Since my dream trip last summer to Domus Civita — Patrizio Fradiani’s ancient cave house — he’s had professional photographs taken. For those who followed along with the gutsy renovation process, finally a worthy payoff. Chicago photographer Bob Coscarelli captures the magic of the place — the quiet interior, the soft light, the soulful connection between inside and outside, and the depths and history of those miraculous caves. Accessed only by pedestrian footbridge, the town Civita de Bagnoregio is straight out of time. A picturesque mess of cobblestone streets, climbing ivy and a pace that makes the rest of Italy look downright harried, the town and the surrounding landscape (views of the Tibor river valley and clay rooftops out every flung-open window) both play an inextricable part of the experience. The garden… that gazebo, I start feeling euphoric just thinking about sitting out there. But I won’t carry on — I’ve already done enough of that here and here — but I do want to share these photographs, because they do such a beautiful job of finalizing the story.
I love winter. Just not winter in the city. I want blankets of dense white snow instead of dirty brown slush, and space to romp around in it. Sledding, ice-skating, cross-country skiing, the works. Even if I had a fireplace, it wouldn’t get me through: I crave the icy solitude of a rustic, bare-bones cabin in the country, stocked with wool blankets, snow shoes and plenty of firewood. Somewhere to stave off the stir crazies. This is why the amazing, covet-enducing Cabin Porn is a very dangerous haunt (if you’ve never heard of of it, I don’t recommend checking it out if you don’t have an hour or more to spare). The site’s only drawback, besides making me feel extremely envious, is that there’s not much information about each cabin, and most aren’t for rent. You may end up doing some random googling for “rustic hunting cabins in the woods for rent,” which produces a substantial list of places well-suited for a low-budget horror film, but not exactly Cabin Porn material.
Here are a few rustic spots from the designtripper arsenal that might come in handy:
Next week, I’ll cover some favorites from the warm and sunny end of the spectrum. Because as much as I love snow (and was grateful for actually having some this year), we’ll be happily on our way back here.
Cicero once said, “There’s no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.” Even though I live in an old Victorian from the 1890s, I don’t have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, and on blustery, blizzard-y days like today, I feel particularly salty about that fact. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than sitting in front of a blazing fire with a tattered copy of Middlemarch and a cup of steaming tea. Maybe it’s time to outsource.
Nowhere else do I feel closer to home than in front of this fireplace in Maine.
I’d even take this cute little workhorse at the Parkamoor House–an amazing collaboration between the Grizedale Arts organization and the National Trust It depends on its rustic old hearths and stoves as the only heat source, since there’s no electricity.
Huberhaus is a 16th century traditional alpine log dwelling located in the Upper Valais in Switzerland.
Formerly the home of John Maynard Keynes, this former meeting spot for the Bloomsbury set beckons. The Tilton House.
You can never ever go wrong with a hearth in the kitchen. This 1790s Federal manor in the Hudson Valley looks as tempting for the winter months as the summer.
I first heard about this series of cave hotels from my Italian friend Patrizio, who thought I would love the “diffused hotel” concept: hotel rooms spread across a small medieval hilltop village that maintain their original character (rough stone walls, uneven floors, and old-as-dirt wooden furniture). The mission is to preserve not only the landscape and original architecture of the towns they’ve settled in, but also the history and local tradition–from the craft to the cuisine of the region.
And while Sextantio’s entire concept is pretty special–using tourism to save towns that would otherwise fall into decline– it’s the bit about traditional craft I find particularly inspiring. I didn’t realize, until I spotted photos of the beautiful loom work on Remodelista, that the hotel is so fiercely dedicated to supporting local craft. For instance, linens and coverlets are handmade by ladies who have always made textiles–in a town that has produced textiles for hundreds of years. They’re made with new materials using ancient techniques, often replicated from old drawings and archival photographs. I wish we saw more of this kind of beautiful creative thinking in the hotel industry.
