07.17.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: The Salt Box

Harbour Island, The Bahamas

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.

[Photos via Remodelista]
07.02.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Mazzini 31

Monteleone, Umbria, Italy

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]

06.13.2014 | by: Meghan

From the Archive: Favorite Summer Spots

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.

Villa Pizzarusso, Puglia, Italy

Harry Weese Cabin, Glen Arbor, Michigan

Morse Mountain, Phippsburg, Maine

Podere Palazzo, Tuscany, Italy

Farmhouse, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan

 

06.05.2014 | by: Meghan
Kidtripper

Check In: Serenbe

Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia

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.

05.15.2014 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Pelican Inn

Muir Beach, California

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.

05.08.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Go: Leiper’s Fork

Tennessee

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.

 

04.11.2014 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Manka’s Inverness Lodge

Inverness, California

I’ve been slow, reluctant even, to write about our stay at Manka’s — a beloved hunting lodge turned retreat in Inverness — perhaps because I want to draw out the experience of being there, or prevent it from being discovered — already a hopelessly lost cause. It’s no secret, this spot. Far from it, in fact, considering every magazine you know by name has piled heaps of praise at its rustic wooden stilts. And yet, tucked into the evergreens on along a beautiful slice of Tomales Bay, it still manages to feel secretive, humble and immensely special.

This is a testament to owner Margaret Grade, who bought the property (a hunting lodge and a handful of cabins, including the boathouse where we stayed). It was called Manka’s then, too — a nickname for the previous owner’s wife (it means Little Rascal in Polish). Margaret spruced up the interiors. And by spruced up, I mean totally revamped with just-right amenities like soaking tub, outdoor shower and the comfiest twin leather armchairs in front of the hearth made of salvaged wood. The decor is an homage to the structure’s original function: vintage fishing nets, worn wooden oars, and a collection of black-and-white photos that link the place to its past.

Even though the legendary, locally sourced restaurant, which made the place a cult destination among the highest order of West Coast foodies, burned to the ground eight years ago, the in-room dining experience still feels rooted in the surrounding land and everything that it provides. Every morning, a slender wooden box is filled to brim with delectable local morning treats, blanketed with The New York Times, and delivered to the doorstep. Homemade yogurt and granola, sticky buns and hand-pressed apple cider one morning, and eggs with bacon and goat cheese another. Each bundle comes with a simple slip of paper — little fortune scrolls to detail the ingredients: what beekeeper made the honey and from what dairy farm came the cheese (in most cases, a neighbor or friend just down the road). Everything feels intentional, but the great efforts are rarely seen. Invisible gestures are manifest in the form of handwritten welcome notes, a beautifully photographed coffee table book as guide left on the window seat, food cooked with all the care. Our second night there, a fireside dinner was delivered by a local character who wears a cowboy hat and has lived in the area for decades. He regaled us with stories about how so much has changed (the Silicon Valley execs), and so much that hasn’t (the land is preserved, so it’s every bit as jaw-dropping and mystical as its always been. You’ve been warned: a foggy morning drive through the rolling knolls and ranch land, punctuated by ocean views, bluffs, wildflowers and redwoods may induce a desire to get out of the car and burst into song, Julie Andrews the-hills-are-alive-style). The whole thing is a splurge, but if you have a special occasion to plan a getaway around, it’s definitely splurge-worthy. We were celebrating our 10-year anniversary, and our cowboy friend insisted we eat at the table overlooking the bay even though it was pitch-black outside. He was right. A sense of calm and hopefulness comes from knowing what vast beauty glimmers just beyond the window. Kind of like the next ten years of marriage.

 

03.27.2014 | by: Meghan

Scenes from Point Reyes

We just got back from Northern California, and I can still feel the vibrant spring in my bones. Point Reyes is a nationally protected, majestic, dream-like cape teeming with wildlife, meadows full of flowers, and foggy shoreline vistas that will make your heart stand still. During weekends, the outdoor enthusiasts (and their backpacks, kayaks, bicycles) arrive by the throngs, but we were there mid-week, and it could not have been more peaceful. Long, quiet hikes paid off with up-close sightings of tule elk, deer, bobcats, snakes, groundhogs, harbor seals and far-off glimpses of elephant seals and whales. We hiked every single day, nearly all day, and ate oysters for every meal. Next week, a post about the old storied boathouse where we soothed sore legs in front of the oversized hearth or beside the window watching the birds swoop and gather on Tomales Bay.


 

 

03.05.2014 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Trasierra

Cazalla de la Sierra, Andalusia, Spain

This month, I wrote a story about a new brand of innkeeper for the re-imagined and redesigned Conde Nast Traveler, which is stunning thanks to Pilar Guzman and Yolanda Edwards and their powerhouse team. The personality-driven inn means that the owner is not only a pivotal part of the experience, they are the experience. Their good, quirky and eccentric tastes and big personality informs every last detail — from cooking and serving meals to outfitting the space with hand-picked furniture, art and books from their personal collections. These are people who invite guests into their homes — their worlds — and the connection they make with guests becomes the very thing worth traveling for.

