Welcome Beyond is one of my favorite vacation home booking sites. Based in Berlin, co-founders and brothers Chris and Oliver Laugsch find the most fantastic, tucked-away retreats for their superbly curated site. In really thoughtful owner interviews, they manage to suss out meaningful details that go well beyond the standard list of amenities. They understand that these places have stories. And that the owners have a desire to share those stories–from family legacies to passionate renovations–so the guest can more fully appreciate the experience of staying there. I relate to their approach so much that I listed Honor & Folly on their site, and for awhile, it was the only US-based listing. However, I was clicking around the other day, and discovered this beautiful addition: an old stone mill in the Hudson Valley.
Owned by Ariana Salvato, a designer and stylist based in New York City, the mill belonged to her father and mother–an architect and designer, respectively–who bought the historic, crumbling property when Ariana was a baby and spent a lifetime renovating it. “When I was growing up,” says Ariana, “there was always a table saw going and the sounds of hammer and nails. It was always a work in progress. Aside from my father being an architect, he was also an artist. It’s almost as though the house is the embodiment of his biggest art piece. There’s a sentimental and emotional connection. Everywhere I look, I see his work.”
Since inheriting the house, she hasn’t changed much, besides adding her collection of Catherine Holm Scandinavian enamelware from the ’60s and ’70s. Simple midcentury furnishings and her father’s artwork still hold aesthetic court. Ivy and moss creep down the sides of the rustic stone walls, helping it blend further into the green of the surrounding forest. It’s the kind of place you go to reconnect, cook a heady meal with friends and take long nature walks everyday. For those who need more entertainment, the mill is located near vineyards, farmer’s markets and antique shops, and less than an hour’s drive to a bunch of little towns along the Hudson River–Saugerties, Rhinebeck, Hudson.
Four bedrooms; sleeps up to nine people. Prices start around $3,000 for a week and go up depending on season (also available for weekend rentals). Not only a vacation rental, it also serves as an event and wedding space, and location for photo shoots (as seen in Elle). Rent it at welcomebeyond.com.
A couple weekends ago (breaking up the drive back from Maine) we stayed in Brooklyn artists Frantiska and Tim Gilman’s Catskills log cabin, and the place is an absolute dream — especially for people with kids. It rained much of the weekend, but it didn’t matter — our boys were as happy catching frogs in the pouring rain as they were playing board games at the big farmhouse table on the covered front porch. Our last night there, the weather cleared up and we made a fire in the fire pit, surrounded by tree-stump seats, while the boys waded through the stream until we lost the last bit of dappled sunlight streaming through the trees. There were roasted marshmallows and a sky full of stars.
I could go on ad nauseum about the grounds–a stream, three ponds, little trails through tall wildflowers brimming with butterflies, the best climbing tree in the whole-wide-world (direct quote from my six-year-old)–but the actual cabin was just as special. Frantiska refinished many of the well-worn antique furnishings herself, and the walls are covered in pieces that speak to their artistic leanings as well as tell stories about their history. They bought botany and biology posters from a man with a whole cellar full of them in a village in Czech Republic near the Polish border where Frantiska’s father grew up. And the stunning, oversized map in the living room was pieced together by her father who reproduced it from an old 18th-century map he found in the Prague library where he worked as the curator of contemporary art exhibitions. In the living room, an antique glass cabinet is “our ‘wunderkammern,’ filled with birds nests we collect on the property, an ostrich egg, and the bits and pieces of porcelain and crystal services we get from local antique shops.”
They bought the place five years ago and over the years, they’ve replaced the roof, refinished the floors, reconstructed rotting porches, and installed a bathroom upstairs. But they were already working with some beautiful stock: The cabin was originally built using all local materials (red pine felled right on the property and hand-hewn), as well as reclaimed barn wood, which the original owner/builder got from disassembling barns. Other details–like the slabs of local bluestone for the fireplace, a bathroom floor made from reclaimed bricks from a kiln chimney, and a kitchen island countertop made from a barn door–add layer after layer of rustic character.
