California

04.13.2012 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Garden Cottage

Santa Cruz, California

I’m a sucker for a good road trip, especially one that ends at a sweet little cabin as magical as this. Texas-based writer/editor Shaunna Nygren recently met some friends in San Francisco and packed up the car for a coastal road trip along Highway One and  a few days in Santa Cruz. They managed to kill an entire day at the Bookshop Santa Cruz (highly recommended), but for the better part of their visit, it was all about the big rustic farm table in the backyard with a bottle of wine. Here, a first-hand report: 

We found a minimalistic one-bedroom cabin of sorts with off-beat charms and loads of character in Santa Cruz’s Westside. Michelle, our free-spirited hostess, greeted us donning a bikini and sarong offering up a home tour with tales of past drifters and travelers. She is an artist who works with brass, leather and bone— a hauntingly beautiful display of her creations are placed throughout the home. The result is a sort of gallery-meets-bed-and-breakfast. While we stayed in the studio out back, we had full access to the kitchen and bathrooms in the main house by way of a brick pathway. In the mornings, a freshly-baked poppy seed cake awaited us on the wooden kitchen table. The cabin out back is modest and fairly rustic with an antique brass bed, a distressed-wooden dresser and an old Decca record player (we packed our favorite records). It feels like your own secret hideaway. A big tin wash basin sits just outside the door but the most alluring feature is the claw-foot tub beneath a cascading willow tree. The gardens aren’t limited to flowers. Strange installations, found objects and salvaged lawn furniture are scattered among the greenery. It was an unexpectedly lovely stay. Every morning, we walked with our coffees in hand toward West Cliff, a path along the ocean, to take in the morning surf and fog. Rent it at airbnb.com.

[Photos: All photographs by Ashley Camper]

11.18.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Mohave Sands

Joshua Tree, California


Sculptor, photographer and designer Blake Simpson’s small five-room desert motel has just the kind of back story I fall for every time: a nearly derelict structure he gut-renovated himself–thoughtfully and by hand–over the course of the past nine years. With previous high-profile jobs like furniture designer for Marc Jacobs, the consummate craftsman attended to every little detail–the doors, windows, walls, floors, gates, and a lot the furniture was created on site. The result is pretty impressive: a hand-built hideaway with a decidedly laid-back, masculine vibe and sloppy-modern aesthetic (in a good way; not the rigid, sterile kind, all clean lines and right angles). Inside, mid-century chairs, globes, typewriters and record collections strike the right balance between decor and distraction. And outside, the thing to do is plant yourself in one of the mismatched lawn chairs on the beautifully landscaped desert patio to read all day under the shade and talk all night beside the fire. At least that’s what I’d do.

04.13.2011 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: The Chinese Jesus House

Los Angeles, California

When I was planning a trip to LA last month, I wanted to rent a house in Venice–a cool, cozy number just like this art-filled bungalow, where we could cook in a sunny kitchen and hang out on the patio after the kids go to bed. To my crushing disappointment, it was already rented. In fact, it’s currently booked solid through fall–a fact the owner/designer Deborah Rumens credits to its lived-in character. “It’s like home. There’s an amazing book selection–books you’d actually want to read. Down to the Rowenta coffeemaker… Everything we did, we thought about the design of it,” says Deborah, who, with her partner Mike Lee, designed the modern-craftsman bungalow to show-off the custom furniture, interiors and design/build work they do under the name Chinese Jesus.  ”We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if people didn’t have to stay in a hotel, and instead they could have an experience that was more authentic to LA?’ It has a really California feel–a little bit surf, a little bit design, a little bit community. It’s modern and clean but not in a slick Italian way,” says Deborah. “We wanted to let the wood speak for itself.”

The wood she’s referring to–a beautiful cedar-slab dining room table; a coffee table with a geometric walnut base–was designed by Chinese Jesus. The rest is a mix of vintage and  modern. “You can’t really put your finger on a style–which is nice. There’s a little something for everyone.”

The Details
The two-bedroom bungalow is $325 a night, or $2,100 a week. Crib and high chair for little ones. Location couldn’t be better: three blocks from the beach and just around the corner from Abbott Kinney. Beach cruisers provided. Rent it at thehouseinvenice.com.

