Inns & Hotels

09.10.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Corte della Maestra

Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

Last August, when we spent a week in Civita, I paid a visit to another property in the ancient village. Patrizio had prepped me–”I almost cried the first time I saw it.”–but sheer emotion doesn’t do this place justice. There’s a deep sense of history, grandeur, and artistic eccentricity that make it feel like a living museum, where everything is curated yet highly personal. It’s the stuff of World of Interiors, the stuff of someone’s kooky yet incredibly tasteful creative mind.

The owner of Corte della Meastra, Paolo Crepet (a former gallerist from Rome, and a well-known psychiatrist and author), has lived here for 18 years. He originally moved to Civita to spend quiet time with his then young daughter outside the bustle of Rome. Since then, he has acquired more space in the adjoining cave-like building (the entire town sits on tufa rock and Etruscan caves), and last year, he opened the extra rooms as a b&b. It was part of church at one time, and there’s a stunning 16th-century religious fresco across one wall. His art collection, which is out of this world, is displayed throughout, and where’s there’s not art, there’s ivy, stone, bright pops of color. The surrealist gardens could be a post all their own.

He imagined it as a place where brooding writers, artists, filmmakers and freethinkers can find inspiration, solitude and good conversation over bottles of wine. When I visited, there was a photographer in the kitchen, and someone in one of the living rooms playing the piano. Perhaps they can stay a few months, he suggests. Of course, common travelers are welcome, too. But as he points out, it takes a special kind of person to want to stay in small village like Civita for more than a night or two — someone who’s looking inward, looking for something more than tourist attractions. Spend an hour with Paolo, and you’ll realize he’s as much a draw as his home. A big personality, who rhapsodizes about the meaning of art, life and love like most people talk about the weather. It’s invigorating and has just the right effect: He makes you want to grab a chair and stay awhile. Maybe even a couple months.


07.24.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Table on Ten

Bloomville, New York

I read about this place last winter–first in Martha Stewart Living, then again in Wilder–and made a mental note to stop in next time I’m passing through upstate New York. The backstory–a carpenter and self-taught chef couple trade in New York City for the Catskills to rehab a cabin and open a cafe–plus the lure of the small-town camaraderie and locally sourced ingredients makes for compelling travel plans. Then, just the other day, as I’m connecting some aesthetic dots, I realize they’ve added two rooms this summer, making it more than a pit stop for farm egg sandwiches and wood-fired pizza. With a spacious attic and second-floor bedroom, both artfully detailed with simple, rustic touches (handmade beds, found branches, pillows made from reclaimed grain sacks), guests are immersed in the close-knit community that makes this place so special in the first place. To book, you’ll ultimately be rerouted to airbnb.com, but you can learn more about the experience and extended community at their site first.

[Photos by Torkil Stavdal via Remodelista; first and last three images via Table on Ten]

06.26.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

The Hillside Homestead

Suttons Bay, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan

HOORAY! I’m currently on a luxuriously long vacation “Up North”—as Detroiters affectionately call this area of Northern Michigan—with my two boys before the arrival of number three. We’re (fairly successfully) trying to shoehorn an entire summer of hiking, lake swimming, dune climbing, frog catching, pier jumping, sandcastle building, berry picking, stone skipping and ice cream licking into three weeks. And four hours north of Detroit, it’s the perfect place to try. Shimmering blue waters compete with any ocean I’ve ever seen, and country roads crisscross patchwork farmland and wind through orchards with peek-a-boo views of Lake Michigan from the tops of rolling hills. It’s ridiculously idyllic.

While here, the story I wrote about the Leelanau Peninsula came out in the July/August issue of Martha Stewart Living (a little online slideshow, not as detailed as the print version). Randy Harris is responsible for the beautiful photographs, and the magazine’s redesign looks fantastic. I overheard someone talking about the story in the checkout line at the grocery, and my face flushed.

One of my favorite places included in the piece (however briefly, in the sidebar) is the new Hillside Homestead—a farm stay b&b owned and delightfully operated by chef-turned-homesteader Susan Odom, who got the idea and honed her skills at the Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village just outside Detroit. Here, at her restored Victorian, she adds a layer of good old-fashioned historic hospitality to the local food movement, inviting guests to experience locally-sourced, home-cooked period meals around a big farmhouse table. Every last detail is straight out of the early 1900s, including the old-fashioned flowered dress and apron Susan dons for dinner, yet none of it feels hokey or overdone. From the antique wood burning stove and dry sink to the honey butter and apple jelly she makes herself, it’s all perfectly charming. When we stopped by, she was whipping up apple pie and fried chicken using homespun leaf lard, which I’ve never even heard of–apparently, all the rage in turn-of-the-century farm kitchens. Guest rooms are equally attended to, and outside, visit the pigs, chickens and an irresistible wooden tree swing, before settling down on the front porch for pastoral sunset views. Below, a few photos that do not quite do the place justice, plus a few other places to stay from the designtripper archives if you visit the Leelanau Peninsula.

