Tennessee

05.08.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Go: Leiper’s Fork

Tennessee

Our spring break mission: Drive until it feels like summer. We wound up in Georgia (more on that later), and on our way back through Tennessee, we spent a few days exploring the country, stopping at battlefields, eating fried chicken at roadside diners and driving part of the Natchez Trace — a 444-mile stretch of historic road that winds through three states without a single billboard. By the luck of the road, we stumbled upon Leiper’s Fork. Blink and you’ll miss it. A small, unincorporated rural village south of Nashville, Leiper’s Fork is a small spit of country restaurants, antique shops and an arts collective or two, with enough honky-tonk charm and mountain motorcycle mojo to make it feel like the real deal. Aside from relishing in the beautiful, crumbling old crib barns in wide-open farmland — the bright green of a deep southern spring — walking into Puckett’s Grocery is perhaps the defining moment of this village. A no-frills old-school country grocery, its main draw is the stage — right inside the grocery store — surrounded by a clutch of mismatched tables and wooden chairs filled with folks tapping their toes and shoveling in the cherry smoke hot wings and fried green beans from the restaurant under the same roof. There are more tables out front, alongside a giant BBQ and a row of motorcycles, and it’s so wildly busy on Saturday nights, you have to make a reservation. Country Boy restaurant — every bit as country — is across the street, and you can hear the music from almost anywhere on the street. My boys met a charismatic, southern lady selling jam out front (or rather, she met us — “Bring that baby over here right now, you hear, she is just delicious!”) and they spent almost an hour soaking up her sweet southern charm and helping sell her colorful mason jars of jams, pickled hot peppers, peppery jellies and honey from the back of her truck. This is Leiper’s Fork.

The most fortuitous discovery of the pitstop: Shelter + Roost. We wanted to stay the night in Leiper’s Fork, but it was day-of and offerings are limited even well in advance. No big chains, thank heavens, or even daggy side-of-the-road motels. We sent an inquiry to Sarah McConnell, who owns a darling collection of country houses, with little to no hopes that we’d snag a reservation. Yup, everything was booked, but wait! The guests staying at Brigadoon are leaving a day early! She hustled in the cleaning crew and had it ready for us by mid-afternoon. So not only do we have a place to stay, but this post-Civil War cottage,  just a few steps from town on the main drag, is like a quirky British-by-way-of-Tennessee version of a Ralph Lauren catalogue. Old wooden floors, cushy furnishings and almost every square inch of wall covered with art, textiles and ephemera. We sat on the back porch under twinkling lights, and our boys played badminton in the backyard until the sun went down.

 

02.12.2014 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Shasta Camper

Nashville, Tennessee

A couple weeks ago, I met up with Taylor Bruce (the fellow behind the Wildsam field guides) for a coffee, and he tipped me off to the best new lodging option in Nashville, the city where he launched his first guide two years ago. Taylor describes the Wildsam series as guides that “bring to life what John Steinbeck describes as the ‘faraway joyous look’ that accompanies curiosity,” so it makes perfect sense that his accommodation recommendation was created by a local fiction writer (who, bringing us full circle, wrote an essay about his Tennessee-bred snake phobia for the Nashville Wildsam).

Author of Carry My Bones, J. Wes Yoder is lately doubling as an innkeeper of sorts. Only the inn is a 1962 Shasta camper he bought on eBay, parked in his leafy and secluded East Nashville backyard and gutted from top to bottom with his own hands. To appreciate it now — all clean lines, wood surfaces, white walls and no-fuss, modern detailing — it’s hard to imagine its ticky-tacky state when he bought it:  “It was red and white and had maybe 100 items of Budweiser paraphernalia; decals, strands of Bud light christmas lights, Budweiser curtains, and also an oil funnel in a closet with a tube running down through the floor to piss through,” says J. Wes, who also built a sweet, freestanding little bathhouse with a clawfoot tub, and tucked an outdoor shower into a private corner between the two.

