England

08.03.2012 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Astley Castle

Warwickshire, England

The Landmark Trust is a pretty amazing organization. It’s a preservation charity in the UK that rescues historic buildings at risk–including “follies,” castles, towers, cottages, and old mills–and turns them into holiday stays to help them survive. Sure, they’re already working with some pretty spectacular stock, but what I appreciate most is the creative approach they take with so many of the properties, blending the old with the new (and often bringing in artists and designers) in order to make it all work. Helen from Design Hunter sent over this newly renovated fortified manor called the Astley Castle (she attended the grand opening). Apparently, the history runs deep: the ancient moated site was entangled with the succession to the throne of England through Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV), Elizabeth of York (wife of Henry VII) and Lady Jane Grey during the 14th and 15th centuries–and it’s said to be the inspiration for Knebley in George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life. During the second world war it was requisitioned for convalescing servicemen and it was later turned into a hotel before suffering fire damage in 1978 and falling into ruin.

After more than 30 years of abandonment and debate, The Landmark Trust worked with Witherford Watson Matts architecture firm to create a beautiful space that masterfully combines clean lines with crumbling brick. The detail that perhaps best exemplifies the aesthetic: looking out the huge windows of the super-slick modern kitchen, a crumbling interior courtyard formed by ruined spaces.

The Details
The four-bedroom manor sleeps eight. Price starts at $1,870 for a three-day weekend. No TV; gardens abound. Rent it at The Landmark Trust.

 

[Photos: by Design Hunter (all but second and fifth images) and courtesy of The Landmark Trust. Thanks, Helen!]

07.11.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Bivouac

Masham, England

I was recently introduced to The Common Pursuit–a new-ish visual compendium of places to stay–after they plucked a bunch of locations from designtripper, including Honor & Folly, for their well-designed, photos-only site. They also featured a couple places I had never seen before, the most impressive a creative woodland retreat in Yorkshire. Tucked into the 20,000-acre Swinton Estate, The Bivouac is dotted with creative, rustic shacks constructed with traditional round-wood timber framing techniques, a few yurts, and some old farm buildings, which have been restored and now house the reception, shop, camping barn and cafe.  Windy Smithy wood stoves, antique rocking chairs, well-worn and handcrafted everything create a snug, outdoorsy-hipster-approved interior with activities to match: wild food foraging, falconry, bread-making workshops, mountain biking and even forrest school (build a den in the woods!). I say this with utmost admiration: this place is a magazine spread in waiting. Kinfolk? Unless Anthropologie gets to it first.

05.09.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Pig

Brockenhurst, England

It’s not just that I love the idea of relaxing country house hotels (I do–especially when they’re covered in climbing wisteria), I’m also drawn to thoughtful, self-sustaining food-focused experiences that immerse you in your surroundings. Planted squarely in the middle of the New Forest in Hampshire, The Pig hotel is both. In fact, the owners refer to it as a “restaurant with rooms.” The chefs and on-site forager source 80 percent of the ingredients from their local woods and nearby beaches;  long walks wind through the gardens, greenhouse and forest; and there’s an onsite pig farm and chickens. You can even borrow a pair of Hunter wellies for the occasion.

02.20.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Babington House

Babington, Somerset, United Kingdom

Vanessa Boz from the family travel site, BozAround, recently got back from a weekend getaway in the heart of Somerset with her adorable family. A three-hour drive from their homebase in central London, Babington House is an iconic English country house hotel from Soho House set on 18 rolling acres. Here’s the thing: you’d never know from the beautiful photos, but the place is a dream for kids. “It doesn’t try too hard,” says Vanessa, who calls it homey and modern–with lots of working fireplaces and blankets on lazy sofas–and has a charming worn-in aesthetic. It’s a nice balance with the classic, formal buildings. And with everyone all aflutter about Downton Abbey, I thought the place would be particularly appealing.

The Details
I’m really attracted to are all the subtle, interesting ways the property caters to kids. You don’t feel like you’re sacrificing every your own experience by traveling with kids. Rather, it’s like a well-executed afterthought. The family suites are duplex-style with a huge bathtubs and playstations hidden in the cupboard. “The swimming pool is really big, indoor and outdoor, warm water, wonderful,” says Vanessa. “There’s a cinema room with popcorns and movies for the children and a complimentary dinner for kids every day in the restaurant at tea-time.”