There are three bedrooms (sleeps up to eight), and it’s extremely kid-friendly. Prices start at $450 for a weekend. The town of Andes is adorable, with lots of little shops and cafes along the main drag, and the area is known for its amazing hiking trails. Rent it at vrbo.com.
A decade or so ago, Matthew Hranek (The William Brown Project) and Yolanda Edwards (Travels with Clara, Momfilter) bought a bunch of land two and a half hours from Manhattan. There was a mobile home and a barn. While temporarily living in the mobile home (which is now gone in lieu of a modernist-leaning prefab), Matthew designed this tiny one-bedroom cabin, which was built by a local carpenter using local hemlock and vernacular architecture. If you read The William Brown Project, you might recognize the landscape– homebase for many of his hunting, fishing, butchering, cooking, and general outdoorsy pursuits.
Decorated with the same no-nonsense masculine-rustic-vintage sensibility of The William Brown Project (you know, Hudson Bay wool blankets, stacks of firewood and an animal head or two), the space is exquisitely modest. Exactly how it should be. And here’s the kicker: The cabin, which is perfectly situated on 130 beautiful acres of trails, ponds (both fishing and swimming) and good old fashioned grass, is now available for rent. There’s a covetable list of amenities (including a Japanese soaking tub and outdoor shower), but even more compelling is what they cabin doesn’t have (wi-fi, TV, phone, ipod dock, mini bar). To book, email Matthew at email@example.com.
[All photos by Matthew Hranek]
Livingston Manor, New York
Another country gem in upstate New York: This Catskills barn house is a second home on the owner’s beautiful, sprawling 71-acre property in the tiny hamlet of Willowemoc. The interior is simple country living–wood-clad walls, quilts on beds, fiestaware in the curio–but with all this wooded, rolling land at your disposal and a heated saline pool at your doorstep, what the inside looks like feels pretty secondary. $1,500 a week (nights also available). Rent it at redcottageinc.com.
Every summer, our family heads to Maine for a quiet week on the coast. And we drive. From Detroit. I’m a big fan of road trips, but only when there’s enough time to do it right: take it slow, pack a picnic, choose rural route over freeway whenever possible, and stay overnight in a couple interesting spots along the way. We’ve got the leg there already cemented in tradition: This will be our fourth in a row year staying at Porches, which we love for its modern approach to the New England antique aesthetic, spacious rooms, amazing pool and proximity to MASS MoCA (across the street). We even have a favorite Indian restaurant in nearby Williamstown. The way back is a different story: We like to leave it wide-open for discovery. I’m still looking for the perfect spot in a place we’ve never been. In the few weeks before we leave, I’ll be sharing some of the best results of my search. For whatever reason–already booked, not super kid-friendly (read: no pool) or a little too far off course–these beauties aren’t going to work for us this year, but they’re all worth knowing about. For the first installment of the miniseries, check out this perfectly countrified Federal manor in the Hudson Valley. I came across the impeccably revamped rustic 1790s gem on Travels with Clara, but there’s a three-night-minimum snag. I think I’ll tuck it away for a trip when we have more time to enjoy it.
Three bedrooms; $400 a night (minimum three nights). Major chef’s kitchen, including Viking stove and all the tools of the trade. Rent it at Airbnb.com.
From the folks who brought The Surf Lodge to Montauk, King and Grove’s latest brainchild is open for business this summer. Ruschmeyer’s plays up the nostalgia factor with a summer camp theme that doesn’t feel too kitschy. The 19 rooms–with wicker-threaded headboards, curtains strung like sails, macrame hammock-like hanging chairs, fancy gold light fixtures and Frette linens!–read more like an upscale Ace Hotel than ’50s wooded lodge, and the restaurant trades in cafeteria/campfire fare for seasonal produce and seafood from the guys behind New York’s Fat Radish. And there’s that teepee on the front lawn. But don’t let all the aesthetic details distract you from what the camp experience is really about: bike riding, paddle boarding, swimming, ping pong, kite boarding, flying balsa-wood planes and bocce ball.