I know, I know. I’m ridiculously late to the party, but I kind of love Instagram. I’m wishing I would have started using it before our summer travels. I take so many photos that never see the light of this site, and it’s such a great way to share experiences beyond the places we’re staying. It’s like a time capsule of little travel moments–pretty sunsets, roadside fruit stands, an ancient stone wall covered in ivy, a line of Italian boy scouts, a misty apple orchard first thing in the morning. It’s these fleeting, tender, spontaneous, funny, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime moments that make you so grateful you left home to open your eyes somewhere else. You’re welcome to follow along (and for any groaning Twitter or Facebook followers, I actually use Instagram!).
The lucky winner of last week’s Honor & Folly contest is Adi Segal.
In a recent story I wrote for the Guardian– 10 characterful hotels and B&Bs in the US – I tapped a contributor to guide me to an interesting spot in Northern California. Gemma and Andrew Ingalls have been to the Boonville Hotel three times, and Gemma assures me it is a tremendously lovely and worthy spot. Described as “a modern roadhouse,” the 15-room Boonville Hotel is situated two hours away from San Francisco in Anderson Valley, a laid-back wine region in Mendocino County known for bucking the posh pretences of Napa. Stay in one of their simply appointed rooms or spread out in a suite or standalone bungalow nestled in the garden, some of which have linen sofas, porches and hammocks. The cozy in-house farm-to-table restaurant is a destination in its own right (reservations-only). A recent menu, which changes daily, included prosciutto and melon, roast fig, local goat’s cheese, baked halibut, and late summer vegetable gratin, pea shoots and Pernod cream. While you’re in the area, make sure to taste the pinot noirs that the region is known for, take a hike through the Redwoods, and drive along the craggy mystical coast. It’s a real-deal family run affair, and relatives own the nearby Philo Apple Farm, responsible for more than 80 varieties on 30 beautiful acres and boasting a b&b/cottages/cooking classes on site. They also own the Farmhouse Mercantile downtown. Gemma and Andrew sent over some photographs of the hotel and the surrounding landscape, the latter a heart-stopping farm-meets-coastline combination of redwoods, rugged rocky cliffs over ocean, farmland, vineyards, orchard. Not sure it gets much better.
I know I’m not alone in feeling more creative and inspired when I get away. New places, new experiences make people see things differently. To think, feel and dream more. To quiet down and listen. Take me to a cabin in the woods, and after a couple days, my slower, more reflective self kicks in. Poetry, knitting, cooking, writing, building stuff with my kids from sticks. It’s the reason writers buy shacks in remote coastal towns, and artists create colonies in the country.
Most writers, painters, knitters, builders, bakers and craft-makers I know can’t afford their own creative refuges. So they seek quiet and solace and beauty where they can find it. Recently, I’ve been inspired by all the different types of creative retreats and residencies, art camps and travel workshops, from the extravagant SquamItalia to the humble and rustic, but no less impressive, Cabin-Time. So begins a new series: creative retreats.
Cabin-Time–”a roaming creative residency to remote places”–spent their third residency on the beautifully wild and rugged Rabbit Island, a remote 91-acre island off Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior. In addition to chopping wood, setting up camp and cooking meals over the fire, they managed to find time to make all kinds of site-specific art, like a series of vinyl-cut prints that represent the last harvest of blueberries or the perfectly simple weather rock. Photos below, plus this awesome 12-minute mini documentary.
When we arrived at Villa Pizzorusso, I was a little confused by the exterior color of the house–a no-excuses shade of amaranth pink that didn’t seem, at first, to fit the house. But after my first dusk between the rows of olive trees, twisted and giant, showing their age in their outstretched branches, I understood. Everything turns pink–the light, the land, the silvery leaves. I was lucky enough to take a couple bike rides through the groves during this magical time of day just before night, and I thought I’d share some of my photos of the countryside and even a few from within the walls of the masseria courtyard.