11.22.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

The Crown

Amersham, England

Everyone works up such a frenzy about the Olde Bell Inn (me included) and it’s certainly not without merit, I assure you. All rush matting, peeling paint and bartenders wearing suspenders without irony, it’s the single best inn experience I’ve ever had, period. But its sister inn, The Crown–just 20 minutes away by car–is pretty spectacular, too. Owned by Tej and Sarina Dhillon and designed (in the same modern coaching inn vernacular) by UK designer Ilse Crawford, there are a lot of aesthetic similarities, starting with the peacock fabric-upholstered fireside armchair and creaky, worn floorboards. With the same High Wycombe chairs, the same (belted) Welch woolly blankets, the same liberal smattering of sheepskins, it’s a near replica tucked inside a slightly newer skin. Because it’s only about 500 years old, a spring chicken compared to the oldest coaching inn in England–the Olde Bell’s claim to fame. The Crown is famous for something else: It’s the recognizable location of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Two years ago almost to the day, we spent an extra-long weekend visiting both, a trip that provides endless fond memories of gray skies, cozy fireside pints and chilly November walks. You won’t want to leave the inn (especially if you have a room with a soaking tub), but trust me on this one: Make sure to wander beyond Amersham’s cluster of tony shops and restaurants. Just beyond the town square, we discovered a walking trail that begins behind the 12th-century stone church of St. Mary’s, where bright green moss-encrusted tombstones and craggy trees look less Bronte (than the Olde Bell’s moors), more Sleepy Hollow. The footpath follows along a small stream into a forest of tall trees and gigantic holly bushes before splintering off into a handful of paths. We pick the right one, and standing above the town at dusk (sunset: 4:15pm in November), the small lights twinkle an outline of the town and everything is perfect.

09.21.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Tilton House

East Sussex, England

In the October issue of Conde Nast Traveler, Gully Wells makes a convincing argument for English eccentricity–from crazy hats at weddings to romanticizing the lascivious behavior of the Bloomsbury set. It’s a monster 12-page spread, replete with fashion photos of box-hedge gardens from Sissinghurst castle, bohemian-garbed models traipsing through wild flowers  (and throwing flamboyant garden parties), and a portrait of a topiary designer. And yet, this place–the magnificent Tilton House, with all its history and charm–gets a mere mention under lodgings. Formerly the home of John Maynard Keynes and his Russian ballerina wife (as well as a Bloomsbury meeting spot), the Tilton House is a stately Georgian affair with seven simply decorated bedrooms, all with views over the Sussex Weald or Downs. Portraits of the couple adorn the walls, as if they still lived there, but in place of Bloomsbury gatherings (and plenty of eccentricity–it’s well-documented that Keynes’ wife Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova used to dance on the lawn under the moonlight.), the house hosts a rotating lineup of writing workshops, yoga retreats, and mushroom foraging outings.

The Details
Rooms starting around $150 (not including workshops). Book your stay at tiltonhouse.co.uk.

08.31.2011 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Didmarton House

Cotswolds, England


Another goodie from my article in T+L about the world’s coolest vacation homes, the Didmarton House is a grand, modernized farmhouse in the Cotswolds filled with flea-market finds, family photos, pops of bright color, pieces by Philippe Starck, and statement-making art. And… it’s owned and decorated by designer Joanna Berryman, who runs the London shop Matrushka (and was married to Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman–a tidbit that helps explain the chic, rock-and-roll design aesthetic she’s known for).

The Details
There are four super well-appointed bedrooms, all with cushy beds, rich drapery and great art. The nearly two-acre grounds feature landscaped gardens, tennis courts, and a small studio that sleeps an additional two people. Price starts around $2,140 for a week. Rent it at mrandmrssmith.com.

[Photos via mrandmrssmith.com.]

07.20.2011 | by: Alexandria
Homes to Stay

Stay: The Dune House

Suffolk, England

The recently built Dune House in England is a new kind of beach retreat, one where lots of angles and and asymmetrical niches have been carved out, the better to take in the home’s one-of-a-kind coastal location. The mostly open-plan, two-story house was designed by one of Norway’s top architectural firms, Jarmund/Vigsnaes Architects, and the result here is a home where every window frames a photo-worthy landscape. Located just south of the teeny-tiny village of Thorpeness in Suffolk, the five-bedroom house is built right on the beach with no neighbors on either side. Inside state-of-the-art appliances are balanced by old-school comforts like a wood-burning fireplace in the sunken living area, and in-bedroom bathtubs are situated next to windows to take advantage of both the ocean and nature reserve views.

