New Orleans Road 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.]

04.19.2011 | by: Meghan

Favorite Cincy Find: Brush Factory

Cincinnati, Ohio

We pull up to an old brush factory in a run-down, once semi-industrial neighborhood of Cincinnati called Brighton, and the sign hangs out front with a big crack running through the middle like some kind of ominous signal. But inside, the scene—a fantastic mess of spooled thread, measuring tape, antique sewing machines and rolls of fabric—is hardly deteriorating. Rosie Kovacs and her longtime boyfriend Hayes Shanesy have turned the 120-year-old factory into a creative laboratory for their collaborative brand, aptly called Brush Factory. She designs and sews clothing on the first floor, and Hayes, who refurbishes vintage motorcycles in a garage-like room off the back, also has a wood shop upstairs, where he started handcrafting design objects (like walnut spinning wheels, bottle stoppers) and furniture when they opened their retail shop in Oakley (about 15 minutes away) and needed more stuff to fill it. “We thought we should open a shop in a place where there are actual living people.”

And, indeed, the store is great–a polished collection of their finished product. But the studio, where they sit across a huge work table sketching a pattern and debating the closures for a new bag design (“How can you finish that so you can’t see the cording?”), their idealistic design vision and simple, high-craft aesthetic come to life. The approach, whether working on an apron wrap-dress or a hand-turned walnut bowl, is all about honoring method—“the way things should be made”–and for that very reason, their work feels like an extension of where its created.

Upstairs, a lot of the furniture is Shaker-inspired, like the bench with a woven seat made from unbleached, cotton twill tape found in an old building across the street with a stamping machine. It was probably used as tie-down strapping for finished goods leaving the factory on big trucks. Hayes, whose dad just retired as the Editor of Popular Woodworking magazine last week, said he learned everything he knows from his dad. “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher.” And with any luck, his newly retired dad will be joining him in the wood shop shortly, bringing his cabinet-making skills and experience to The Brush Factory floor. “Hopefully, he can help make me a better businessman,” laughs Hayes.

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.]
04.18.2011 | by: Meghan

Designtripper Road Trip: We’re Off!

From Detroit to New Orleans

As far as ultimate design junkie road trips go, Detroit to New Orleans isn’t the most predictable corridor, but we’re firm believers in seeking out authenticity and good design in unexpected places. From one great American city to another—and all the spots in between—designtripper hits the road (in a brand-new Lincoln MKX!). With stops in Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, and Greensboro, Alabama, we’re ready to explore some of the country’s most storied cities.

This afternoon–so long as the two toddlers strapped into the backseat cooperate–we’ll make an afternoon pitstop in Cincinnati to gawk at some cutting-edge architecture and tour an old brush factory that’s now a modern-day fashion and design studio before pulling into Louisville for the night. As for the rest of our itinerary, you’ll have to check back to see what we’re up to. We’ll be posting every day for two weeks, chronicling the most interesting stories, spaces and places along the way.

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.]