Snow clings to the ridgeline framed by my bedroom window. So as escape, I imagine another rugged white landscape: the Mediterranean coastline of Spain. The small fishing village of Cadaqués exudes charm with its bohemian meets cosmopolitan vibe, a place long loved by artists and writers now primed for an even greater following with the new Tramuntana Hotel. Anchored in the old town, Tramuntana’s 11 rooms, beautifully designed by Barcelona-based firm Intsight, come in M, L and XL sizes. A locavore breakfast and a pillow-plush lobby pulls guests from their stylish slumber, ready to embrace sun-washed adventures. Wedged between the sea and mountains, Cadaqués calls me from my snow-steeped slumber, into this perfectly playful spring jacket by Valentine Gauthier.
Surprising. Sexy. Fearless. Joyous. Timeless. These are the words director Murray Grigor used to describe the quintessential California architect John Lautner in his documentary, “Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner” (2008). Over the course of his half-century career, Lautner created modernist poetry in concrete. Born in Marquette, Michigan to aesthetically-oriented parents of Irish-Austrian descent, Lautner parlayed his early years working under Frank Lloyd Wright into a visionary portfolio in Southern California. While many of his contemporaries experimented with glass and steel, Lautner considered concrete his muse, and developed progressive engineering methods to make the structures he imagined, spaces at once futuristic and organic. His goal: “architecture that has no beginning and no end.” I imagine such transcendence would translate into a transcendent Sunday spent in the resurrected Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs, California, a site he designed in 1947 as part of master plan for a never-realized desert community. Legendary in his approach to light, Lautner conceived of each room as a concrete cove harboring sunshine. Honoring his intentions, the hotel eschews blinds in favor of face masks, to my benefit: I would spend the day (in this silken Maison du Soir tunic) reading by natural light.
Three years ago, Foster Huntington quit his job in New York City, bought a Volkswagen Vanagon, and hit the road. Eighty thousand miles on (and counting), he published a Kickstarter-funded photography journal, “Home Is Where You Park It,” chronicling the kindred characters he met out west, who too transformed axels into abodes (Huntington’s initial sojourn has since morphed into a way of life). I’m inspired by these nomad narratives, by the adventure, the asceticism. By the 1970s Dodge Sportsman, canary red no less, parked amid Central Baja’s sea of subcompacts and pickups. By the Honda Civic transformed into a polyhedron sleeper. By the family of five’s second home on wheels: a camping tent strapped to the top of a van, surf boards propped outside. Only classic essentials would come with me on my driveabout, like these Chucks.
Earth Day calls for an eco-minded pairing. No place better fits the bill than Treehotel, an enchanted forest of five treehouses suspended in the conifers of northern Sweden. Inspired by the documentary “The Tree Lover,” Treehotel assuages the modern disconnect from nature by returning guests to their childhood roots of climbing trees and playing in treehouses. Nature, ecology and contemporary design meld in this otherworldly refuge, grounded by a spa, 50s-style pensione and green utilities like hydroelectric power and combustion toilets. Each pod, designed by an acclaimed Swedish architect, offers a unique aesthetic experience: the Mirrorcube epitomizes the minimal environmental footprint of the entire project by being camouflaged in mirrors (an infrared film keeps birds from careening into the walls). I would spend my stay taking in the panoramic views of the Lulu River valley and the cubist kaleidoscope slicing through the treetops, the latter reminiscent of this Helmut Lang sheath.
Before I bid farewell to wine for one week, I wanted to indulge by exploring Ensenada, the wine country of Baja Mexico, conveniently located 90 minutes away from the San Diego airport. Overlooking the vine-rich Valle de Guadalupe, the Encuentro Guadalupe Antiresort immerses guests in nature and culture. The experience begins with 20 luxury bungalows staggered amid boulders, cantilevered from the secluded hillside, each outfitted with minimal but high-end amenities including a wood terrace with a chiminea, perfect for wine drinking at dusk. The “eco-lofts” share the 40-acre property with Vinicola Encuentro, a rugged mountain vineyard and winery bottling Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Blanc and Nebiolo (only sold onsite). Encuentro guests are encouraged to patron the bar, cellar and Origen restaurant– a locavore open-kitchen concept offering cooking classes and dinner service on a terrace overlooking the valley. Ever ready to go glamping, I could pack this Mum & Co suede backpack in a matter of minutes, leaving room for wine of course.
You had me at bathtub. Abode, the first boutique hotel in Mumbai, India, boasts 20 airy rooms dressed in an eclectic design mix, from art deco-inspired custom tile floors to bedside tables repurposed from roadside chaat stands and vintage saris as upholstery. With beds wrapped in cotton linen and robes and handmade slippers at the ready, I would take a break from the Bombay bustle in this breezy jacket by Valentine Gauthier, aptly made in a small, NGO-run workshop in India.