One of the three places featured, Trasierra is a former olive mill turned country house that owner Charlotte Scott brought back from dilapidation 20-plus years ago. When she moved in, they lived there for a few years without electricity. It’s been her life’s work, and and now, her signature can be found in every corner — handmade pillows, fabric draped over tables, wicker baskets and straw hats hanging on walls, herbs drying from arches and doorways, cut wildflowers displayed in pitchers — and even outside, where she designed hikes through the 350-acre property based on where flowers look prettiest during certain times of day. All four of her children are involved (and always have been, even when they were little). One of her daughters cooks, another teaches yoga. One of her sons helps organize excursions to wineries and gaming estates, and the other is a musician who visits regularly and still helps out. When I talked to Charlotte about her innkeeping ethos, I was inspired by her refreshingly laid-back approach to making Trasierra “a place that nourishes.” Below, a few insightful tidbits from her no-flash take on hospitality.

On “no flash”: There’s no flash here. No obvious displays of wealth or luxury. It’s more relaxing when you don’t feel intimidated. It’s not untidy, but it’s not perfect either. There’s no place to go to show off. It’s an equalizer and that’s very important. You see so much nature, it shows you where your place is.

On creating comfort: This is where I would love to be a guest. It’s a natural spa without any of the fuss. No body feels in awe of anything. All the rooms are different, because I’ve had to do them at different times as I had money. They all have charms, which makes it feel like a home, not a hotel.

On privacy: I’ve mastered becoming an unseen presence. If I’m asked, I’ll join a guest for a drink or dinner, but otherwise, it’s the guest’s house. I’m not hovering. If they want to move a chair or a cushion, I don’t want them to feel like someone is breathing down their neck.

On the importance of disconnecting: We arrange everything for guests, so you don’t have to panic about whether there’s wifi in every room. It teaches people how to relax. You don’t have to have an office in your room. Otherwise, you’re bringing your distractions with you on your holiday. Too many people travel with their computers, and they never really get to have a vacation.

02.25.2014 | by: Meghan

Check In: Fogo Island Inn

Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Even though the Fogo Island Inn is a real looker–with architecture and design that’s as slick as it gets–it’s all about the intentions here, folks. Nutshell: An unlikely group of people come together to preserve a way of life in rural Newfoundland. And in a refreshing break from the sales-y marketing talk of so many socially responsible entrepreneurial efforts, the Fogo Island Inn’s mission feels straightforward and honest: enriching the lives of the locals and sustaining local craftsmanship and tradition. In the handful of months since it opened, more than 60 islanders are being trained to make quilts, rugs and textiles. On the homepage of the inn’s website, photos of locals and hotel employees outnumber photos of the knockout-beautiful hotel, showing exactly what they value: the artists, carpenters, boatbuilders, fisherman and foragers who make up the community. The inn is run as a charity (there are no investors who need to be paid), and the primary mission is to reinvest in the community. And since we’re being honest, the simply and thoughtfully decorated rooms with wood-burning stoves, rocking chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows with staggeringly beautiful views of the rugged, wild coast don’t hurt either.

02.12.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Shasta Camper

Nashville, Tennessee

A couple weeks ago, I met up with Taylor Bruce (the fellow behind the Wildsam field guides) for a coffee, and he tipped me off to the best new lodging option in Nashville, the city where he launched his first guide two years ago. Taylor describes the Wildsam series as guides that “bring to life what John Steinbeck describes as the ‘faraway joyous look’ that accompanies curiosity,” so it makes perfect sense that his accommodation recommendation was created by a local fiction writer (who, bringing us full circle, wrote an essay about his Tennessee-bred snake phobia for the Nashville Wildsam).

Author of Carry My Bones, J. Wes Yoder is lately doubling as an innkeeper of sorts. Only the inn is a 1962 Shasta camper he bought on eBay, parked in his leafy and secluded East Nashville backyard and gutted from top to bottom with his own hands. To appreciate it now — all clean lines, wood surfaces, white walls and no-fuss, modern detailing — it’s hard to imagine its ticky-tacky state when he bought it:  ”It was red and white and had maybe 100 items of Budweiser paraphernalia; decals, strands of Bud light christmas lights, Budweiser curtains, and also an oil funnel in a closet with a tube running down through the floor to piss through,” says J. Wes, who also built a sweet, freestanding little bathhouse with a clawfoot tub, and tucked an outdoor shower into a private corner between the two.

Since he spends a lot of time at home writing fiction, he says it’s easy to run the place, too. “I’m a maid, a receptionist and a concierge, basically, and I like doing it,” he says. “I’ve been surprised by how strongly folks have responded to it, and can’t quite figure it out. I suppose it feels like camping, or conjures some happy memory of laying in a fort you made as a child. That’s one guess.”  There’s no internet or TV, and sometimes guests join him and his roommates for dinner in the garden. Other times, they end up dancing the night away inside at one of his parties. And so it goes staying with a guy who turned an old Budweiser shrine into a serene backyard retreat, you just never know what you’re going to get. I can’t imagine a better introduction to Nashville. Book it at airbnb.com.