Hillside Homestead

Other overnight options: this modern farmhouse rehab, Wyndenrock, and Jolli Lodge. I’ll have one more place to add to the list in a week or two.

 

06.12.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Round-Up: Yurts

A few weeks ago, we went camping in Canada. Kind of. Scenario: Tent packed, lantern oil filled, rhubarb crumble baked and ready to warm over the fire, and there’s an unexpected hitch. Temps teasing low 30s on Memorial Day weekend and two young boys in tow. I couldn’t bear the crestfallen faces of last-minute cancellation disappointment, so we rented a yurt with bunks and a heater, and despite all misgivings about fake camping, shoddy, aesthetically displeasing shelter and interior lattice overload, it was absolutely delightful. All the perks of camping–immersed in nature, blazing campfire, no modern distractions–but none of the discomfort. Now I’m on a bit of a research bender about yurts and yurt-like accommodations and thought I’d share some of my findings. (Of course, for a rustic, no-frills yurt experience that’s all about the nature surrounding it and not the decor, just check national parks  and campground sites for options in the US and Canada. They’re everywhere–and perfect.)


Amazing-looking collection of yurts in southern Norway called the Canvas Hotel.

It’s not for rent, sadly–at least that I’m aware of–but check out this glass and stone yurt built by Micky Muennig in Big Sur in 1976.

Airbnb offers a decent collection of yurts in the US and around the world. Overlooking the foothills of Sierra Nevada, this one in Andalusia, Spain looks particularly compelling.

I’m not sure I’d forego a stone cottage or old farmhouse in France for a yurt, but you never know. If so, Le Camp would certainly be the place.

Everyone knows all about El Cosmico already, right? The de facto hipster playground/campground of Marfa? In case not, these yurt-like things stand alongside the airstreams, teepees and safari tents.

 

05.23.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Graham & Co.

Phoenicia, New York

I’ve had my eye on this place for awhile: a 13-room hotel in the Catskills with custom-made wooden furniture, vintage details and a juniper-surrounded pool with views of the mountains. Started by four friends from New York,  the Graham & Co. is a hipster-ish renovation of a daggy old motel. A sucker for that no-fuss, rustic Americana vibe, I was hoping to check it out this spring,  but since I’m expecting a baby in July, I’ve decided to postpone any travel that may involve river tubing. But for everyone else: Go! Looks like a superbly laid-back homebase for hiking, exploring the antique shops, and watching movies in the expansive grassy lawn from an adirondack chair.

05.08.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Miss Opo

Porto, Portugal

A friend recently handed me the May issue of Elle Decoration. There’s a guest house in here you have to see, she said. The two of us have been talking/dreaming about something like this for awhile — joining efforts to expand Honor & Folly to include more food, art, culture, craft. Because Honor & Folly is such a tiny space, it’s hard to accommodate anything more than the awesome guests who have been streaming through Detroit lately. And for them, I’m so grateful, but I also really love the idea of a more interactive, more cultural guest house, and these two friends from Porto have done an amazing job with Miss Opo.

Designer Paula Lopes and photographer Ana Luandina have transformed a former textile factory and bar into a creative, contemporary space with six suites and a communal cafe, bar and hang-out area. The industrial, concrete palette deftly mixes with more homespun details like mix-and-match antique dishes, well-worn wooden stools and tons of potted plants. There’s just enough quirk–books tucked into shelves for borrowing, notes scrawled on walls, and unexpected bits and pieces of art hanging around–to get a sense of the girls’ personalities and aesthetic sensibility. And from the looks of it, that’s a very good thing. As for Honor & Folly, maybe someday.

