Travel accommodation often comes down to convenient stops on the line between point A and point B.
But some hotels are the point, serving up more than a pillow needed for the night.
In a new version, Taschen, the publisher of art books, highlights American hotels worthy of being destinations in their own right. “Great Escapes USA: The Hotel Book,” written by Christiane Reiter and edited by Angelika Taschen, is a sort of hybrid travelogue catalog, a lookbook featuring 45 rarefied resorts in 14 states. It is the latest addition to Taschen’s Great Escapes series, which also covers Africa and South America, among others.
Several of the featured American hostels were built as sprawling estates with golden age pedigrees that evoke the observation of writer Joan Didion: “Of course, big hotels have always been social ideas, mirrors. perfects of the particular societies they serve. She wrote the one for the famous Royal Hawaiian rose in Waikiki, which is not featured in this book.
The accommodations included in Taschen’s book reflect the needs of today’s travelers to escape, to experience distinguished care in an increasingly self-service world.
This pleasure can take the form of minimalist, almost austere decor, like rooms at the Spruceton Inn in West Kill, NY, or it can be as luxurious as opulent mansions from another era.
The Spartan surroundings offer a refreshing change from our busy lives.
“Nine rooms. A bar. And so many stars.” This is how Casey Scieszka, who runs Spruceton with her husband, Steven Weinberg, describes their essential offerings. Firewood and a hammock in a meadow are part of the luxury of the guests. That, plus the surrounding trails, swimming, skiing and fly fishing.
Featured hotels range from the rustic fun of Spruceton to Gatsby-esque locations built by the titans of the industry. Other featured hostels were initially artist settlements whose natural beauty attracted figures like Ansel Adams, or once attracted intellectuals and early civil rights activists.
“Great Escapes USA,” a high volume coffee table, opens in the Atlantic coastal town of Kennebunk Beach, Maine, and ends with its final destination in Death Valley, California.
The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk is a bucolic East Coast classic, with a historic barn and surrounding structures. The 1927 Inn at Death Valley, with its mosaic-floor pool and towering palm trees, is an oasis in stark contrast to our warmest national park.
Detailed on the pages between Maine and California, you’ll find images of hospitality housed in old mansions, working ranches, classic trailers, and newly imagined surf motels.
All places nourish the fantasy of going out of reality and entering a place carefully staged for our greatest pleasure, a portal to another place. It’s no wonder that hotels play a supporting role in so many films. It is a setting populated by passing characters.
The book presents a parade of styles. There is the venerable, with its weathered woodwork, its oil paintings of sailors, its fireplaces, its wallpapers and its padded quilting; the modern, with Tivoli radios and ultra-minimal rooms bathed in white; the retro, with mid-century cinder block walls, a disco ball above a swimming pool, and record players; the beachy, with rattan seats, string lights, and surfboards; and woodland, with antlers, snowshoes and Pendleton wool blankets.
The architectural profiles range from low to imposing.
Whatever the setting, hotels invite us to check in in a space that probably bears no resemblance to the address we have momentarily left behind. This is the intrigue of hotels: you can try another life, if only for a night or a weekend.
Texts in English, French and German accompany the pages filled with photos, reminding us that the American style has an international appeal. Copywriters / writers duo Taschen and Reiter offer insider tips on how to get the most out of a stay. They disclose well-known details, such as signature cocktails. There is, for example, the Summer Fling, concocted with vodka, ginger and melon, at Sunset Beach on Shelter Island in New York, or the tequila and mezcal-based libations at El Rey Court, in Santa Fe, NM
They also suggest books to read or movies to watch that relate to or match the context of each accommodation. For Twin Farms, in Barnard, Vermont, they suggest “Babbitt”, by Sinclair Lewis, who spent the summer in the old residence with his wife, journalist Dorothy Thompson.
Other recommended readings for mood include:
– “The Age of Innocence”, a portrait of the golden age by Edith Wharton. She lived near Wheatleigh, a palace in Lenox, Massachusetts, built by a New York banker who hired more than 150 Italian artisans to build his country estate.
– “Moby-Dick”, by Herman Melville, in keeping with the maritime heritage of Greydon House in Nantucket, Mass., Where the bar looks like a good place to straddle a northeast.
– “The Rainbow”, by DH Lawrence, for the Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos, NM Lawrence was among the famous guests who stayed at this once adobe brick style hideaway for writers and artists.
– “Big Sur”, by Jack Kerouac, for the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, which can offer the most breathtaking ocean view of any location in the book.
Interior views are also a treat on the pages. Look for green leather dining chairs at Twin Farms and tropical wallpaper at the Drifter Hotel in New Orleans.
Oriental chandeliers and rugs make frequent appearances, as do Navajo blankets, twig furniture, striped canopies, terra cotta pavers, and horses on the range.
Rustic style is the style of Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, a cozy 1930s cottage resort in Big Sur. There, on the scenic central coast, what is lacking in television and cell signal is made up for by candlelit dinners and a hideaway appeal.
The book’s hotel tour highlights organic menus with Michelin stars, seaside cottages with living roofs planted with grass and wild flowers, cars with surfboard roof racks, courtesy sunscreen, a nude bath, Elvis on vinyl, a library of Western book titles, painting lessons, homemade ice cream, pop-up fashion shows and natural spaces to explore.
In addition to lighting dreams and, yes, inspiring interior design, “Great Escapes USA” makes trip planning easier, not so much in the sense of going here, going there, but helping them. readers to identify their personal accommodation style: the grounds they would like to take a walk, the veranda where they could enjoy morning coffee or afternoon tea, or the rooms they would admire when they have nothing more demanding to do than contemplate their surroundings.
Taken in its entirety, the book allows readers to envision an alternative to popular accommodations that involve pressing door code buttons before entering a solo space with an armful of groceries. “Great Escapes USA” fosters the fantasy of hospitality which is more akin to accepting an invitation to stay in the country house of friends who own very nice real estate.