A new book showcasing rural retreats across the globe is an all-in-one guide to getting away.
Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan weren’t always the country-cabin aficionados they are today. In fact, the self-described “city boys,” who hail from urban Scotland, didn’t develop a taste for the great outdoors until 13 years ago, when they moved to Canada and started spending time in Ontario’s cottage country. One trip in particular, to a lakeside log cabin where bears, moose, and deer wandered right up to their doorstep, was a turning point for the interior design duo. “It totally blew our minds,” McAllister says, “and we immediately started exploring the possibility of creating our own rustic retreat.” So far, the seasoned cabin renovators have presided over six of their own pastoral projects, made a television series documenting their rural design adventures (Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure), and hosted another series called Great Escapes With Colin and Justin, in which they visited other people’s inviting country abodes.
Now the design pros have put their passion into book form, with the release of Escapology: Modern Cabins, Cottages, and Retreats. The 256-page tome is equal parts inspiring and informative, featuring an eclectic selection of 24 escapes spanning nine countries. In addition to striking images of enviable getaways, including a sprawling mountain lodge in Montana, a tiny treehouse in Ontario, and a contemporary cabin in South Africa, the book offers expert tips on everything from going off the grid to choosing appropriately durable furnishings. “Our dream was that readers could marvel at the homes but find heaps of takeaway information, too,” McAllister says. While the featured houses are wonderfully diverse — in size, style, location, and budget — they all have one thing in common: their respect for the surrounding landscape. As Colin and Justin write in Escapology, when it comes to complementing a home’s natural setting, “It’s all about fitting in and not taking over.”
From a world-events standpoint, the book couldn’t have come at a better time. With a global pandemic forcing us to stay home more than ever, people are reevaluating what they need from both their primary homes and vacation properties. “We’ve all been stuck indoors for months this year,” Ryan says. “This has provided an opportunity for people everywhere to look at their homes under the microscope. This, in turn, has led to an upturn in people looking to renovate and create homes that are joyous, relaxing, cosseting, and memorable.” With Escapology, homeowners and prospective homeowners alike just might find some much-needed motivation — either to embark on a long-fantasized-about renovation project or, like the authors themselves did all those years ago, seek out their own dream retreat in the country. Either way, Ryan has some advice to keep in mind: “The escapist home can be created anywhere,” he says. “It’s all about creating spaces that are functional, beautiful, and, above all, personal.”
Not ready to purchase a rural escape just yet? Make your city place feel like a country getaway with these helpful hints.
Be inspired by nature: “Don’t be afraid to mix different timbers together,” Ryan says. “Ask yourself how many different trees exist in the forest, and then let your woody imagination go wild! Mix rough-hewn ceiling beams with wide-plank floors. Or consider a modern, super smooth wood veneer wall to create a mix of timber genus and gentle texture.”
Play with scale to create design statements: “The best escapist homes have a ‘go big or go home’ attitude,” McAllister says. “Take a focal point like a fireplace and make it even larger. This not only creates a sense of escapism but also amps up the experience.”
Create a room with a view: “Design that embraces and makes the most out of its surroundings is quintessentially escapist,” Ryan says, “so think about opening up dark corners with glass to make more of views, or adding sliding doors to connect the inside with the out.”
Photography: Images courtesy Audrey Hall, Brandon Barré, Figure 1 Publishing, Jeremy Kohm/Great Canadian Cottages/Cottage Life
From our January 2021 issue.