[All images via Yatzer.com by Shanna Jones]

04.25.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Brooklyn Stays

Brooklyn, New York

Everyone loves the Wythe–Brooklyn’s newish hotel from the same folks behind Marlow & Sons. And from everything I’ve seen/read/heard, all the hype seems substantially merited. I haven’t stayed there yet, but I’m sure when I do, I’ll be joining the praise chorus about everything from the custom wallpaper to the beautifully designed downstairs brasserie Reynard, which one website describes as where all the people in Brooklyn who wash their hair hang out. The description made me chuckle, but the menu makes me want to dig in. And I especially love that there’s purposefully no room service, because they want to encourage guests to come out of their hotel rooms and be social humans.

In the meantime, I’ve gathered up some other amazing-looking options in Brooklyn. I’m totally blown away by all the choices. A few years ago–pre-Wythe and pre-Airbnb–it was so hard to find a decent place to stay in Brooklyn. And now

The Storefront: A historic storefront with a beautiful, private garden in Greenpoint that’s being rented to guests until it reopens as an antique shop.

House of Collection: Featured in The New York Times last year, an eccentric artist loft chock full of displayed antique tools and implements, vintage and hand-crafted furniture, art, taxidermy and collections of collections upon collections.

The Erhart: Understated elegance rules the experience at this historic (and magnificent) 1887 brownstone in Clinton Hill. Guests can rent rooms in the 10,000-square-foot stunner, marked by grand staircases, gorgeous chandeliers and some seriously opulent architecture details. Read more about the rehab at remodelista.com.

3B: A charmingly funky boutique b&b co-op run by seven friends (and creative co-conspirators) out of their home. You share a bathroom with guests from the other three bedrooms, but the upside is they’ll make you a frittata breakfast every morning.

04.11.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Soniat House

New Orleans, Louisiana

Initially, I didn’t really want to stay in a fancy hotel, especially one in the French Quarter. I wanted to find a bright teal shotgun in the Bywater,  or a crumbling creole cottage to rent like the one we stayed in last time. This super cool Victorian guesthouse, belonging to  local artist Miranda Lake, was already booked. But if the Soniat was good enough for Brad and Angelina to camp out in for months at a time with family in tow, I reasoned, it would probably suffice.  Egregious underestimation.

Tucked away on a quiet stretch of Chartres, in the residential fringes of the old French Quarter, the Soniat House feels reminiscent of how the French Quarter might have felt before the invasion of the tacky souvenir shop. The magnificent architecture, lacy wrought-iron balconies, and the formal elegance of a refined New Orleans neighborhood in the 1830s, when craft and impression were paramount, and hidden courtyards flowered behind gated Creole-influenced city homes built for entertaining. Originally built by the Soniat family, who had 13 children, the two homes (plus another, owned by a family member) are big and stately and gorgeous. Every last corner is outfitted with beautiful, sometimes worn, always tasteful antiques spanning influences and periods. And the courtyards are exquisite, people. We ate breakfast out there every morning, despite the unseasonably chilly spring temps–a crazy-delicious spread of homemade biscuits, butter, preserves, chicory coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was my favorite part of the day. And if I can blather on for one more second about something as prosaic as service: the people who work here make the place. Bill at the front desk and Calvin (in the photo below, he’s been there more than 30 years) became our buddies, and I found myself wandering into the lobby several times a day to chat and hear stories about local history and lore. For instance, Mrs. Soniat was said to be so beautiful, she only ever went in the courtyard with a bonnet to protect her porcelain-like skin. And then there’s the legend of the angry ghost in the house around the corner and the murderous former owner who caused it. I’ll let you hear that one for yourself.

03.21.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Gallery Inn

San Juan, Puerto Rico

An original co-founder of designtripper (who left to renovate and run this), Kelly recently got back from Puerto Rico, where she and her family stayed in a series of noteworthy places–an artist’s apartment and courtyard in Viejo, a remote house in lush Culebra, and finally, the storied Gallery Inn on their way out of town.  Set in a 300-year-old colonial mansion in Old San Juan, this 22-room hotel is 23,000 square feet of old black-and-white tiles, stone floors, grand archways, hidden gardens and trickling fountains. Equestrian enthusiast owners Manuco and Jan–the latter also an esteemed local artist–have decorated with interesting layers of photos of horses, textiles, screen-printing, statues and art.

We particularly love the disclaimer on their site: “We would never want to see our place turn into the bland, cookie-cutter sort. We must warn you! Our inn is over 300 years old, and we feel that the essence of authenticity and beauty is of utmost importance and value to our concept. We do not have any elevators, and never will. If you cannot take staircases, this might not be the hotel for you. Our exotic birds are absolutely precious to look at, but they will occasionally screech. If you feel this would bother you significantly, we might not be your best choice. Also, we are not secluded from the local population, so if you are the kind of traveler who wants to feel “protected” from the locals, you should not come.”

