honor & Folly was even a seed of an idea. Rumors began circulating that someone wanted to buy it and open another pawn shop. We already had issues with stolen cars, stolen tools, stolen everything, and the last thing anyone wanted was another incentive for stealing. So a handful of friends, my husband and I included, decided to pitch in what we could to secure the building until we could afford to contribute to the neighborhood in a meaningful way. Fast forward four years.
I’m not going to rattle on too much about the food (other than to tell you to order the pickle-brined fried chicken with dipping gravy and the buttermilk pie), because I wouldn’t do it justice. Our chef and partner, Josh Stockton, who spent time learning his trade all over the world, including a head butchery stint at Blackberry Farms, is a talented and humble genius who focuses on whole beast cooking, pickling and preserving, and making the kind of simple, delicious food inspired by the countryside “whether that countryside is in France or Tennessee.”
But the actual physical space, that’s my language. I helped out with the design (in limited, chirpy ways), while fellow co-owner Phil Cooley and Kaija Woullet of Lavvu Studios did the real work. A natural palette of whitewashed brick and wood, the interior gets its color from stained glass windows and colorful jars of pickled vegetables, both refracting light throughout the dining room by day, glowing by night. There are so many stories layered into the design, beyond the most obvious of repainting the original words from the building’s former life as a pawn shop–rifles, diamonds, art, coins–which is where we pulled the name, Gold Cash Gold. There’s also an old gymnasium floor with a giant eagle rescued from an abandoned elementary school; a wall of canned and pickled vegetables, many grown at our neighborhood urban farm, ACRE; and my favorite, the stained glass installations inspired by all the colorful, mismatched windows of the city. Phil is a big believer in recycling and reusing, and he did an amazing job sourcing salvaged wood (the tables, the benches, the shelves, the ceiling) and pushing to incorporate the old metal panels covered with hand-painted pawn shop signage, now serving as bathroom doors. Looking forward to spring, when the outdoor patio and take-away window will open — and maybe even another Honor & Folly upstairs.
[All photos by Emily Berger]
I recently got my hands on the renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s new cookbook, Mallmann on Fire, which is all about… cooking over fire. Wherever you happen to be in the world, with whatever materials you might have handy. This guy’s open-flame chops, while a bit daunting, will make you feel like you can make anything anywhere. Who needs a fancy grill when there are dirt, rocks, branches nearby? In one particularly brazen-looking method, he hangs a half dozen legs of lamb by butcher’s twine from a high-hanging branch of a big tree. Mallmann offers simple-enough recipes for every type of landscape you can think of, from a balcony in Brooklyn to the remote Patagonia mountains. His cooking-by-fire bible would certainly have come in handy when we stayed at Villa Pizzorusso — a masseria in Puglia with a 500-year-old stone oven. We spent five hours getting the temperature just right, only to discover at 10pm that we didn’t have flour and every last local market was long-closed. The whole affair– involving an embarrassing last-ditch attempt with packaged muffin mix — ended very badly.
We’re already planning our outdoor cooking oven at the farmhouse. In the meantime, a few other places to put Mallmann’s techniques to good use:
>>I’ve stayed here a handful of times and can attest: the outdoor oven works as good as it looks. // Casa Ninamu (above)
>>At this sweet country b&b in British Columbia, the handmade outdoor oven is inspiration for the one going in at the farmhouse.
>>Love the fire pit next to the outdoor dining table at this farmhouse, but there’s also a fantastic outdoor kitchen with a grill closer to the house.
>>And if you’re not ready to experiment, you can feast on Mallmann’s specialities at the source, where meat and vegetables are cooked according to an old Andean technique called infiernillo, which translates to little hell.
Bringing Honor & Folly to Northern Michigan — a place that has become a hugely important, soul-enriching part of our lives since moving to Detroit (see here, here, and here) — has been a torturously long and drawn-out process spanning several years and involving an unhealthy relationship with Realtor.com. We were entangled with an old farmhouse near Lake Michigan for more than a year, but in the end, it didn’t work out for various reasons, none of which I still fully understand (people are crazy when it comes to real estate). A few weeks ago I drove by, and the massive stone barn, where I envisioned a roster of dyeing, weaving, knitting and cooking workshops, is starting to fall down. We’ve walked through countless botched rehabs, re-imagined crumbling old Victorians with no wiring and moldy walls, and found disappointment in airless, overpriced lakeside cottages that smell like cat pee. On more than several occasions we didn’t even get out of the car after pulling up to a house (overlooking a subdivision/situated next to a junkyard/fill in the blank) that looked positively charming on the internet.
