Even though the Fogo Island Inn is a real looker–with architecture and design that’s as slick as it gets–it’s all about the intentions here, folks. Nutshell: An unlikely group of people come together to preserve a way of life in rural Newfoundland. And in a refreshing break from the sales-y marketing talk of so many socially responsible entrepreneurial efforts, the Fogo Island Inn’s mission feels straightforward and honest: enriching the lives of the locals and sustaining local craftsmanship and tradition. In the handful of months since it opened, more than 60 islanders are being trained to make quilts, rugs and textiles. On the homepage of the inn’s website, photos of locals and hotel employees outnumber photos of the knockout-beautiful hotel, showing exactly what they value: the artists, carpenters, boatbuilders, fisherman and foragers who make up the community. The inn is run as a charity (there are no investors who need to be paid), and the primary mission is to reinvest in the community. And since we’re being honest, the simply and thoughtfully decorated rooms with wood-burning stoves, rocking chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows with staggeringly beautiful views of the rugged, wild coast don’t hurt either.
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]
With a new baby in the house–bringing the total up to three littles–planning our next family vacation feels a bit daunting. There, I said it. First step is admitting there is a problem, right? The next step is poring over the new family-focused vacation rental site, Kid & Coe. The whip-smart ladies behind this genius site (including my friend Vanessa Boz, who’s contributing and deserves mega big props for taking a hiatus from her job to travel around the world with her family a few years ago) all have children and love to travel. So they understand the nuanced intricacies of what makes a trip less stressful and more fun — for kiddos and parents. In each description, they include dream trip-in-the-making details like proximity to parks and playgrounds; recommended spots for picnicking (in a garden under a giant oak tree); forest hikes and loaner wellies; toys and bikes to borrow; and whether there’s a ping pong table or petting farm on the property. And beyond being truly useful and easy to use, it should be noted that Kid & Coe is absolutely gorgeous. Here, just a few (of many) places that caught my fancy.
^^At this rustic cottage in Andalusia, there’s a pool, bikes, boules, outdoor chess table and ping pong, plus you can hire a donkey for a guided trek!
^^The ultimate kid-friendly apartment in Fort Greene has heaps of toys, a playroom, a piano and views of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. What more could a kid want in Brooklyn?
^^Part of an estate, this former hayloft in Umbria is a dream for kids. Acres and acres of grounds and flower gardens to explore, a paddock with a herd of alpacas, a pool, a hang-out room with games and kids books, and a chocolate factory and family-friendly truffle hunting nearby.
While visiting a dear friend in New York City a couple weekends ago (well before this weekend’s rainy winter solstice), we decided to scoot upstate for a night or two to hole up and catch up. We needed some space, we both reckoned, to spread out and breathe and walk in crisp air over crunchy leaves. Once we got to our destination–a beautifully rehabbed girls’ camp building with lots of natural wood, plants, and mismatched textiles–it was a foregone conclusion: We asked if we could stay another night before the first 24 hours had passed. It’s that kind of place.
Owned and rehabbed by Brooklyn-based architect Kevin Lindores and his partner Daniel, who also works in design, the three-bedroom hideaway could not have better suited our weekend of unapologetic lounging, eating and talking. I did much of the cooking, and my friend was the designated fire-builder–the extent of our duties, save for the welcome, shared responsibility of baby-holding (and cooing and cheek-pinching). My living room throne was a custom linen-upholstered, daybed-inspired bench that stretches the entire length of the living room. There was a lot of wine, and a lot of landscape gawking through perfectly placed windows, giving way to knockout views that, on this particular weekend, made the Manhattan skyline seem almost trivial in comparison. Behind the house, a forested view of the mountains stretched out with colors that seemed to change by the hour. When we arrived, it was the tail-end of autumn–crispy, tawny leaves underfoot against a foggy backdrop of bright green evergreens. By the time we left, there was a magical dusting of snow covering the backyard, the branches, the old stone hedges, and it felt like we had endured the changing of the seasons through one meandering, endless conversation in front of the fireplace. It made me think about how much I’ve come to appreciate the in-between-ness of the seasons–those uncharacteristic days that seem to defy, waffle between and hover, and how I so rarely get a chance to consider such frivolities.