They should also add that if you’re open to beautiful, eccentric spaces full of character, charm, and yes, beautiful, imperfect flaws, then you’ll probably love it here. Major bonuses: the best rooftop deck in town and this cool beach house a few blocks away, where you can do your own bbq-ing and hang out seaside.

 [Photos by Kelly Flamos, except mask image by William Bay Photography via flickr and dining room via Uncommon Caribbean]

01.30.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

I first heard about this series of cave hotels from my Italian friend Patrizio, who thought I would love the “diffused hotel” concept: hotel rooms spread across a small medieval hilltop village that maintain their original character (rough stone walls, uneven floors, and old-as-dirt wooden furniture). The mission is to preserve not only the landscape and original architecture of the towns they’ve settled in, but also the history and local tradition–from the craft to the cuisine of the region.

And while Sextantio’s entire concept is pretty special–using tourism to save towns that would otherwise fall into decline– it’s the bit about traditional craft I find particularly inspiring. I didn’t realize, until I spotted photos of the beautiful loom work on Remodelista, that the hotel is so fiercely dedicated to supporting local craft. For instance, linens and coverlets are handmade by ladies who have always made textiles–in a town that has produced textiles for hundreds of years. They’re made with new materials using ancient techniques, often replicated from old drawings and archival photographs. I wish we saw more of this kind of beautiful creative thinking in the hotel industry.

01.09.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Mast Farm Inn

Banner Elk, North Carolina

The week before Christmas we had to go to a wedding in Florida. Not great timing, but we loaded up the car and made the most of it with a road trip through the Smoky Mountains (we flew back). One of the most outstanding highlights was the historic Mast Farm Inn. A restored farm inn that dates back to the early 1800s, the place was decorated with antiques, quilts, old farm tools and a countrified array of awesome folk art and crafts. The Loom House, named for Aunt Josie Mast who turned it into a loom house for her coverlets and rugs (some of which are in the Smithsonian), is the oldest log cabin in North Carolina.

We stayed in the old post-and-beam Woodwork Shop with its tin roof, Vermont casting stove and rock terrace. This place is amazing for families. Farm animals, a sprawling organic garden that feeds the restaurant, and impeccable service. Our littlest guy became very sick during our stay, and the staff could not have been more accommodating and doting. They brought dinner (farm-fresh roast chicken, heritage farms pork chop and shaved brussels sprouts) to our room, and made special dishes for our picky eater at breakfast the next morning (what child does not like french toast made with potato and raisin-cinnamon bread with caramelized fruit, egg custard and heavy cream… topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar?). Custom designed with our names dropped into each dish’s description, the menu was such a fun treat for our six-year-old to read. It was pouring rain when we were there, but we can’t wait to make it back during better weather–and health–to take advantage of the beautiful property and all the nearby hiking trails.

11.21.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Shaker Village Inn

Harrodsburg, Kentucky

It’s common knowledge that the Shakers had a  dedication to craft and commitment to quality, but while visiting the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky, where you can bed down and spend a day or two wandering the pastoral landscape and absorbing their agrarian, communal lifestyle,  something occurred to me: the Shakers were like the original hipsters (without booze and sex, of course). Despite the whole celibacy thing, the Shakers are a pretty hip lot by modern standards. They dry herbs, jam, can, craft, carry worn leather bags of their own design, and even make their own shoes!

Anyone interested in simple Shaker architecture and traditional handcraft methods will flip to explore these beautiful grounds, where the Shaker devotion to the marriage of form and function is a natural extension of their honest, hardworking ideals. Messy with the business of creating–fabric scraps, worn leather, spools of colorful thread, baskets spilling wool–the workshops are perhaps the best testament to their credo, “Beauty is in utility.” I’m still in awe. The East Family Sisters Shop, with walls covered in tapestry, cross stitch and fabric, is dedicated to preparing wool, spinning yarn and working on some of the earliest American looms, while the men’s workshop turns out handmade brooms of endless variety: large brooms, buddy brooms, whisk brooms, pot scrubbers, tailor’s brushes, and cake testers. To this day, they’re still one of the largest producers of handmade brooms in the country; you can buy them at the shop. At the Cooper’s shop, the woodworker makes handsome-looking wooden vessels, including buckets, barrels and butter churners. And in the three-storied Centre Family House, the village’s impressive living museum where herb sacks hang on beds to protect the straw mattresses from insects, basketmaking and tanning/cobbling workshops are set up for demonstration, and to admire the old, beautiful tools and original (aesthetically pleasing) results of their labor. I’d know plenty of people who’d buy those leather uppers today.