Since he spends a lot of time at home writing fiction, he says it’s easy to run the place, too. “I’m a maid, a receptionist and a concierge, basically, and I like doing it,” he says. “I’ve been surprised by how strongly folks have responded to it, and can’t quite figure it out. I suppose it feels like camping, or conjures some happy memory of laying in a fort you made as a child. That’s one guess.”  There’s no internet or TV, and sometimes guests join him and his roommates for dinner in the garden. Other times, they end up dancing the night away inside at one of his parties. And so it goes staying with a guy who turned an old Budweiser shrine into a serene backyard retreat, you just never know what you’re going to get. I can’t imagine a better introduction to Nashville. Book it at airbnb.com.

[PHOTOS: All images by Laura Dart]

04.22.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Victorian Home Base: Top O’Woodland

Nashville, Tennessee

This is where we’re staying in Nashville, and it could not be more charming. The owner of the Top O’Woodland, Belinda, who’s also an investment advisor, Opera singer and triathlon competitor, bought the 1898 Victorian 11 years ago (“before the neighborhood was this cool”) and filled it with a mix of salvage and inherited family belongings. Her mom’s lace wedding dress from the ’50s hangs on the wall above one of the guest beds, and her great grandmother’s leather lace-up boots sit next to a Stetson fedora that belonged to her great-great-grandfather, who put himself through dentistry school by secretly playing the piano at a speakeasy. There’s a story behind everything. The huge, mahogany four-poster bed in the master bedroom came from a thrift store. “I get deals or I don’t buy,” she says. “I was there when a divorce truck rolled in.”

Our kids love it here, partly because they’re not confined to a hotel room, but mostly because of the magical outdoor area with wrought-iron tables and chairs, strung-up lights and a winding path through the lush landscaping that leads to a little koi pond (with fish food tucked behind a wooden mushroom in the flowers). Another kid bonus: there’s an old, fantastic pizzeria across the street, located in the original storefront location of the H.G. Hills grocery chain. Located on a picturesque street in the East Nashville neighborhood, the Top O’Woodland is also within stroller-pushing distance to an ice cream shop, organic market, amazing vintage clothing shop (Fanny’s House of Music, owned by a former fashion columnist and editor for the New York Post) and Wonders on Woodland (an another old Victorian filled to the brim with vintage furniture).

The Details
Prices start at $160 a night. We’re staying in Mr. Greene’s cottage, which has a kitchenette and two bedrooms. Sleeps six. Make reservations at topofwoodland.com.

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.]
04.22.2011 | by: Meghan

Made in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee

I knew Nashville would be my kind of town. We’d only been here a half hour when I spotted some guy (not a farmer) walking down the street in overalls. And in less than 15 hours (10 of which were spent sleeping), my obsession with the no-frills, down-home countrified aesthetic I’ve always romanticized from afar has been intensified by two particular stops: Imogene + Willie and Hatch Show Print.

They’re incredibly different. One sells denim, the other posters. But at both places, they still make things–and their honest, hard-working, old-school process is on display right in the shop. And for anyone who’s interested in the design and craft behind the eventual product, it’s like being a sugar-deprived kid in a candy factory. And the interiors! The buzzing sewing machines and colorful thread spools at Imogene + Willie and old wood blocks stacked from floor to ceiling at Hatch Show–it all becomes part of the story. Some of the people who run the sewing machines are also Imogene + Willie denim models, and the wood blocks sitting on shelves made from even older wood blocks that were discarded more than 100 years ago are the same blocks responsible for the greatest concert posters of all time. Hatch Show Print has been making posters for 132 years for musicians like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Luna, The White Stripes and every other band that lives in or comes through the Music City these days.

I bought a poster for my kitchen at Hatch (“a dash equals 1/4 teaspoon”) and I couldn’t resist a custom pair of jeans at Imogene + Willie (“the Imogene stretch”). I’ve admired photos all over the internet, but in person, this place exceeded my already pre-hyped expectations. Our kids explored every little nook and cranny, and the staff–who were all disarmingly friendly–made instant buddies with them, which made it so much easier to walk around the store, try on jeans and get fitted. (I was horrified, but they laughed and hustled to try to take a photo when my two-year-old picked up an errant power tool). And in the time we walked down the street for a hand-crushed raspberry and lime popsicle at Las Paletes, my jeans had been hemmed, wrapped in brown butcher paper and tied up with a scrap denim ribbon.

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.]