Check In: Trasierra

Cazalla de la Sierra, Andalusia, Spain
03.05.2014 | by: Meghan

This month, I wrote a story about a new brand of innkeeper for the re-imagined and redesigned Conde Nast Traveler, which is stunning thanks to Pilar Guzman and Yolanda Edwards and their powerhouse team. The personality-driven inn means that the owner is not only a pivotal part of the experience, they are the experience. Their good, quirky and eccentric tastes and big personality informs every last detail — from cooking and serving meals to outfitting the space with hand-picked furniture, art and books from their personal collections. These are people who invite guests into their homes — their worlds — and the connection they make with guests becomes the very thing worth traveling for.

One of the three places featured, Trasierra is a former olive mill turned country house that owner Charlotte Scott brought back from dilapidation 20-plus years ago. When she moved in, they lived there for a few years without electricity. It’s been her life’s work, and and now, her signature can be found in every corner — handmade pillows, fabric draped over tables, wicker baskets and straw hats hanging on walls, herbs drying from arches and doorways, cut wildflowers displayed in pitchers — and even outside, where she designed hikes through the 350-acre property based on where flowers look prettiest during certain times of day. All four of her children are involved (and always have been, even when they were little). One of her daughters cooks, another teaches yoga. One of her sons helps organize excursions to wineries and gaming estates, and the other is a musician who visits regularly and still helps out. When I talked to Charlotte about her innkeeping ethos, I was inspired by her refreshingly laid-back approach to making Trasierra “a place that nourishes.” Below, a few insightful tidbits from her no-flash take on hospitality.

On “no flash”: There’s no flash here. No obvious displays of wealth or luxury. It’s more relaxing when you don’t feel intimidated. It’s not untidy, but it’s not perfect either. There’s no place to go to show off. It’s an equalizer and that’s very important. You see so much nature, it shows you where your place is.

On creating comfort: This is where I would love to be a guest. It’s a natural spa without any of the fuss. No body feels in awe of anything. All the rooms are different, because I’ve had to do them at different times as I had money. They all have charms, which makes it feel like a home, not a hotel.

On privacy: I’ve mastered becoming an unseen presence. If I’m asked, I’ll join a guest for a drink or dinner, but otherwise, it’s the guest’s house. I’m not hovering. If they want to move a chair or a cushion, I don’t want them to feel like someone is breathing down their neck.

On the importance of disconnecting: We arrange everything for guests, so you don’t have to panic about whether there’s wifi in every room. It teaches people how to relax. You don’t have to have an office in your room. Otherwise, you’re bringing your distractions with you on your holiday. Too many people travel with their computers, and they never really get to have a vacation.


Stay: The Olive Grove

Malaga, Spain
12.02.2011 | by: Meghan

I have no plans to go to Andalusia anytime soon, but for the record, if I did, I’d like to stay here. Owner Alan Hazel and his partner Marc Wils bought this dreamy, rustic Andalucian farmhouse almost three years ago and spent about eight months renovating the property (George Michael was their first guest!). The same family owned and farmed these hillsides for many generations, and still maintain many of the surrounding vineyards. These days, Alan and Marc live in the Olive Grove when it isn’t rented. “It is very much our home and the renovations and upkeep a personal labor of love. We get regular visits from family and friends and we love to entertain… Christmas dinner is already planned for here with the family.”

Here, Alan gives a personal explanation about what makes the Olive Grove so special, beyond the obvious aesthetic beauty.

I fell in love with the location and the feeling of grandeur and majesty from the surrounding nature before I ever set foot in the house. I told my partner Marc that I wanted to live here when we made our first visit to see the property as soon as I stepped out of the car. The edge of the pool nearest the sea is one of my favorite places. You get a ‘top of the world’ feeling as the landscape drops away into the valley below and spreads out to the Mediterranean, while La Maroma, the imposing peak looming above and to the east at over 2000m, dominates the landscape and gives you a sense of permanence and power to balance the sea. With the enormous eucalyptus tree giving shade in the afternoon and a summer kitchen with barbecue giving shade at all times, there is always a comfortable place to take in the serenity. My favorite thing about the design of The Olive grove itself is all of the comfortable and serene indoor and outdoor spaces, each with a different feel, but all of them inviting; garden terraces surround the house (all on one level), while five reception rooms/lounges and two covered terraces ensure a luxuriously comfortable space at any time of day or night.