[PHOTOS: All images by Laura Dart]

01.30.2014 | by: Meghan
Kidtripper

Check Out: Kid & Coe

With a new baby in the house–bringing the total up to three littles–planning our next family vacation feels a bit daunting. There, I said it. First step is admitting there is a problem, right? The next step is poring over the new family-focused vacation rental site, Kid & Coe. The whip-smart ladies behind this genius site (including my friend Vanessa Boz, who’s contributing and deserves mega big props for taking a hiatus from her job to travel around the world with her family a few years ago) all have children and love to travel. So they understand the nuanced intricacies of what makes a trip less stressful and more fun — for kiddos and parents. In each description, they include dream trip-in-the-making details like proximity to parks and playgrounds; recommended spots for picnicking (in a garden under a giant oak tree); forest hikes and loaner wellies; toys and bikes to borrow; and whether there’s a ping pong table or petting farm on the property. And beyond being truly useful and easy to use, it should be noted that Kid & Coe is absolutely gorgeous. Here, just a few (of many) places that caught my fancy.

^^At this rustic cottage in Andalusia, there’s a pool, bikes, boules, outdoor chess table and ping pong, plus you can hire a donkey for a guided trek!

^^The ultimate kid-friendly apartment in Fort Greene has heaps of toys, a playroom, a piano and views of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. What more could a kid want in Brooklyn?

^^Part of an estate, this former hayloft in Umbria is a dream for kids. Acres and acres of grounds and flower gardens to explore, a paddock with a herd of alpacas, a pool, a hang-out room with games and kids books, and a chocolate factory and family-friendly truffle hunting nearby.

12.24.2013 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Clum House

Catskill, New York

While visiting a dear friend in New York City a couple weekends ago (well before this weekend’s rainy winter solstice), we decided to scoot upstate for a night or two to hole up and catch up. We needed some space, we both reckoned, to spread out and breathe and walk in crisp air over crunchy leaves. Once we got to our destination–a beautifully rehabbed girls’ camp building with lots of natural wood, plants, and mismatched textiles–it was a foregone conclusion: We asked if we could stay another night before the first 24 hours had passed. It’s that kind of place.

Owned and rehabbed by Brooklyn-based architect Kevin Lindores and his partner Daniel, who also works in design, the three-bedroom hideaway could not have better suited our weekend of unapologetic lounging, eating and talking.  I did much of the cooking, and my friend was the designated fire-builder–the extent of our duties, save for the welcome, shared responsibility of baby-holding (and cooing and cheek-pinching). My living room throne was a custom linen-upholstered, daybed-inspired bench that stretches the entire length of the living room. There was a lot of wine, and a lot of landscape gawking through perfectly placed windows, giving way to knockout views that, on this particular weekend, made the Manhattan skyline seem almost trivial in comparison. Behind the house, a forested view of the mountains stretched out with colors that seemed to change by the hour. When we arrived, it was the tail-end of autumn–crispy, tawny leaves underfoot against a foggy backdrop of bright green evergreens. By the time we left, there was a magical dusting of snow covering the backyard, the branches, the old stone hedges, and it felt like we had endured the changing of the seasons through one meandering, endless conversation in front of the fireplace. It made me think about how much I’ve come to appreciate the in-between-ness of the seasons–those uncharacteristic days that seem to defy, waffle between and hover, and how I so rarely get a chance to consider such frivolities.

Sometimes you have to remember to stop moving–a place like this certainly helps. Clum House is available for reservations at airbnb.com.

12.04.2013 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly Holiday Shop

Detroit, MI

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Honor & Folly. In that span, I’ve met countless kind, interesting, kooky, good people who have come through Detroit, many who have become friends. Many who have made the trip because they read this blog. That has been the greatest honor. Thank you, thank you. I love meeting you and showing you my city. This little inn has surpassed my expectations 100 times over and led to opportunities I would have otherwise never had. Like this interview in The New York Times and the H&F holiday pop-up at Shinola–the new bike and watch company headquartered in Detroit (factory and flagship). Because H&F has been so busy–a good problem, right?–I haven’t been able to regularly open up the space to the public for selling goods like I originally intended. So through the holidays, lots of the handcrafted goods that decorate Honor & Folly are on display and for sale in a lovely, dedicated nook at Shinola. And a few new things from the crew of talented designers for the occasion: Amy Bem added leather detailing to the quilt-like pillows; Abigail Murray made a new delicately off-kilter serving bowl; The Brush Factory added walnut bottle rock stoppers and gradient coasters; Megan O’Connell made the most beautiful holiday card I have ever seen (with an Elizabethan recipe on the back); and I gathered up a few vintage pieces that reflect the long history of American design, from a tobacco-drying basket to a natural stoneware mixing bowl (both of which I really want to keep for myself).