But I digress; back to Abode. Nestled in Colaba, a historic part of town rich with landmark buildings, Abode’s own was built in 1910 as the private residence of an influential entrepreneur. Now, its stately wood-and-iron façade is augmented by a neon light installation quoting Bombay native, Rudyard Kipling. “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs the world is yours.” Truth.
His was a voice at once, “classical and familiar, opalescent and pure, able to praise and curse, laugh and cry, fabulate and sing and when called upon, take off and soar…” This is how Thomas Pynchon described Gabriel Garcia Márquez in his 1988 review of “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Márquez died yesterday at 87.
Born on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the eldest of 12 children, Márquez spent his early childhood living in his grandparents’ ramshackle house, a rambling expanse the imaginative boy populated with the ghosts who starred in his grandmother’s stories. Later in life, on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for his epic “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Márquez described magical realism with humility at humanity: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”
Unbridled believability: the man, his words, his manner. Channeling his fastidious fashion sense – he liked wearing all white from his linen suit to his shoes and watchband – I picture Fermina Daza of “Cholera” wearing this bone shift by Billy Reid in the Aquabar at the Tcherassi Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. Imagining her in this magical setting evokes a moment from “Cholera,” a sentiment suited to the passing of the person who wrote it. “The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”
A skyline of arcs and angles rises from the high desert of Arizona. Arcosanti is the living, breathing architectural ecosystem conceived by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Soleri moved to Arizona in 1970 and began experimenting with his “lean urban laboratory.” Intention pervades the place: abiding by the conceptual constitution of Arcology, the portmanteau of architecture and ecology, every built element exercises resourcefulness and restraint. Apses abound, quarter spheres structures Soleri recognized as passive solar machines that form cool micro-climates in sites like the ceramics workshop (where the settlement’s signature bronze and ceramic windbells are made). Ever unfinished (and underfunded), the capstone of Soleri’s plan is a kilometer-high tower with housing for 100,000 residents plus cultural and professional spaces (the population currently hovers between 50 and 150 people).
And the experiment continues in Soleri’s absence: he died exactly a year ago, leaving his legacy to the community of craftsman who inhabit Arcosanti, as well as the thousands of visitors who come to see the harmonious habitat for themselves (some spend the night at the Sky Suite pictured).
While pairing this place with a consumer product seems contrary to Arcosanti’s antimaterialism ethos, this pair of shorts by Atelier Delphine traces my connection to Arcosanti via the online filament linking imagery and inspiration: designer Yuka Izutsu described her trip to Arcosanti as part of her Of a Kind edition. I hope Soleri would approve of the paradox, of a thoughtful designer making beautiful things, finding beauty in the world he made, and the two together inspiring a far-flung writer.
A beach and more books than I could ever read: sounds like an ideal Saturday (as my thermometer stubbornly sticks below zero). The serene scene at The Library boutique hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand pairs the lapping sounds of waves with literary-styled amenities: the communal Library stacks tomes alongside DVDs, the beachside pool is dyed as red as the Scarlett Letter, rooms are delineated by page numbers and alabaster sculptures of figures reading pepper the property. If today I woke up in Thailand, I would pad down to the Library in this tunic by Lemlem (a feel-good brand made by traditional weavers in Ethiopia) and spend the day reading, inside the cool confines or outside in sand and sun.
Who knew SOUL was a partial anagram of LOUISANA? Neon designer/artist Evan Voyles deconstructed an old highway sign announcing the southern state, reimagining the letters as the SOUL that shines above the pool at the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, TX. Designer Liz Lambert has transformed the old Victorian house and grassy property into a design oasis in downtown Austin. Drawing inspiration from Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music and poetry, Lambert created a rich aesthetic that DesignSponge described as “Old World European taken over by rock n’ roll decadence.” Vintage finds and a vibrant palette – cobalt walls, red Chesterfields, white leather headboards – embolden the space, and hipster amenities – every room boasts record players and bookshelves stocked with poetry, art and music titles – complete the experience. These Arielle De Pinto tangled drip earrings would suit the rockstar royalty vibe.