But — cliche alert — it was worth the wait to get it just right. Honor & Folly’s new Leelanau Peninsula outpost is a 1900s farmhouse situated on 20 acres with two barns and a trim little guest house, clad in metal and lined with cedar. I am still bowled over by how lucky we are. I drove 10 hours in one day last summer — there and back with the baby in the backseat — the day after it came on the market, and as soon as I pulled up the long driveway, flanked by a cherry orchard, my heart was beating out of my chest. Aside from one cycle of short-term renters, the farmhouse hasn’t been lived in for 20 years, which means: No tacky 90s rehab! It still needs quite a bit of work, but the bones are rock solid and the important details are refreshingly simple and Shaker-like. And you already know how I feel about the Shakers.
Outside, there are apple and cherry trees, wild carrots and asparagus, and a tangle of untamed landscaping that’s been shaped by two decades of natural elements. Inside, any progress so far, including pulling up carpeting to reveal painted wooden floorboards, feels like an unnoticeable swell in a vast ocean of to-do list line items. I’ll dedicate the fall and winter to getting the place ready for reservations for the spring and summer. In the meantime, I promise to keep you updated on all the workshops we’re dreaming up, artist/handicraft residency programs in the making, collaboration opportunities and general farmhouse progress. Currently accepting all ideas.
Last summer, we stayed in this modernist number by the renowned late Chicago architect Harry Weese. This summer, we moved next door to the more rustic log cabin, Shack Tamarack, that Weese designed for his family when he was 18 years old. Yes, 18 years old. It’s a beautiful example of vernacular Michigan lakefront architecture, and you can make out the formative signature details — master of space, cleverly situated bedrooms, modular hidden doors and compartments — tucked inside a traditional log cabin wrapper, made with cedar timbers from a nearby bog. Every detail is purposeful.
Some places were built for making memories, and when it comes to the quintessential family cabin, Harry Weese pretty much nailed it. Weese’s family still owns the house and has filled it regularly with friends and family for the past 82 years. Harry’s sister lives in the third house all summer long, and I love hearing stories that have played across generations of guests.
Here’s the thing: Yes, I am a sucker for smart, storied, well-designed spaces, and yes, I can be expected to properly rhapsodize about Shack Tamarack’s beautiful handmade textiles hanging from walls and slung over benches, antique rocking chairs, old wooden shelves lined with even older stoneware, and the giant stone fireplace built by hand. But I also understand what makes a place special, and it has more to do with how it makes you feel — relaxed and inspired, humbled even — than what it looks like. It’s about how spaces that truly capture a sense of place can transport you.
You know how you can read 100 picture books out loud to your kids on the same tufted L-shaped living room sofa, and they all sort of run together, like one big memory unit, each story folding into the next? Yet reading One Morning in Maine while actually in Maine, piling five deep in a queen bed looking out a giant picture window at the evergreen tree-lined coast — the same pointed evergreen trees and craggy coast in the book’s pages — is something you’ll never forget? Like you can still taste the salt in the air when you think about it? Or how you can grill fish 100 times in your own backyard, but somehow that freshly caught whitefish covered in herbs you picked from the garden next to the farmhouse you were staying in Northern Michigan will remain forever epic in deliciousness and culinary bravado. Therein lies the power of pulling yourself out of your everyday life and allowing even the littlest experiences — like, at Shack Tamarack, reading Mathilda by Roald Dahl on the porch swing and laughing until your side hurts, watching a wicked storm roll in from the pier, and cannonball contests off the dock — to live large in your memory as some of the most seminal of the trip.
I know I won’t remember all the details of how everything looked at Harry Weese’s family cabin (well, maybe the set of deer hooves that cradle a couple fishing rods over the dining room table), but I will never forget what we did there and who we were at that moment in time. Rent it at vrbo.com.
This month in Food & Wine, I contributed to a feature about new American farms. Apricot Lane Farm in Moorpark, California (photos above), owned by Molly and John Chester, is new biodynamic farm that is developing something of a cult following among LA foodies (including a wait list for their eggs at Farmshop). After they get their product line off the ground (which will be a giant success if their cinnamon-peach butter and roasted garlic hot sauce are any indication), they plan to open a farm inn, which they refer to as a “luxury farm stay” — the kind of place where you get your hands dirty by day and sleep on high-thread count sheets by night. Guests will be able to take in the bucolic farm setting, while pitching in to feed the animals and harvesting fruit from the 80 varieties of fruit trees — walnuts, macadamia nuts, avocados, grapefruits, lemons, mulberry, persimmon, plums and pluots, pomegranates, cherries, figs. Molly, who also just released a cookbook, Back to Butter (with an intro by former client Beck), is chatty in all the best ways — interesting and generous with details — so I have no doubt she’ll make an amazing host.
In the meantime, here are a few other farms on my radar lately (in addition to these from the archives):
>>LIBERTY VIEW FARM. Who doesn’t want to stay in an adorable, tricked-out yurt in the middle of an apple orchard in upstate New York?