The Details
The five-bedroom house sleeps up to nine people. Prices start at $1,225 for a four-night stay. Rent it here.

06.29.2011 | by: Alexandria
Homes to Stay

Stay: The Balancing Barn

Walberswick, England

Dangling over the edge of a hill, the 100-foot-long Balancing Barn divides half its space on terra firma, and half hovering on thin air. Standing on the edge of a nature reserve 11 miles inland from the Suffolk Coast in England, the silver-tile clad structure looks like a Airstream trailer reinterpreted by some Dutch design genius. OK, so it was designed by Dutch wunder-architect, Winy Maas of MVRDV, who’s an ace at creating spaces that are both playful and dramatic. The fact that he installed a swing hanging from the far end of the cantilevered edge feels like the ultimate architectural in-joke. But more than just a feat of engineering, the Barn was built to embrace its setting. The silver cladding reflects the surrounding meadows, woods and pond, and the interiors reveal that Nordic passion for mixing high-functioning design with old-world coziness—think Miele appliances and lots of down comforters under the same roof.

The Details

With four bedrooms, the secluded retreat houses up to eight and rents for approximately $1,000 for a four-night, mid-week stay. Contact Living Architecture.

[Photos: MVRDV, Copyright Edmund Sumner]

03.09.2011 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Parkamoor

Nibthwaite, Cumbria, UK

By now, it’s probably no secret: I have a thing for old houses. I have relationships with them, I build entire trips around them, I study their crevices and crown moldings and broken floor tiles, making up stories about the people who spent lifetimes living and dreaming in the rooms. And when I find one like this 16th-century farmhouse, which is totally isolated, accessible only by foot (or a rambling old pick-up truck that will pick you up in a nearby town), I’m so happy I have people to share it with. Go forth!

The contemporary arts organization Grizedale Arts collaborated with the National Trust to fix up, furnish and decorate the space (but not too much), turning the historical stone house into the most amazingly simple and pared-down retreat–for artists and writers, yes, but also anyone else who appreciates scaling back, and you know, channeling their inner Laura Ingalls Wilder (is that just me?). Inside, there’s a library with a wood-burning stove, kitchen with wood-burning oven, well-worn, spartan furniture and a collection of paraffin lamps. Outside, rolling hills, forrest and a compostable outhouse. This means no electricity, running water or phone reception–a boon for those who agree that the ultimate luxury these days is peace, solitude and a dreamy old house on a big swath of pretty land.

The Details:
$650 a week. Sleeps six people in three bedrooms. Rent it at Welcome Beyond. All within walking distance: birdwatching, fishing and pub- and shop-filled old villages. Also, Lawson Park–historic Cumbrian hill farm and now the Grizedale Arts headquarters–is a 40 minute walk through the forest. You can visit the historic house and collections, farm gardens and wildflower meadow.

12.29.2010 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

The One Room Hotel

London, England

Designtripper wasn’t around for the better part of the year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a looking-back list for 2010. There’s LA art duo Clamdiggin for the newest Viceroy, Richard Hutton’s stripe-y, layered princess-and-the-pea-style mattress at the Llove Hotel, Patricia Urquiola’s bright, high-texture lobby at the Vieques W, and just about everything at Chicago’s six-room Longman & Eagle inn (vintage tape decks, artist-made speakers and wolf skin hanging in the entryway).

But my very favorite project of 2010–a temporary hotel room designed by the super talented Brit couple James Russel and Hannah Plumb (James Plumb) for the London Design Festival–never made it to designtripper while it was actually open. Known for restoring old, worn furnishings and accessories and transforming them into creative, modern pieces, James Plumb designed the One Room Hotel–a stand-alone suite adjacent to a menswear store (with beautiful interiors also by James Plumb). In the daytime, the space was a showroom for their work; by night, a hotel room. Highlights include a once-dilapidated 18th-century Swedish dresser bed they brought back to life and a genius shelving system with vintage suitcases as drawers. Their individual pieces are so smart (old spindled chairs with missing legs made stable with a huge chunk of concrete block), but the aesthetic is beyond extraordinary when they pull it all together for a store, hotel room, or an installation at Salone del Mobile (see below). Thanks for reading. Happy New Year!