Mexico City has been on my mind, thanks to friends’ glowing reviews and the most recent 36 Hours In. And now I can picture the (bunk) bed where I’ll lay my head. Hotel firm Grupo Habita applied its high-design aesthetic to its first hostel, Downtown Beds, near the central Plaza de la Constitucion. Downtown Beds fills the servants’ quarters of a colonial palace (the palace itself is now Grupo Habita’s upscale Downtown Mexico). With innovative material use and a fresh aesthetic throughout, the group was able to create a design-driven experience for a fraction of the price of its other properties. Key details makes Downtown Beds sparkle, like the acid-green lattice brick used on bunk beds, the restored barrel vault ceilings in some rooms, and the interior courtyard with its crimson bar and café seating. With the hostel's beds costing as little as $15 per night, I can splurge on these similarly spunky Loeffler Randall sandals.
In plotting my return to urban life, I’m scouting escape routes: accessible adventures doable over weekends. Steep Revine Cabins belie their proximity to the Bay Area – only an hour’s drive north – by offering seaside seclusion in Mount Tamalpais State Park (only reserved guests know the gate code). I love camping sans tents; each of the 10 cabins offer a table, benches, sleeping platforms (akin to two doubles), a countertop, closet and – best of all – wood-burning stove (all for $100 a night). Crashing surf, crackling fire, bundling up in big sweaters as the sun falls away: perfect weekend wilderness.
After hermitting most of the winter, I look for ways to transition outward, away from quiet living into the more boisterous vibe of summer. This Dome in the Desert seems like the perfect launch pad for a mellow/loud hybrid, for exploring by day and nesting by night. Sitting only miles away from the town of Joshua Tree and the national park, the dome’s interior and exterior amenities feel like a bespoke fit for me: inside, there’s a wood burning stove, board games and books, and a collection of coffee makers; outside, there’s 800,000 acres of cactus-speckled wilderness, with trails to hike and rocks to scramble. I picture coming home at night, mind full from peak climbing and petroglyph spotting, and cooking a big fresh meal in these wacky jeans, a palimpsest of patterns, like the desert itself.
Not long ago, centuries-old Casco Viejo was a crumbling patch of Panama City. A stucco palace of luxury apartments, built in 1917, had been taken over by five drug gangs, each occupying a floor. After UNESCO deemed Casco Viejo a World Heritage Site in 1997, an intrepid development group led by the palace builder’s great-great-grandson, lawyer Ramon Arias, began preserving properties within the district – gentrification embodied by the palace’s new occupant, the American Trade Hotel, a collaboration with Atelier Ace (of the trendy Ace Hotel chain). Beyond its stately structure (arched windows, interior gardens, red-tile roofs), hip interiors (a blend of Bertoia chairs and Mexican midcentury-inspired pieces) and alluring amenities (coffee bar, jazz club, farm-to-table restaurant), the hotel lives out its community-development creed: developer Conservatorio dissolved local gangs by putting members to work on construction crews, and the hotel staff includes graduates of a rehabilitation program for abused women. “Buildings are more interesting with people,” said Conservatorio’s restoration architect Hildegard Vasquez in a W magazine article. “You can’t just fixture the architecture – you have to fix the people. And in the process, they change you, too.” A room with a view and values.
With pillows of fresh snow outside, I’m dreaming of the desert – the light, the heat, the sand, the expanse. For years, Marfa, Texas has topped my travel list, but I have yet to go. Familiar with the rustic edges of ranching, I want to see a world where working the land lives in harmony with land-based artists. El Cosmico seems like the perfect place to site my daydreaming with its hammock grove, outdoor bathing and porches aplenty. Choosing between trailers, tepees or tents sounds like a fun breed of free will to me (made all the more fun in this Free People frock).
It’s been years since I climbed a tree – a confession that, once made, must be remedied. This NoCal treehouse – wedged within a mighty eucalyptus tree – beckons the all-too grounded (me). Weathered stairs lead three stories up to a bi-level cabin bracketed by bark. Neighbors include horses, a barn beloved by the Grateful Dead, and a cozy wine-country town. But I would leave all that below and nest – wrapped in flannel, with a book or New Yorkers, falling in and out of naps, writing some, sans cellular. Suspended.
It’s dusk in Beijing. I lie on the floor of an ancient Buddhist temple, exposed sky above. The last colors of the day melt over me. Bats dash across the ceiling cutout. A star blinks. James Turrell, a reclusive genius with light, traveled to China to fine-tune “Gathered Sky” at the new Temple Hotel. I imagine his astonishment at the calm achieved within the restored grounds, within the cacophonous capital – a site symbolic of the city itself. Built in the mid-18th century, the temple became a factory after the Cultural Revolution, churning out bicycles, medical supplies and black-and-white TVs (the latter: a stunning foil for Turrell’s profound palette). I shall visit, wearing Holst + Lee’s Somewhere in the Indian Ocean necklace, a handmade collar echoing the fans of color inside the temple.