Kidtripper

Stay: Gargunnock House

Near Stirling, Scotland
10.18.2010 | by: Meghan

Every summer Lisa Borgnes Giramonti from A Bloomsbury Life takes a big trip with some friends and their families. This summer, they opted for this nearly 25,000-square-foot Scottish manse. It was their fourth visit. Almost 15 years ago, Lisa and her husband, who were living in London at the time, were invited by friends and shared the house with a bunch of DJ’s, club kids and a fabulous drag queen who dressed up in a Victorian ball gown every evening. This trip was a little different. Cue a bunch of kids sprawled out, playing board games and hide-and-seek in the immaculate, formal rooms, running around the lush grounds and embarking on muddy hikes, jumping fences, crossing sheep pastures and picnicking on mountaintops.

Lisa gives Designtripper a special account:
After a couple weeks of seeing nothing but castles, lochs, sheep and the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, your brain is operating on an entirely different level. It’s even better for kids: my son lives on a pretty tight leash at home [in Hollywood], so being able to nod and say “Go!” when he asks if he can go off exploring is great.

The last owner of the house, a confirmed bachelorette named Viola Stirling, drove an ambulance in WWII and spent her life as gameskeeper of the estate along with her companion Miss Fairlie. When she died, she specified in her will that the house and grounds be preserved for the happiness of others. There’s a photo of Viola in one of the bedrooms—she has wavy cropped hair, a military uniform and a wonderful twinkle in her eye. Many pieces that belonged to her family are still in the house: all the ancestral portraits crowding the dining room walls, the piano in the grand salon that was supposedly played by Chopin, and the library that’s full of Viola’s books on horticulture and Scottish history. Staying at the house is incredibly personal; it doesn’t feel like a rental property at all. When we went on a hike this summer, I grabbed an umbrella in the hall to take with me in case it rained.  When I opened it, it was a bit moth-eaten and rusty, which made sense when I saw the brass plate on it that said, “Viola Stirling, Gargunnock, 1913”! Her spirit is still very much alive there.

More than the scope of the property, it’s the house’s eccentricities which linger in my mind. Gargunnock is slightly mysterious, like the house in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” One hallway has such a sloping floor that marbles roll sideways and you almost have to grab onto the wall. There’s a bedroom on the third floor with signatures etched into the window panes—one reads “Miss Eliza, 1849.” Was she a governess? A young girl? An unmarried spinster?

The Details
The country house is owned and operated by the Landmark Trust—a UK-based company that rescues historic homes from neglect and restores them for future generations to enjoy on holiday. Prices start around $3,400 for a week.

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Stay: Taxhof

Bruck, Austria
10.05.2010 | by: Meghan

This past winter, there was an article in The New York Times about new inns cropping up high—like 12,460 feet high—in the Austrian Alps. Instead of crashing at the base of the mountains, travelers are braving the tippy-top of the ranges. But not just for skiing. Big vistas, mountain pastures and inns with family farms serve up rustic accommodations and meals from local ingredients. Six different places were mentioned, but one sounds especially fantastic: The Taxhof, which has been owned by generations of the same family since 1687, is attached to a big working farm with cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, ponies, chickens, quails, rabbits and cats. There’s even a petting zoo for the kids.

Most of the rooms and cottages look functional, spare and quite lovely, but the Docbodnsuite (in the photos) is unexpectedly modern with panoramic, atrium-like views, rooftop terrace, an open fire pit and super stylish furniture (I spy a stool from e15). Part of the appeal, at least for me, is the cozy on-site restaurant that serves regional specialties, like Pinzgauer Kaspressknödel (a type of cheese dumpling), lamb roast, potato dumplings stuffed with black pudding, and sugared pancakes with stewed fruit—all made with ingredients from the family farm (or neighboring ones).

[Photos courtesy of the Taxhof]

Stay: Lake Michigan Cottage

Leland, Michigan
09.29.2010 | by: Meghan

Our friends Patti and Chet let us stay at their summer place in Leland, Michigan every summer, and the one-bedroom cottage on a wooded bluff overlooking Lake Michigan has spoiled our half-serious search for our own summer home (“Um, does this shanty come with a soaring bluff?”). They bought the cinder block house 15 years ago and ripped out almost everything except the rustic wood interiors. Every year, they make some kind of improvement: huge flower and vegetable gardens; a grill patio with a trickling fountain; 100-plus wooden stairs leading down the cliff to the white sand beach; the airstream at the edge of the 10-acre property with an outdoor shower surrounded by tall grasses for privacy; and an extra-long table handcrafted the old fashioned way—with crude 4×4 beams, hammer and nails.

Leelanau Peninsula is truly one of the most beautiful areas in the Midwest. And the long blue views from the cottage, with sailboats by day and freighter lights by night, are so good that fancy furniture and too much fuss might feel like competition. They did a great job with the interior, though, playing up the strengths and respecting the surrounding landscape. Big picture windows steal the show in almost every direction, and local artwork (cherries!) and leisure sport décor (taxidermy fish, deer fabric and leaning towers of stacked beach rocks on the mantle) give the rustic space just the right dash of up-north character without feeling the least bit hokey or contrived.