Sometimes you have to remember to stop moving–a place like this certainly helps. Clum House is available for reservations at airbnb.com.
This month marks the two-year anniversary of Honor & Folly. In that span, I’ve met countless kind, interesting, kooky, good people who have come through Detroit, many who have become friends. Many who have made the trip because they read this blog. That has been the greatest honor. Thank you, thank you. I love meeting you and showing you my city. This little inn has surpassed my expectations 100 times over and led to opportunities I would have otherwise never had. Like this interview in The New York Times and the H&F holiday pop-up at Shinola–the new bike and watch company headquartered in Detroit (factory and flagship). Because H&F has been so busy–a good problem, right?–I haven’t been able to regularly open up the space to the public for selling goods like I originally intended. So through the holidays, lots of the handcrafted goods that decorate Honor & Folly are on display and for sale in a lovely, dedicated nook at Shinola. And a few new things from the crew of talented designers for the occasion: Amy Bem added leather detailing to the quilt-like pillows; Abigail Murray made a new delicately off-kilter serving bowl; The Brush Factory added walnut bottle rock stoppers and gradient coasters; Megan O’Connell made the most beautiful holiday card I have ever seen (with an Elizabethan recipe on the back); and I gathered up a few vintage pieces that reflect the long history of American design, from a tobacco-drying basket to a natural stoneware mixing bowl (both of which I really want to keep for myself).
Remember a couple years ago when I wrote about architect Sabrina Bignami’s gorgeous frescoed Tuscan apartment, where she hosts guests in one of the extra bedrooms? Since then, we’ve stayed in touch a bit; call it a mutual affinity for beautiful, creative spaces. I was drawn to her strong preservation ethos, juxtaposing original interior architectural elements with a modern design sensibility, and she became a regular reader (the highest compliment). So I was thrilled to hear that she and her partner Alessandro Capellaro decided to start renting out their renovated Box House in Florence. If it looks familiar, the former carpenter’s workshop–once a giant, open-plan mess of dust, wood and machines turned cozy loft–made rapid-fire rounds through design magazines when they finished the project a few years ago. And now, I have the privilege of introducing it to travelers.
Located five walking minutes from the historical centre on a quiet street, there are so many important details that make it a great place to stay (a big cooking kitchen, interior courtyard, and fireplace, for starters), but I’m in complete lockdown mode on the old wooden boxes everywhere, creating the most clever display of reuse I’ve ever seen. They bought more than 300 antique wooden ballot boxes used in Italian elections from the 40s-80s at a flea market, and used them to build out the space, fashioning the boxes into cabinets, tables, shelves, sofas, counters, walls, beds, you name it. “Like 300 bricks, or Lego pieces, they can be transformed and reused,” says Allessandro, who approaches architecture the same way–honoring history, repurposing space. I really love that they left all the scratches, stickers, signatures and signs of the time on the surface as a visible reminder of their history. To stay at the Box House (prices starting at $160/night for two people), email Alessandro at alessandro.capellaro
By now, it’s probably no secret: I have a thing for old houses. I have relationships with them. I build entire trips around them. I study their crevices and crown moldings and broken floor tiles, making up stories about the people who spent lifetimes living and dreaming in their rooms. And when I find one like this 16th-century farmhouse, which is totally isolated, accessible only by foot (or a rambling old pick-up truck that will pick you up in a nearby town), then thoughtfully outfitted by a bunch of artists, I’m so happy I have people to share it with.
The premise is brilliant: The contemporary arts organization Grizedale Arts collaborated with the National Trust to fix up, furnish and decorate the space (but not too much), turning the historical stone house into a pared-back retreat for artists and writers and anyone else who needs a bonafide escape plan from the modern world. Inside, there’s a library with a wood-burning stove, kitchen with wood-burning oven, well-worn, spartan furniture and a collection of paraffin lamps. Outside, rolling hills, forrest and a compostable outhouse. This means no electricity, running water or phone reception. In other words, bliss for those who agree that the ultimate luxury these days is peace, solitude and a dreamy old house on a big swath of pretty land.
