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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.