We’re in Italy right now. First Puglia, where we’re staying in a fortified masseria with citrus groves and walnut and persimmon trees growing in the courtyard. Then, we’ll travel up to Civita di Bagnoregio to stay in Patrizio’s just-finished cave house in the Etruscan town he calls one of the “most beautiful and noble places on earth.” His passion for this ancient place feels contagious and sincere, poetic even (“It has the appearance of being built from gold and silver – the gold of the Tufa rock in the cliffs and houses, the silver of its basalt paved streets.”), and I’m looking forward to sharing our experience when we get back in two weeks. Until then, some travel inspiration to keep you busy:
>> This interview with Australian photographer Sharyn Cairns. Her Cuba series is heart-gripping for those who like beautiful crumbling things.
>> The menu from the restaurant at this lodge in North Haven, Maine. Chef Amanda Hallowell uses food from the local farm, Turner Farm.
>> You haven’t seen the last of this Leelanau Peninsula historic b&b, Hillside Homestead. Would love to take a farm class.
>> A feature I contributed to in Food & Wine about the best places in Italy to stay/eat.
>> This Herriot Grace film about Nikole’s dad. I love the part where he talks about his cabin: “That is where my soul is. When I drive in that driveway, the rest of the world doesn’t exist.” That’s the truest form of getting-away-from-it-all travel.
>> These Anchorage finds from Matthew Hranek’s trip to Alaska.
Travel notes from an expert: One of designtripper’s contributors, Ben Lambers (of Amsterdam’s Studio Aandacht), put together this rad little flow chart from his European design road trip. He and his wife and partner, Tatjana, were headed to the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, but their course could be cribbed any time of year. Highlights and hotel favorites include the Vitra Museum in Germany and Mama Shelter in Paris. Take notes.
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since designtripper was featured in this The New York Times story about curated travel a couple weeks ago. Every since, I’ve been inundated with an endless stream of submissions detailing farmhouses, country b&bs, family summer cottages, mountain yurts, mammoth island complexes, and even a floating ferry boat house. While I’m certainly not complaining, there’s no way I can possibly write about all of them–much less visit (although thank you very much for all the lovely invitations). I did, however, finally have time to sift through hundreds of beautiful photos and browse websites. Below, a quick round-up of some of my favorites.
1. Located on a 150-year-old family farm in rural New York (the Genesee River Valley), the Granary is a charming, three-bedroom country guesthouse that once housed wheat and oats. Now, it’s a simple retreat surrounded by wildflowers and wide open farmland, which cultivates hay, corn, wheat, rye, organic vegetables and lavender.
2. The Maison d’Être is a four-bedroom house in rural France dating back to the 1500s. Set in the ancient village of St. Cirq Lapopie (a World Heritage site) and surrounded by an ancient stone wall, the place has the medieval fairytale aesthetic pretty much nailed.
3. A family-run hotel in Oia, Santorini, Greece, Esperas Traditional Houses have 18 suites, studios and cave houses built into the sides of the cliffs overlooking the fishing village of Ammoudi. It hardly matters–given gasp-inducing views of the Aegean Sea–but I really love how imperfect and traditional the interiors look.
4. New York-based brothers Ronan and Colin Hannan opened this small, luxurious hotel in a western Belize rainforest a few years ago. My favorite detail is that they hired local carpenters to handmake all the furniture from local hardwoods.
5. I will stay here one day, mark my words (I’m the daughter of a Navy man, who knows every story of every significant boat to sail the American waters in the last hudred-plus years). The first ferryboat on Puget Sound, the SS City of Seattle, now called the Yellow Ferry, is a 116-year-old, double-ender, side-wheel ferry boat berthed in Sausalito. It has been in the same family for 55 years, but sadly, the owner passed away a couple months ago. As a result, her children, who can’t bear the thought of selling the place, have made it available for rent–and if the history isn’t compelling enough, the interiors are spectacular. Please stay here.
6. You can never have enough places tucked away for your next trip to New York City. This Federalist townhouse is located in the West Village and has a pretty fantastic atrium-like living room and lush rooftop terrace.
[This also seems like a good time to mention my editorial policy: Content cannot be bought. I have never been paid to write about a specific place. I have done a couple sponsored posts, but I choose where I stay and what I write about. Thank you again for all your interest!]