03.30.2011 | by: Kelly
Homes to Stay

Stay: Alamo Square Victorian

San Francisco, California

San Francisco-based prop stylist Rosy is in the business of creating beautiful spaces–and her Victorian home in the Alamo Square/Lower Haight is no exception. With dark douglas fir floors and architectural elements like curved glass windows in the turret and high ceilings with intricate crown moldings, the  interior is awash in bright whites, every shade of ivory and muted earth tones, providing a neutral, high-texture canvas for Rosy’s artful treasure-packed vignettes. She spends a lot of time in France and her native Switzerland, scouring the countryside for antiques and storied objects. Like a curio full of all-white china, antique chairs or her collection of vintage mirrors and portraits.

Rosy rents out the second floor for photo shoots as well as to travelers–with access to the home’s kitchen and dining room. On a recent trip to San Francisco, Rosy’s place was at the top of our list of homes to stay, but it was booked. She kindly invited us over for tea and let us tour the house anyway, explaining that she loves staying in homes when she travels and meeting people passing through San Francisco. These photos hardly do the place justice.

The Details
Price, $199 per night; Sleeps five, but $50 extra per guest beyond two. Rent it at airbnb.com. Kids welcome.

[Photos: thirdfloorsf.com and airbnb.com; living room fireplace photo by Andrea Wyner via countryliving.com]

02.02.2011 | by: Alexandria
Foodtripper

Eat: A-Frame

Los Angeles, California

Here’s a case of reuse gone right. When restaurant owner David Reiss took over a defunct IHOP location in Culver City, California, he decided to go with the architecture instead of fighting it. He enlisted Venice Beach-based Sean Knibb of Knibb Design to make its high-pitched roof a major selling point, and Reiss even named the small-plates eatery A-Frame. Knibb sand-blasted the original Douglas fir roof and then clad the walls in knotty pine to give the space a sense of retro-rustic, under-polished warmth. Add to that strong-lined furnishings, big pops of color in small places and some way out-there details (the exterior lights are made out of retrofitted hoop skirts!) and it creates a laid-back lodge vibe in the middle of L.A. Chef Roy Choi (of the city’s cult-followed Kogi trucks) has crafted a menu that he dubs “modern picnic” fare that includes a global mix of small plates: Peruvian-style crispy beer can chicken, Korean-style BBQ lamp chops, carne asada tortas. And for those who are jonesing for an IHOP-style glucose overdose, A-Frame’s fried apple pie a la mode is one of the tastiest sugar rushes in town.

12.15.2010 | by: Kelly
Homes to Stay

Stay: San Francisco

San Francisco, California

The best way to tackle the city of 46 hills by foot in a week… with a one-year-old: Split the trip between two apartments in two different neighborhoods.

Sprawling, wide-open studio in the Mission
Owned and operated by The Blackwell Files (a “real people” casting agency that scouts regular folks for commercial purposes), the studio is steps away from the Mission’s cafes and restaurants–more than you can comfortably sample in four days. The hand-drawn kid’s menu at Foreign Cinema and the thoughtful service at Delfina (“Would you like mashed potatoes for your daughter?” as soon as we sat down), not to mention getting Tartine bread without waiting in a line that stretches down the block,  make them fast neighborhood favorites for anyone traveling with a little one. The coffee and farm eggs from Stable–the little, way more accessible sister of the much ballyhoo-ed, tasting menu-driven Saison–were a morning staple.

Cozy-eclectic in Lower Haight
Leaving the post-grit, vibrant Mission for the more quintessential, postcard-y San Francisco vibe of the Duboce Triangle/Lower Haight gave us the opportunity to walk to and explore nearby Alamo Square, Buena Vista Park, Hayes Valley, the Castro and Dolores park. It was so nice to return to the art-filled apartment, tucked into the second floor of an Edwardian home, which doubles as a gallery when no one’s renting it. Our favorite seat in the house: a custom-built, pillow-covered window bench with a perfect view of the quiet, tree-lined street below.

The Details:
The Mission studio sleeps 4 and rents for $150 per night. Rent it at airbnb.com. The Duboce Triangle/Lower Haight apartment sleeps 4 and rents for $130 per night. Rent it at vrbo.com.