[Photos, from top: The One Room Hotel bed via T magazine blog; the counter at the James Plumb designed menswear store Hostem; vintage suitcase shelving at the One Room Hotel via cntraveller.com; James Plumb installation at Salone del Mobile this year]

09.09.2010 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: 40 Winks

London, England

A year and a half ago, London-based interior designer David Carter—known for his artistic spin on grandiosity—turned his historic East London Queen Anne into a wild, charming and totally fantastical b&b for fashion and design-related travelers. “It’s not trying to be a conventional hotel,” says David. “We’re drawing artsy types and people who really love design—people who love the idea of seeing something different with lots of personality. Usually staying at a hotel is such a terribly boring and soulless experience. Here, you’re meeting a human being. It’s a real experience.” David, who has owned the perpetually evolving four-story townhouse (built in 1717) for 12 years, says he’s had to turn away hundreds by the week. “There are lots of people who don’t care about having a 40-inch plasma tv in their room or a spa. Here, it’s about more elusive things, like ambiance and warmth and personality. A lot of people are specifically looking for that. It’s the antidote to things that are over-marketed and over-branded but ultimately kind of shallow, because they’re driven by commercial interest. We’ll never be a commercial success.” Maybe not, but if you’re lucky enough to snag one of the two rooms, you’ll also get to hang out with David, who lives at 40 Winks. “I’m like part of the furniture.”

The Details
There are only two rooms for rent. Since part of Carter’s 40 Winks philosophy is about making it accessible (even if it’s not always available), the prices are shockingly reasonable: the single room starts at $140, the double at $200. If you can’t get a room next time you’re in London but want to experience the surreal charm of 40 Winks, check out the weekly bedtime story nights, involving pjs, storytelling and musical performances.

[photos by Aliona Adrianova]

07.27.2010 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Olde Bell Inn

Hurley, Berkshires, UK

It’s easy to see why people make such a fuss about The Olde Bell Inn—all rush matting, pewter pitchers, colorful Welsh woolen blankets, local high-backed chairs handcrafted in nearby High Wycombe, and a flock of sheepskin throws tossed in every direction. With makeover by Ilse Crawford (the revered former editor of Elle Decor known for bringing modern design to the English masses), the Olde Belle is the oldest functioning inn in England. Paint peels, stairs creak, rooms slant. And for it, there’s a tangible sense of place at Ye Olde Bell, as the sign reads out front next to the namesake iron bell. Crawford honors the long storied history dating back to 1135, instead of trying to re-create a new interior all glossy and pristine.

Old photos and postcards tell the stories. An ancient passageway through the fireplace runs from the pub to the old priory down the street. Monks used to welcome visitors in the bar when they heard the bell clanging; Elizabeth Taylor was a regular; Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower stayed here prior to the Normandy Invasion. The place has seen lifetimes of political upheavals, generational turnovers, natural disasters. Once, the present owner, who invested all his savings in wine, woke up to a flood and all his wine bottles floating in the street.

But the Olde Bell is not some kind of touristy living museum, preserved for show. When I stayed there (while writing a travel story for Interiors), I was blown away by the intimate level of service and impeccable local food effort. Hailing from famous farm-to-table London restaurant St. John’s, innkeeper Neil Irving, who pulls off red suspenders without a hint of irony, sums it up perfectly. “It’s been here for almost 1,000 years. We’re insignificant, just here as caretakers. The building is the character… Some people are annoyed because there’s no minibar in the room, but we want to interact with people. It’s not about pushing people into a room and forgetting about them because we have their credit card.”

We ate local English comfort food: Wood pigeon! Salt lamb shank!  Pheasant pie! Jam and bread! Raised beds in the brick-walled garden feed the kitchen with rosemary, thyme, oregano, arugula, strawberries, artichokes and tomatoes, while colorful jars of preserves and pickled vegetables decorate windowsills. We spent afternoons in the pub, planted in front of the picture-book roaring fireplace with a pint—or glass of cider from a nearby mill.

We took long walks along the Thames, which we could see from our second-story room with a peaked-roof and long view of the moor. There was even a freestanding soaking tub, from which, yes, I did, in fact, read a few chapters of the complimentary Pride and Prejudice.