Kentucky

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).

04.21.2011 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Discovery of the Day: Hillbilly Tea

Louisville, Kentucky


We made the fortuitous stop at Hillbilly Tea yesterday and cannot get over how perfectly Louisville the interiors felt–a city take on Kentucky Appalachian. Just the right amount of hipster hillbilly kitsch without being too theme-y. And the food–road kill stew (ok, a little theme-y), corn pone, succotash, white bean and sage fritters, and homemade vegan cookies–is exactly what it should be: good ole fashioned country cooking with local ingredients. And super reasonably priced. Even the kiddos were smacking their chops and licking their fingers. We just got to Nashville, and we’re already feeling all nostalgic about the place.

For more photos from the road, go to the Lincoln-Designtripper site!

[Disclaimer: Ford Motor Company is the paying sponsor of designtripper's road trip to New Orleans, which also included a Lincoln MKX for the duration of the trip.]
04.21.2011 | by: Meghan

Jackpot: 90,000 Square Feet of Antiques

Louisville, Kentucky

We only spent two days in Louisville, but it was enough time to get totally hooked on this beautiful city on the river. Along Main Street downtown, the cast-iron facades—pre-fabricated units made in the Louisville foundries replaced masonry buildings in the 19th century—are being restored in big stretches, but I love how they look with the paint peeling away from the muscular rusty pillars. And with azalea trees in full, brilliant bloom, this is one of the greenest cities I have ever seen. Even the grass seems greener in the Bluegrass State—like fluorescent carpet lining the streets.

I got a tip from a Louisville-born pal whose sister still lives here (and owns a clothing shop called the Peacock Boutique): She instructed me to head over to Goss Antiques, and both Kelly and I are still reeling. It’s 90,000 square feet! Originally a cotton mill from the 1800s, the place is packed full of Louisville antiquities—the kind that make you feel like you’ve slipped back into a time when everyone wore fancy wide-brimmed hats, served mint juleps in stamped silver cups, and decorated their parlors with horse busts, statuettes and racing paintings. There’s even a restaurant inside.

We could have easily stayed for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon lost in decorating history,  but we wanted to check out Jack Frye’s—a local institution, opened in the 30s as safe haven for bootleggers and bookies, where folks still go today to get fancy Southern fare (confession: we went for the storied old-school interiors). On the way, we stumbled across a little store on Baxter called Oxenrose. The owner Jonathan Thornton, who has a background in “visual merchandising, crafting and compulsive hoarding,” refinishes just about anything and makes a ton of his own stuff, including lighting from the craziest old objects (an old phonograph horn and a rat trap cage).

For more photos from the road, go to the Lincoln-Designtripper site!

[Disclaimer: Ford Motor Company is the paying sponsor of designtripper's road trip to New Orleans, which also included a Lincoln MKX for the duration of the trip.]
04.20.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Designtripper at the 21c!

Louisville, Kentucky

After spending a few rollicking hours at the kid-geared UnMuseum in Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center, we loaded the kiddos (who may have been kicking and screaming) back in the car for a two-hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky, where we’re staying at the super-famed 21c Hotel. I cannot stress enough: This place is worth every single dribble of high praise. It is mind-blowingly cool. Take the repeat video of a sleeping couple in twisted sheets projected onto the floor in front of the reception desk. Or the interactive installation–Text Rain–in the elevator bank that drops little words of a poem around your shadow reflection. My toddler played with both for hours. But guess what? The staff totally encourages it. That’s right–no “please do not touch” signs or fussy  attendants following you around with the stink eye.

The story behind the hotel is pretty incredible, too. The owners Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown started the hotel not just because they have a vast personal collection that they wanted to share (much of the art on display is theirs), but they also wanted to help rescusitate the downtown. The couple, who lives on a 1,000-acre farm 25 miles down the river (they raise bison!), believe people can help save farmland through urban revitalization. Make things more interesting downtown, and folks will want to be there again. And so far, their plan seems to be working. In the past five years since the 21c opened, the people are flocking–tourists and locals–and there’s a renewed interest in the downtown scene.

The exhibits change pretty regularly, with major shows two to three times a year. Right now, the exhibit taking up most of the space is Cuba Now–a whopping collection of amazing contemporary art by Cuban artists (inspired by a trip Steve and Laura Lee took to Cuba in 2003; they’ve been collecting Cuban art ever since). The hotel is open to art viewers 24 hours a day–a fact I find pretty extraordinary. I like knowing that if I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep, I could go downstairs and watch all the videos I can’t get through with a toddler tugging at my skirt. But even better: the cold milk and warm cookies the staff brought, unsolicited, to our room before bed.

Tomorrow, we’ll show you everything we’ve done and seen in Louisville–which is such a beautiful, lush city of trees, historic cast-iron architecture and derby fever (even though it’s a couple weeks away).

For more photos from the road, go to the Lincoln-Designtripper site!

[Disclaimer: Ford Motor Company is the paying sponsor of designtripper's road trip to New Orleans, which also included a Lincoln MKX for the duration of the trip.]