>>CHEF’S GARDEN. This Ohio farm is the place for beautiful, uncommon vegetables– more than 600 varieties of heirloom, herb, microgreens and edible flowers. It’s also where stressed-out chefs from around the country have been known to come to relax and regroup.
>>WORLDS END FARM (all photos below). The flower farm where the owners of Brooklyn’s Saipua have planted roots.This one is for the wish list category. Not a lodging option for everyone, unfortunately, but they do operate apprenticeships and opportunities to participate in work days.
I’m always excited to learn about vacation rentals owned by designers (this Travel + Leisure piece I wrote about designer’s own homes you can rent could use an update). Last week, during Remodelista’s dedicated coverage to the summer vacation rental, this list of their 33 favorite spots included a handful of places that have been featured on designtripper, as well as this breezy high-low beaut I’ve never seen before. Awash in the kind of lived-in, always-been-there details only a seasoned designer can pull off so effortlessly, the Salt Box is an old Bahamian cottage that interior designer Tom Sheerer brought back from the brink.
With reverence to the loyalist architecture and original materials — that weather-beaten, whitewashed-looking coral limestone and local Albaco pine — Scheerer’s renovation is an unaffected ode to the rustic charm of this 200-year-old cottage. There’s an old stone hearth in the kitchen and paint peeling from the clapboard shutters. Thonet bentwood chairs, a clawfoot tub and iron canopied bed command a simple elegance, and the rest is in the prime location: the middle of the historic Dunmore Town and a short walk to Pink Sands Beach. Book it at vrbo.com (sleeps six, $3,000 a week); I plan to.
Patrizio Fradiani has done it again. If you’ve followed this site for any amount of time, you’re probably already familiar with his genius (Podere Palazzo, Domus Civita, and Casa dos Chicos). Just finished, this three-bedroom, 17th-century noble apartment in the small Umbrian town Monteleone d’Orvieto is as much as a personal journey through his ancestral past as it is a painstaking historic renovation of faded frescos, tiled floors and crumbling old stone walls.
Patrizio bought the apartment a year ago, when he visited the town to reconnect with his great-great-grandfather’s legacy as a poet; there’s a plaque in the town square to honor him. After a massive, beyond-expectation undertaking– including restoring the original tarazzo floors and ornate frescoes painted in the 1800s of flowers, landscapes, angels and mythological creatures–Patrizio, who’s as romantic as his poet great-great-grandfather, is ready to share the story of his lineage in the language he knows best: architecture and design. My favorite discovery are the sketches he found under layers of wall coverings that some of the long-ago builders left behind, knowing they’d eventually be covered with fancy wallpaper or frescos — everything from schematic, layout details of to-be-constructed columns to a funny little sketch of the owner in a helmet riding an ostrich. He decided to leave them exposed in the living room so the history could be appreciated, the hand of those who came before him. “That’s what happens with these projects. It starts as something selfish — I fall in love with a building. Then I become part of the community and it becomes more about that — a sense of belonging to a place that stands still in time. Everyone here is so excited about this renovation. It’s almost like I’ve helped restore the glory of Monteleone, or at least remind them of the potential. There are so many people in this little town who have been here for generations, and this project is about them now.”
Monteleone is surrounded by magical, lush Umbrian country landscapes, and Patrizio envisions Mazinni 31 as a retreat. Slow in pace and sublimely quiet. Suspended over the side of the cliff, the balcony unfolds across a gigantic valley into miles and miles of dramatic landscape, “almost all the way to Pienza… like sitting in the clouds and watching the atmospheric conditions play across the sky.” Yet in quintessential Patrizio style, the touches are modern and quirky. Every Patrizio project has handmade details, artwork he has created himself, and a pool as wow-factor. Set inside the former stables, this one does not disappoint. Not surprisingly, most of his vacation homes book quickly, but Mazzini 31 is brand-new, so there’s still availability this summer.
[All photos by Bob Coscarelli]
Lazy hammocks, oversized porches with worn wicker armchairs, poolside citrus groves, outdoor ovens. Here, a collection of places, that for a host of individual reasons, live in my memory as the epitome of summer vacation. The perfect trifecta of summertime haunts: Michigan, Maine and Italy. There’s no place I’d rather be.