Last week we got back from a week at Casa Ninamu, which I wrote about last year after meeting the lovely owners Anne Menke and Johann Ackermann and their three delightful, tow-headed boys. Staying there was a different kind of experience. It was less about the beautiful interiors–with built-in stucco sofas; colorful, handcrafted Mexican textiles; and cobalt blue walls that popped against the lush jungle surrounding it–and more about how we spent our time doing almost nothing at all.
There are so many things I love about the town of Sayulita that I never anticipated how much I’d enjoy staying just outside it. Aside from the thundering waves breaking on the beach (loud enough to wake me up on occasion), the insects and birds chirping up a storm, and the creature-rustling of the flora outside, there is absolute silence. It’s a quiet so deep, it makes a swaying palm frond sound louder than an ambulance hurtling down a city street. Most days, we wake up slowly–with a view of the ocean out the wide-open bedroom doors–and drink coffee, make breakfast and read, while our kids draw at the dining room table (also with a view of the ocean). By midmorning, the kids are swimming naked in the saltwater pool, chasing butterflies, hunting for iguanas and planning the day’s sandcastle design and fortification. We indulge in avid shell collecting, rock climbing, sand burying, crab chasing and jungle exploring, including a hike to a nearby town that was rerouted by high tide up a densely-forested Monkey Mountain over the course of six dreadful hours. Later we laugh about it. Much later. My five-year-old invented a game that involves throwing a fallen coconut into the waves and waiting for it to come rushing back onto the shore, prompting a highly competitive chase-and-grab element. And it’s not until day seven that I realize we never made it to those restaurants we wanted to try, or organized a tour of the nearby cliffs and hot springs we heard about. Instead our entire trip was an endless pleasure cycle of lazing about–pool, play, eat, nap, hammock, beach, repeat. The very best kind of travel, an actual vacation.
For New Year’s Eve this year, my husband Ryan and I made a last-minute trip into Chicago to stay at Longman & Eagle. I’ve written about the proper six-room inn above the Logan Square restaurant of the same name–both here and for the magazine I used to work for, CS Interiors–so I’ve had a tour of all the rooms, interviewed the owners/designers, the works, but I’ve never actually stayed there. Being in the space overnight as a guest gave me a chance to really appreciate all the thoughtful little details that make staying there there such a special experience (beyond the fact that the rooms and furniture were all designed and built by one of the owners): handmade wooden drink coins, mixed tapes, custom wooden speakers, chambray sheets made by the local company Unison, hanging terrariums over the bathroom sink, wallpaper in the restaurant bathrooms made from black and white pages of an old magazine, a minibar filled with snacks like Gunslinger beef jerky. Aside from a quick stop at the MCA to see the Andrew Bird and instrument maker Ian Schneller collaborative exhibit, Sound Garden (on its last day), and our favorite haunt in our old neighborhood (The Rainbo), we didn’t leave Longman & Eagle. We didn’t need to. We ate dinner there (a special New Year’s Eve tasting menu) sat at the long wooden bar for an after-dinner drink, and hung out in the room (I read the entire Logan Square Literary Review) before heading back downstairs in the morning for the kind of meaty brunch that makes men out of boys. I opted for the PRB breakfast sans PBR, which felt kind of wimpy considering some of the other, more daring options (spicy brioche with bacon pudding!). But I was craving something simple, and it was damn good.
Tereasa from Wandawega emailed me a few months back after reading the post about the Red Welly in Wales, saying that she was “so getting a teepee.” And true to her wildly ambitious, girl-who-never-sleeps form (see her treehouse for proof), she had the thing ordered, erected and decorated in a month’s time. It’s officially the coolest designtripper-inspired spawn of the year.
Tucked away in the woods, just past the Boy Scout tents, the Craigslist-snagged teepee is kitted out with seagrass flooring, a futon, and vintage cooler, antique hurricane lantern and Navajo rug from her regular hit-list circuit of flea, yard and barn sales. The whole production is pretty much a knockout, and I can’t wait to stay next summer. I’d like to think I’m tough enough to brave a winter weekend, because, technically, it’s an all-weather teepee with a fire pit, but I think I’ll be really honest with myself and save the experience for the snow-free months. Happy New Year! See you next week.