$650 a week. Sleeps six people in three bedrooms. Rent it at Welcome Beyond. All within walking distance: birdwatching, fishing and pub- and shop-filled old villages. Also, Lawson Park–historic Cumbrian hill farm and now the Grizedale Arts headquarters–is a 40 minute walk through the forest. You can visit the historic house and collections, farm gardens and wildflower meadow.
[This post was originally published 3/9/11]
A couple months ago, I read a beautifully written travel piece in The New York Times magazine. It’s about writer Michael Paterniti’s regular pilgrimages to a small, nondescript village in Spain, initially in search of a cheese, later in search of himself. I urge you to read the entire story. In one of my favorite paragraphs, he writes:
“But something happened to me. Even now, I’m not exactly sure what. I have a friend who once told me about the first time he ever took a ferry to an island off the coast of North Carolina, and how he knew, right there on the ferry — with the salt spray and the light off the ocean — that he’d come back to this same spot every year. He’d come to relive that feeling of leaving his old self behind. That annual renewal, the reacquaintance with the person he felt himself to be on that island, was something he wanted to organize his life around. Similarly, Guzmán instantly and improbably became my place.”
It made me think of Maine, and how we missed our annual summer trip this year. It made me think about how Maine, where I’ve been spending summers since I was a kid, is my place, and its absence felt like a tightening in my chest, like I needed the crisp salty air, the dense evergreens, the craggy rock beaches, the indescribable Maine-ness that makes me feel more, well, like me. We decided to make it happen in the fall. Yes, the water was freezing. But when isn’t it in Maine? Less ice cream, more clam chowder. Less laying in the sun, more snuggling under blankets. There was so much beauty in the silence of the off-season; it was exactly what our newly expanded family needed. We did a lot of hiking through the woods, exploring under rocks, collecting shells, building sandcastles and early morning fires, and taking long, meandering, two-hour walks along the beach. Most days, we saw few people but counted foxes, deer, turkey, porcupine, and crabs among encounters with living creatures. Below, some photos from our quiet week. The red and yellows popping out amid a backdrop of towering evergreen trees and blue sky still makes my heart leap.
Ben Lambers of Studio Aandacht hung out at (and took photos of) this place–part hotel, part nature park, part creative retreat–which he has visited a couple times since it opened last spring. In the midst of planning the foray of Honor & Folly into the country, I’m particularly inspired by this medieval settlement on the edge of a national park an hour and a half outside Paris. Situated on seven acres of forest with two springs and a creek, D’une île consists of a sprawling manor house and its medieval cottages repurposed as a getaway dedicated to the enjoyment of nature, art and food. The ambitious couple who opened it–after a grueling year of DIY rehabbing, roof-repairing, plastering, painting, landscaping, decorating, and creating furniture–bring no short supply of talent and guts (they had to bathe outside with cold water from the well). Michel Mulder, a composer, musician and professional chef handles the food at D’une île, and Sofie Sleumer is an interior designer. Together, and with lots of help from friends, they outfitted the rustic spaces with flea market finds, art, and furniture they restore themselves. They also cook for and dote on guests, as well as coordinate in-room art installations like the robot-like wood and wire mobiles by artist Just van der Loos.
Here, a short Q&A with Michel about starting and running such a thoughtful, creative hotel (that’s not at all a hotel) in the French countryside:
What made you decide to open D’une île?
Sofie and I wanted to leave Amsterdam after living there for 12 and 14 years, respectively. We marveled on the idea of creating a beautiful and well-functioning playground where all our occupations could flourish in one concept. We tried thinking of Barcelona, Quebec, Paris until we stumbled upon our little domaine. So we found the place, and then we had to think up what to do with it. A small hotel would be logical and the more we thought about it, the more appealing this idea became. But it had to be our hotel, and it had to stay our playground. So we thought, ‘ok, this is about the good life, so we need good, friendly people to share that with us.’