The Details
Designtripper exclusive: It’s only available for a few precious weeks every season (end of spring through fall), and until now, only by word of mouth. Price varies by season. To rent: email patti@oconnordetroit.com.

Stay: Camp Wandawega

Elkhorn, Wisconsin
09.07.2010 | by: Meghan

When Chicagoan David Hernandez, who spent boyhood summers at a Latvian summer camp in Wisconsin, took his fiancé (now wife) Tereasa Surratt to see Camp Wandawega, they left with a parting request to the elderly priest: “If you ever decide to sell this place, call us first.” The call came five years later and the couple snatched up all 25 acres: the main lodge, a three-story hotel; two cabins; an archery range; basketball and shuffleboard courts; a garage; two piers; horseshoe pits; and all the furniture inside. Fast forward three years from purchase: The sprawling grounds look like something out of a movie—Sleepaway Camp with set design by John Derian perhaps? The camp is admittedly no-frills (Tereasa likes to call it camping indoors), but no effort was spared on creativity. Rooms are outfitted with well-worn furniture that came with the place, but the couple has worked in a beguiling mix of flea market and garage sale finds: a stack of leather suitcases in one corner, weather-worn water skis in another; Hudson Bay blankets neatly folded across beds; and vintage radios, alarm clocks, lanterns, thermoses, wellies and fishing lures as décor.

Tereasa, author of A Very Modest Cottage (which chronicles the cottage they rescued from her hometown in southern Illinois, drove to Wisconsin and rehabbed themselves), is working on her second book. This one about found collections, published by Random House. The creative ad exec couple is also in the midst of constructing a modern tree house, just outside the main lodge. A handful of local furniture designers/woodworkers designed the structure and spend work-play weekends trading manpower for enviable stays at Wandawega. Gregarious and overwhelmingly generous, David and Tereasa host a constant, rotating stream of friends and family, often organizing gigantic theme camps, like Art Camp, where Chicago creative-types descend on the verdant grounds for three days of field paintings, bird-house making, mini collages, button-making and big farmhouse dinners on the hill. But you don’t need a personal invitation anymore. Designtripper is proud to make the announcement: Rooms are now available for rent for the first time.

The Details
Elkhorn is about 90 miles from Chicago. Prices start at $200 per night for a boy scout canvas tented cabin or the one-bedroom cabin, with a two-night minimum. Rent it at wandawega.com.

Check In: The Lloyd

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
08.05.2010 | by: Meghan

lloyd hotel loungebed lloyd hotel designed by dorien oxenaarroom lloyd hotelatelier van lieshout

A former immigrant hotel and youth prison, The Lloyd hotel in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands is part hotel, part cultural embassy (and part architectural marvel with its transformation by MVRDV). It’s been around for seven years, but design like this doesn’t get less interesting with time. In a country that truly respects and fosters innovative design, the hotel’s interior line-up reads like a who’s-who of the most clever, kooky and talented Dutch superstars. Rugs by Claudy Jongsta in the café lounge; a bar and custom light fixture designed by Richard Hutton; furniture by designers ranging from Piet Hein Eek to up-and-comer Christopher Seyferth; the Rag Chair by Tejo Remy sitting inconspicuously in the hallway (it really is comfy); a rocking horse by Ineke Hans; ceramics by Hella Jongerious. Even shutters, drapes and architectural details, like staircases, are commissioned as art installations. I have admired so many of these pieces online, where they sometimes feel intimidating, but in person—where they’re mixed and matched, and can be touched and tested—the design comes to life in the playful, often tongue-in-cheek way it was intended. The 117 rooms span a star rating—from one to five, so there’s a pay-what-you-can range of possibility. One of the five-star rooms, designed to accommodate bad behavior from rock stars with an eight-person bed, more often plays host to families. Kids will also love the rooms with sprawling, peaked-roof ceilings and dangling swings.

The Lloyd is currently working on its second location to open this spring!

[Building and hotel room photos by Yamandu Roos; bed detail by Dorien Oxenaar; music room by Rob ‘t Hart Photography.]

Stay: Williamsburg Apartment

Brooklyn, New York
07.30.2010 | by: Meghan

My Australian friend and travel companion called this Brooklyn walk-up “a bit daggy,” but the edge made us feel right at home in hipper-than-a-handlebar-moustache Williamsburg. The owners, who live upstairs with their two kids, rent out the ground-level floor of their charming three-flat for supplemental income. Outfitted in vintage furniture, mismatched china, wrought-iron beds, and cheery, patterned duvets, the space has a comfortable, lived-in vibe. Painted the prettiest shade of robin’s egg blue, walls curving up the grand staircase in the shared front entry are lined with paintings, and a Victorian-era loveseat is upholstered in a poppy, well-worn turquoise silk. In addition to the kitchen/dining and two bedrooms (one that also doubles as a living area), we had access to a magical outdoor patio and backyard, which could easily pass for a Waldorf playground with its twisted vines, trellises and garden fairies.

The Details

The price is $165 a night; the High Line is eight stops away on the L Line (a straight shot); and kids are welcome. Verbatim from their listing, “We LOVE kids!” Pack-and-play provided. Rent it at vrbo.com.

williamsburg apartment rentalbrooklyn vacation rental