11.10.2010 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Commune Architect Apt

Hollywood, California

I could go on about this apartment forever. The owner is an architect at Commune. So that explains some of the design genius—like the cinder block bed he constructed to save money but looks better and far sturdier than most beds sold at actual stores. But it’s not just all know-how and no soul. Architect and designer Chau Truong’s Hollywood apartment is filled amazing DIY art installations, handmade furniture and a really expressive and personal point of view. “I wanted to fill the apartment with all the things that I love, which includes a combination of mid-century furniture pieces I’ve rescued over the years and odd objects I’ve made with my own two hands,” says Chau. Cue a hand-crafted rope chair, a wall sconce made out of brass, a floor lamp made from a found sewing machine leg, a fragile tree branch collected from a camping trip at Joshua Tree, a vintage equipment trunk used for a Hollywood movie production as a coffee table.

So the guy has some serious design chops, right? Now, take a closer look at those art installations. In the living room wall, 330 individual black and white prints in the shape of roof shingles overlap each other to form a gigantic billboard-sized Ansel Adams photograph. In the bedroom, a black accent wall is lined with colorful spools of threads with their ends loosened at various lengths. I love how quietly powerful it all comes across. “Every time the door opens or closes, the motion causes these thread ends to swing uniformly like leaves in the wind,” he says. Brilliant, yes?

“Without much care for a consistency in theme or style, the eclecticism of all these pieces would probably give the visitor some ideas about the things that interest me throughout the years,” says Chau. “I wanted the apartment to embody my sensibility through all these objects so that the visitors would really get a sense of excitement from stepping into the world of a complete stranger.” Mission accomplished. And then some.

The Details
One bedroom in West Hollywood. $125 a night. Rent it at airbnb.com.

10.04.2010 | by: Meghan
People

Meet: clamdiggin

Los Angeles, California

I first met clamdiggin, an LA-based biodiversity-obsessed artist collab made up of Alexandra Fisher and Kevin Johnson, six years ago when they were still living in Chicago, creating oversized chalk drawings for some of the coolest restaurants in town, billboard campaigns and hand-printed nature tees. Since then, they moved across the country to Tucson, where they lived in a teepee in the desert, had a kid, and landed an exhibit at MOCA. Now, based in LA, Kevin and Alexandra are building on their mission “to use our aesthetic to promote biodiversity” with an ever-evolving roster of exhibits, documentary collaborations, books, and even selling  conservancy tees from the back of their VW bus. The way Alexandra describes it: “Commerce, support of local artists, production in the US, fashion, education, sex appeal and nature all in a woven basket.”

Fueled by academic-strength research (into everything from the patterns of migrating birds to charting the evolution of a freshwater pond), clamdiggin’s work was recently discovered by the reigning high priestess of hotel design, Kelly Wearstler, who tapped them to help deck out the beautiful, new Viceroy Anguilla. They collaborated on a series of art pieces inspired by Anguilla’s natural resources: leatherback sea tortoises, salt crystals and black mangroves. And the in-hotel shop will sell clamdiggin nature prints, hand-cut and -dyed tees, and Mexican totes.

[From the top: Alexandra and Kevin, in hammerhead houndstooth tee; Viceroy Anguilla; part of Urban Outfitter window installation by clamdiggin; Hawk Moth, acrylic on wood; Rock State Line Conservancy Tee; Market Alphabet, acrylic on reclaimed wood; Venice Crows.]

08.05.2010 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Sonoma Coast Glass House

Occidental, California

Los Angeles-based furniture designer Carol Vena-Mondt is a dream client. When she teamed up with Fred Fisher of Frederick Fisher and Partners to build a 500-square-foot home on 24 acres of land in Sonoma County, she had only one directive. “My only request is for the architect to design something that will make me aware of my living space on a daily basis.” Mission accomplished. Influenced by the modernist lines of Le Corbusier and made from simple materials like wood, block and lots of glass, the house is all about the views: ridge-top, ocean, grassy meadows and woodland, sometimes all at once. She can work on her furniture—clean-lined walnut pieces (often made from a single tree)—while being inspired by the land. Hiking trails, seasonal creeks, a double waterfall and sandy beach are also part of the property.

The Details
The price is $2,800 a week; it’s a 10-minute drive to the village of Occidental; there’s radiant heat and passive solar orientation; and there’s one bedroom and one bath. Inside, Carol’s own designs mix with furniture by the modern masters: Saarinen, Eames, Wegner and McMakin. Rent it at airbnb.com

{photos by Sean Poreda}