The courtyard is also very exciting for us. We added this ourselves and designed the planting scheme along with the pergola structures and hand selected, roughly cobblestoned flooring. Marc is the principal designer and he has carefully maintained the authentic Andalusian rustic nature of this old farmhouse, while updating and modernizing to add chic but simple luxury. I love the terra cotta floors, wood beam ceilings, the little ‘huecos’ (cubby holes built into the 20-inch-thick walls) and giant fireplaces, plus the wooden doors and windows with inside shutters. The hammam-style master bath is a standout design, also Marc’s idea, custom built and walled in with an archway to step through into the bath. The gallery walkway connecting one end of the house to the other through the courtyard is a clever design, and the indoor/outdoor combination of the drawing room and its covered terrace space makes for another of my favorite spaces. The outdoor space mirrors the indoor space and both have a fireplace, but with a plant bed growing colorful climbers up and over the natural cane roofing and many potted plants, the outdoor terrace blends beautifully from its connection with the house, to its connection with the wild landscape beyond. We have also added notable landscaping on the approach to the property so that the entrance and first impressions are a fitting welcome and inspire the importance of the place along with cohesion of design. In the same way, we have created grassy spaces near the pool and extended the gardens to complete the well-maintained, though natural feel that ties the property to the stunning surroundings and maximizes the views. All in all, what is most impressive about the design to me is this feeling of balance and cohesion that allows it to feel like a traditional and historical farm house, but at the same time a luxurious home with all modern comforts–all the while tying into the magical, imposing beauty of the surrounding landscape.

La Maroma is the name for the tallest peak in the wide region at over 2000m and looms above The Olive Grove, dominating the landscape to the east. The peak is snowy every winter while views of the African mountains across the Mediterranean are visible from the property more often. The nature reserve that contains this peak begins about 1km from the property with its pine forests and imposing rocky faces rising up majestically. The park is home to native eagles, falcons and other rare birds, mountain goats and Iberian lynx.

The Details
Sleeps eight, with possibility of two extra. Four bedrooms. Rent it at

Check In: El Dorado

Carboneras, Spain
10.10.2011 | by: Meghan

Ben Lambers and Tatjana Quax of The Netherlands-based Studio Aandacht (and two of my favorite designtripper correspondents) just returned from a road trip through Spain, where they went in search of the “authentic Moor spirit.” The week-long trip to Carboneras led them through places like Gerona, Alicante and the lovely Peniscola (where they crashed in big commercial hotels, mostly), but their final destination was the El Dorado–an old throwback hotspot from the days when shooting films in this part of Spain was the thing to do.

“The barron landscape formed the ideal backdrop for westerns and movies like Lawrence of Arabia. You’ll find signed pictures of moviestars on the walls of the restaurant everywhere because the man who founded this hotel was a famous, retired setdresser who fell in love with the region,” says Ben. It’s since been sold to a new owner, which Ben thinks helped it lose some of its soul. “But with a bit of imagination, you can still see Raquel Welch comming out of the surf in her bikini. Stroll along the windy boulevard or visit the nature reservoir with it’s abandoned goldmines and scorchingly hot ghost towns.” Enjoy their beautiful photographs!

Stay: Alemanys 5

Costa Brava, Spain
08.24.2011 | by: Meghan

I wrote an article for the September issue of Travel + Leisure about five amazing homes that are owned and rented out by notable designers, so if you stay in one, it’s like getting intimate access to their personal aesthetic and style whims, not to mention book collections, meaningful objects, ephemera and favorite pieces of furniture. The online version–The World’s Coolest Rental Homes–was expanded to 15 homes, some which you may have seen on designtripper and some that you haven’t. I’ll be highlighting a few favorites in the coming weeks.

For starters, Alemanys 5 is beautifully renovated 16-century house situated in the center of Girona’s old town–“one of the best kept medieval cities in Spain,” insists the owner. It was a crumbling mess when Spanish architect Anna Noguera and her husband, Juan Manuel Ribera, fell in love with the the place 12 years ago and only the stone walls could be saved. But now? You can tell a talented architect got her hands on it. Ancient stone walls play with smooth concrete, clean-lined glass and quiet, modernist furniture. There’s a veranda with views over the old quarter and a pool in the garden, “but what makes it so special is its refurbisment balancing old and new in a search of enjoyment of essentials,” says Juan.

The Details
The five-bedroom residence can be rented as a whole or split into two separate spaces. El Badiu sleeps 2-6; El Jardi sleeps 2-5. Prices start around $280 a night. Rent it at

Check In: Hotel Praktik Rambla

Barcelona, Spain
02.11.2011 | by: Kelly

When the Hotel Praktik Rambla started following designtripper on Twitter, I clicked to check it out. Wow. The beautiful, ornate facades and decadent modern interiors by Lázaro Rosa-Violán are so old and romantic, and I spent a lot longer than I’d like to admit pouring over the kind of architectural detail nobody is skilled enough to create anymore. With wrap-around iron balconies overlooking Rambla de Cataluna, one of Barcelona’s most picturesque boulevards, the Praktik is a former residence designed by Catalan modernist  architect Francesc de P. Villar i Carmona. Inside, with encaustic patterned tile floors, emerald hues behind old heavy carved doors, soaring ceilings and mirrored partition walls, it’s no wonder they have complimentary Lomo cameras for their guests to use. And another pleasant surprise: Reasonable prices starting at $108 a night.