For spring break, we took a road trip south with stops in Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. Our end destination was a farmhouse inn in the Chattahoochee Hills called Serenbe, which I found the week before our trip and booked based on a slim handful of pretty photos online. And while it was every bit as pretty in person, it’s also the kind of place I’d only recommend to families of young-ish kids. If I was traveling without kids, I’d be grumbling about guest services, attention to detail, our botched reservation. But for little ones, who are blissfully unaware of such petty grievances, this place is magic. Let’s start with the pool: surrounded by flowers and trees, no other swimmers, and next to a covered porch with wicker furniture and a giant cushioned porch swing, where we read books and played cards for hours. A mini basketball court is tucked behind two wooden swings that dangle from an arbor covered in wisteria. A treehouse. A rock labyrinth. Goats, horses, pigs and bunnies. Trails, trampoline, a croquet lawn! My boys met the farmer every morning for a tractor ride to feed the farm animals. As parents, the best part was how much freedom they had to wander the grounds, exploring and getting lost in the kind of creative play that only comes from long, unplanned days and wide-open spaces. My oldest son made pals with the gardener, who was so sweet and let him help her in the garden, picking radishes for the restaurant, planting new seeds, watering — and explaining everything in the just-right way for a seven-year-old to understand and get excited about. He loves to draw, so she even dug out her original garden sketches to show him how she designed the beautiful circular beds and arbors.
For more persnickety adults, know that the sprawling farm is part of a newer residential and commercial development they call “the community” (to preserve my fantasy, I tried not to leave the farm, and sent my husband into “town” to pick up provisions. When the suburban sprawl came crawling, the owners decided to take matters into their own hands. The result has a Pleasantville vibe, but again, the kids didn’t seem to notice. They were too busy having fun.
My secret for test-driving a hotel or inn without committing to an overnight stay: Brunch. And The Pelican Inn didn’t disappoint. Outside: clinging, trailing wisteria. Inside: dark, moody and welcoming; windsor chairs; a fire in the hearth; and all the broodiness of a proper British tavern. I’m sure this seven-guestroom Tudor, with every bit of dark wood and heavy drapery channeling the romantic spirit of a 16th-century coaching inn in the English countryside, is a lovely place to stay. So lovely, in fact, that it’s thronged on weekends with outdoor weddings and dinner guests toiling away on the grassy lawn waiting for a table. Get there when it opens on a Sunday, and you’ll be rewarded with a quiet, dim corner in front of the fireplace and a beautiful spread of English country fare — bangers, corned beef and hash, scones and jam, the works. Beyond-full and sublimely satisfied, my husband still wanted to stick around for the Ploughman’s lunch and a stout in the pub. Maybe we should have stayed the night after all.
Our spring break mission: Drive until it feels like summer. We wound up in Georgia (more on that later), and on our way back through Tennessee, we spent a few days exploring the country, stopping at battlefields, eating fried chicken at roadside diners and driving part of the Natchez Trace — a 444-mile stretch of historic road that winds through three states without a single billboard. By the luck of the road, we stumbled upon Leiper’s Fork. Blink and you’ll miss it. A small, unincorporated rural village south of Nashville, Leiper’s Fork is a small spit of country restaurants, antique shops and an arts collective or two, with enough honky-tonk charm and mountain motorcycle mojo to make it feel like the real deal. Aside from relishing in the beautiful, crumbling old crib barns in wide-open farmland — the bright green of a deep southern spring — walking into Puckett’s Grocery is perhaps the defining moment of this village. A no-frills old-school country grocery, its main draw is the stage — right inside the grocery store — surrounded by a clutch of mismatched tables and wooden chairs filled with folks tapping their toes and shoveling in the cherry smoke hot wings and fried green beans from the restaurant under the same roof. There are more tables out front, alongside a giant BBQ and a row of motorcycles, and it’s so wildly busy on Saturday nights, you have to make a reservation. Country Boy restaurant — every bit as country — is across the street, and you can hear the music from almost anywhere on the street. My boys met a charismatic, southern lady selling jam out front (or rather, she met us — “Bring that baby over here right now, you hear, she is just delicious!”) and they spent almost an hour soaking up her sweet southern charm and helping sell her colorful mason jars of jams, pickled hot peppers, peppery jellies and honey from the back of her truck. This is Leiper’s Fork.
The most fortuitous discovery of the pitstop: Shelter + Roost. We wanted to stay the night in Leiper’s Fork, but it was day-of and offerings are limited even well in advance. No big chains, thank heavens, or even daggy side-of-the-road motels. We sent an inquiry to Sarah McConnell, who owns a darling collection of country houses, with little to no hopes that we’d snag a reservation. Yup, everything was booked, but wait! The guests staying at Brigadoon are leaving a day early! She hustled in the cleaning crew and had it ready for us by mid-afternoon. So not only do we have a place to stay, but this post-Civil War cottage, just a few steps from town on the main drag, is like a quirky British-by-way-of-Tennessee version of a Ralph Lauren catalogue. Old wooden floors, cushy furnishings and almost every square inch of wall covered with art, textiles and ephemera. We sat on the back porch under twinkling lights, and our boys played badminton in the backyard until the sun went down.