It’s a good thing there’s an inn with 70 rooms spread across the grounds–above the restaurant and in old washhouses and sex-separated dormitories–because it would be a mad rush to to take it all in during an afternoon viewing. I was so disappointed when the inn was booked solid in October, but the unintentional silver lining: it was all but deserted at the end of November. We had the place to ourselves, and fall lasts longer in the Bluegrass State, so there were still brightly colored leaves in trees and a 10-degree bump in the weather. My six-year-old and I spent two days obsessing over the giant old wooden looms, carding wool, riding in horse-drawn carriages, petting the animals, feeding the ducks, smelling herbs in the medicinal garden, and touring some of the most beautiful old buildings I have ever seen. And because we stayed the night, our pace was slow and unhurried, leaving time to climb atop old farm equipment, linger in the sun-dappled lanes crisscrossing the rolling property, hop up on the wooden swing overlooking a pasture with two white horses, and take a short walk out to the crumbling cemetery at the edge of the village. We ate meals in the Treasury Building restaurant, and at night, after the last bit of sunlight dropped beneath the hills, we read books and played board games in our no-frills Shaker-style room, its white walls marked only by painted trim and peg rails. I think we did the Shakers proud (full disclosure: I may or may not have donned a woven bonnet on occasion).

11.14.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Gladstone

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I’ve been to Toronto a few times in the last couple months, working on some projects and making a 24-hour run just to eat dinner in a different city. Sometimes a girl needs a change of scenery. Plus it’s only four hours from Detroit, and time flies when you’re reading magazines and knitting in the passenger seat (because your husband doesn’t think you’re a good driver). It’s like being on a flight with more leg room and no strangers.

During one of those quick visits, I nabbed a last-minute room at the Gladstone. I had stayed at the Drake before, but had only admired the Gladstone’s hulking brick building from the curb of West Queen West. Inside, art exhibits and makeshift galleries descend on public spaces and hallways, and each room is decorated by a different local artist. Considering the high-octane color palettes of many of the rooms, I was tickled with my room assignment, the dialed-back (soothing even?) Chinoiserie Room by Millie Chen. Subtle and not-so-subtle chinoiserie–decorative art based on mostly European imitations of Asian motifs–is layered and juxtaposed with abandon, and even though Millie’s approach is ironic, creating a kind of “Oriental folly” (her words, not mine) and poking fun at the “postmodern condition by replacing the true elements of chinoiserie with contemporary global references,” the room is as adorable as it is clever. Especially that wallpaper with monkey leopards, Baluch tigers, women in Victorian mourning gowns, dancing tourists and monkeys with saws. It makes me want to write a haiku.

10.26.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Boonville Hotel

Boonville, California

In a recent story I wrote for the Guardian– 10 characterful hotels and B&Bs in the US – I tapped a contributor to guide me to an interesting spot in Northern California. Gemma and Andrew Ingalls have been to the Boonville Hotel three times, and Gemma assures me it is a tremendously lovely and worthy spot. Described as “a modern roadhouse,” the 15-room Boonville Hotel is situated two hours away from San Francisco in Anderson Valley, a laid-back wine region in Mendocino County known for bucking the posh pretences of Napa. Stay in one of their simply appointed rooms or spread out in a suite or standalone bungalow nestled in the garden, some of which have linen sofas, porches and hammocks. The cozy in-house farm-to-table restaurant is a destination in its own right (reservations-only). A recent menu, which changes daily, included prosciutto and melon, roast fig, local goat’s cheese, baked halibut, and late summer vegetable gratin, pea shoots and Pernod cream. While you’re in the area, make sure to taste the pinot noirs that the region is known for, take a hike through the Redwoods, and drive along the craggy mystical coast. It’s a real-deal family run affair, and relatives own the nearby Philo Apple Farm, responsible for more than 80 varieties on 30 beautiful acres and boasting a b&b/cottages/cooking classes on site. They also own the Farmhouse Mercantile downtown. Gemma and Andrew sent over some photographs of the hotel and the surrounding landscape, the latter a heart-stopping farm-meets-coastline combination of redwoods, rugged rocky cliffs over ocean, farmland, vineyards, orchard. Not sure it gets much better.