As an owner-innkeeper, how do you spend your time?
In contact with our guests and our local producers, building rooms and bathrooms, designing the rooms, restoring furniture, discovering new wines and even better products to cook with. We have up to 28 beds and more than 10,000 square feet of hotel space, a small restaurant and seven acres of land, there’s always work to do. But more importantly, there’s always room for new ideas!
What do you love most about D’une île?
I love the trees, all their different colors, how they change during the season, the view out of our bedroom window over the orchard, which is now packed with apples and pears. I love how the medieval buildings form a tiny little village with a small square in the middle and the big walnut tree towering over it. For us it’s a fulltime job. Apart from the hôtellerie we host weddings, exclusive dinner parties, styling assignments, and sell vintage design. D’une île is our place to live, to work, in every aspect. Sofie and I, we create things, and d’une île is our favorite.
[PHOTOS: All images by Ben Lambers via Trend Tablet]
Last August, when we spent a week in Civita, I paid a visit to another property in the ancient village. Patrizio had prepped me–“I almost cried the first time I saw it.”–but sheer emotion doesn’t do this place justice. There’s a deep sense of history, grandeur, and artistic eccentricity that make it feel like a living museum, where everything is curated yet highly personal. It’s the stuff of World of Interiors, the stuff of someone’s kooky yet incredibly tasteful creative mind.
The owner of Corte della Meastra, Paolo Crepet (a former gallerist from Rome, and a well-known psychiatrist and author), has lived here for 18 years. He originally moved to Civita to spend quiet time with his then young daughter outside the bustle of Rome. Since then, he has acquired more space in the adjoining cave-like building (the entire town sits on tufa rock and Etruscan caves), and last year, he opened the extra rooms as a b&b. It was part of church at one time, and there’s a stunning 16th-century religious fresco across one wall. His art collection, which is out of this world, is displayed throughout, and where’s there’s not art, there’s ivy, stone, bright pops of color. The surrealist gardens could be a post all their own.
He imagined it as a place where brooding writers, artists, filmmakers and freethinkers can find inspiration, solitude and good conversation over bottles of wine. When I visited, there was a photographer in the kitchen, and someone in one of the living rooms playing the piano. Perhaps they can stay a few months, he suggests. Of course, common travelers are welcome, too. But as he points out, it takes a special kind of person to want to stay in small village like Civita for more than a night or two — someone who’s looking inward, looking for something more than tourist attractions. Spend an hour with Paolo, and you’ll realize he’s as much a draw as his home. A big personality, who rhapsodizes about the meaning of art, life and love like most people talk about the weather. It’s invigorating and has just the right effect: He makes you want to grab a chair and stay awhile. Maybe even a couple months.
So the weather’s been a little unpredictable this summer–sweaters in July?– but of course, now that the precious season is nearly over, it’s all endless, cloudless beauty. Sunshine for days. In a little round-up to honor these final weeks of summertime, I’ve pulled together some favorite posts from the archives (and elsewhere)–about places you need to contact right now for one last gasp of summer. Right now! Because there’s still time. To buy a plane ticket. To pack a duffel bag, gas up the car and hit the road. To go bird watching, beach combing or body surfing. To float down a river on an intertube or walk through a field of flowers. To wear your salty bathing suit to dinner. To shuck oysters and eat lobster. To sit on a giant rock, looking out at the great vast ocean, contemplating how small you are and how good it feels to be alive.
Popham Beach, Maine: This place is as magical as it gets. I don’t say that lightly. And the beach it sits above could not be more quiet, natural and majestic.
William Brown Cabin, Roscoe, New York: For the outdoor shower alone.
Inn Paradiso, Los Robles, California: Laid-back homebase (with killer outdoor porches) for exploring the nearby farms and vineyards, or just lazing about.