When the owners of the NYC-based multidisciplinary design studio Oddopolis, Tara Fray and her husband Ryan Rogers, bought a 1930s bungalow four years ago, they needed to summon up some of that creative vision for their own house project. They peeled off kitschy white aluminum siding to reveal the original wood clapboard and spent a year rehabbing–sanding floors, painting walls, gutting kitchen, carving out spacious master suite in the attic–for a peaceful weekend retreat an hour and a half from the city. To finish up the interiors, they hit up local yard sales and antique shops for for a look they call “Swedish industrial ruralist.”
Major bonus: It sits on 2 1/2 acres of perennial gardens, rolling grass and 100 year old tress, berry bushes, outbuildings (chicken coop) and a seasonal brook. But no matter how great the pull, they don’t quite make it up there every weekend with their two kids and busy schedules, so they decided to start renting it out when they’re not using it. Lucky us.
The three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow sleeps 5-7 people. And there are tons of kid-friendly extras: Hammock, swing, board games, telescope and plenty of toys. Seasonal prices start at $200 a night ($1,000/week). Rent it at vrbo.com.
In an industrial patch of Bushwick, in the midst of some warehouses covered with graffiti, stands one of the most ambitious, creative restaurants I’ve ever been to. The food is fantastic—pizza topped with seasonal produce grown out back and in rooftop gardens started with Alice Waters seed money. We ordered one with squash and chili peppers, another with crispy brussels sprouts and pancetta. They also have more interesting and unexpectedly fine-ish dining options for such a laid-back, unpretentious (and reasonably priced) spot: bone marrow, foie gras, oxtail orecchiette, and a grass-fed hunk of steak that everyone agreed was the most delicious piece of meat they’d ever tasted. But just as inspired is the sprawling, unconventional space Roberta’s inhabits. While there’s definitely a hipsterish anti-decor sentiment going on inside the restaurant—wood paneling and painted cinder block walls, mismatched chairs and granny light fixtures—that doesn’t mean the place hasn’t been designed. Thoughtful adaptations, using simple, crude materials, make sure that every nook and cranny is well used, particularly outside. The outdoor area is a labyrinth of growing containers, DIY-built bars, tool sheds, ad-hoc wooden benches, and their own radio station (made from shipping containers) with a glass viewing window and audience picnic tables. There’s even a makeshift cider tent set up on the patio during the chilly months.
And if the entire operation wasn’t impressive enough, they started sending out plates of food when they found out we were from Detroit. Kindred spirits?
The Cafe Gitane in Nolita is an institution for the fashion crowd (a friend assured me: “you’ll sit beside someone famous.”), but we chose the new location instead, tucked inside The Jane hotel, because it’s only a block from the High Line. The brunch was exceptional, and while I got a kick out of the baristas in matching striped shirts and caps and servers with identical outfits and updos, fluttering around the airy French-Moroccan-inspired space on tip-toe, I was most smitten with the restaurant and hotel interiors.
Originally built as a sailor’s hotel in 1908 (called the American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors Home and Institute and also the place where survivor’s of the Titanic stayed until the end of the inquiry), the recently renovated Jane gets a bad rep for having small cabin-like rooms and shared loos (even though prices start at an unbeatable $99). But with a lobby and lounge as lavish, movie-set beautiful as this, who would hang out in the room anyway?
My Australian friend and travel companion called this Brooklyn walk-up “a bit daggy,” but the edge made us feel right at home in hipper-than-a-handlebar-moustache Williamsburg. The owners, who live upstairs with their two kids, rent out the ground-level floor of their charming three-flat for supplemental income. Outfitted in vintage furniture, mismatched china, wrought-iron beds, and cheery, patterned duvets, the space has a comfortable, lived-in vibe. Painted the prettiest shade of robin’s egg blue, walls curving up the grand staircase in the shared front entry are lined with paintings, and a Victorian-era loveseat is upholstered in a poppy, well-worn turquoise silk. In addition to the kitchen/dining and two bedrooms (one that also doubles as a living area), we had access to a magical outdoor patio and backyard, which could easily pass for a Waldorf playground with its twisted vines, trellises and garden fairies.
The price is $165 a night; the High Line is eight stops away on the L Line (a straight shot); and kids are welcome. Verbatim from their listing, “We LOVE kids!” Pack-and-play provided. Rent it at vrbo.com.