Villa Pizzorusso, Puglia, Italy: This stunning 500-year-old masseria is the backdrop of last summer’s dream trip. The palatial compound is surrounded by olive groves, the pool surrounded by citrus and figs.
Le Leiu Perdu, Montazeau, France: Those wildflowers at the top of the post? Right here.
Casas da Areia, Carrasqueira, Portugal: A collection of thatched-roof huts with dreamy views and sand floors.
And go here for the…
pool with intertubes.
teepees with rocky coastal views.
little stream and best climbing tree in the whole wide world.
island life and front porch living.
infinity pool overlooking patchwork Tuscan landscape.
Are you tired of Michigan yet? I’m in a travel holding pattern right now, spending time with my new babe, and only in the very beginning stages of dreaming up where I’m going to take this sweet little bundle. So in the meantime, more photos of our time in Northern Michigan. We’re missing the Maine coast pretty desperately about now, but we’re so lucky to have this magical escape so close to home. Lake Michigan, farmland, farm stands, cherries, Tandem Ciders, dunes, what more?
I read about this place last winter–first in Martha Stewart Living, then again in Wilder–and made a mental note to stop in next time I’m passing through upstate New York. The backstory–a carpenter and self-taught chef couple trade in New York City for the Catskills to rehab a cabin and open a cafe–plus the lure of the small-town camaraderie and locally sourced ingredients makes for compelling travel plans. Then, just the other day, as I’m connecting some aesthetic dots, I realize they’ve added two rooms this summer, making it more than a pit stop for farm egg sandwiches and wood-fired pizza. With a spacious attic and second-floor bedroom, both artfully detailed with simple, rustic touches (handmade beds, found branches, pillows made from reclaimed grain sacks), guests are immersed in the close-knit community that makes this place so special in the first place. To book, you’ll ultimately be rerouted to airbnb.com, but you can learn more about the experience and extended community at their site first.
I’ve wanted to stay in this Michigan cottage designed by the notable Chicago architect Harry Weese for a few years. Tucked into the wooded shores of Glen Arbor just a few minutes from Sleeping Bear Dunes–arguably Michigan’s most popular summer tourist destination–sits another, far more secretive jewel: a trifecta of summer lake houses Harry Weese designed in 1938-39. He had a fondness for Michigan, perhaps due to the natural beauty of the Northern Michigan, where he vacationed with his family in 1936, or the fact that he went to architecture school at Cranbrook Academy, where he befriended like-minded designers like Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen.
These days, the original two Weese family lake houses are rented out, giving lucky guests the chance to experience Weese’s genius first-hand. In the woods. On a turquoise lake. They remain Weese’s only projects in Michigan, residential or otherwise. The first is Shack Tamarack (a traditional log cabin named after the trees felled in a nearby Cedar bog). We stayed in the smaller modernist cottage–a humble testament to Weese’s preferred architectural style, though no less rustic for its simple, clean lines. Walls are covered in tongue and groove black cherry, the tiny kitchen has more hidden drawers than a cabinet of curiosities, and in such tight quarters–no more than 1,000 square feet–Weese’s clever design unfolds like a lesson in flexible space. Room-dividing sliding doors glide back and forth into the wall to double the size of the living room and bring the outdoors in.
But forget the interiors–it’s summer in Michigan, and the outdoors beckons. A hammock suspends between two trees over a bed of mossy and wildflower ground cover, and the long sun-bleached dock was our all-afternoon home base our all-American roster of lazy-days vacation pursuits: swimming, skipping stones, catching minnows, reading, relaxing, and yes, maybe even cannonballing. I love how Harry Weese pulled his color palette directly from the water. The only color used in the home–a soothing teal–perfectly matches the shimmering tones of the lake. Rent it at vrbo.com; prices start at $2,100/week.
NOTE: I wrote about our trip for the Shinola blog. There will be another post about all our outdoor pursuits, so check back. And if you’ve never heard of Shinola, make it a point: the Detroit-based company is turning out beautiful, well-designed and American-made bikes, watches and leather goods. Harry Weese would have approved.