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I’m on the hunt, often, for the ultimate in cabin experiences. Which might help to explain my fascination with the blog, cabinporn.   Recently posted is this image of a sunlit interior at Rackwick Bothy (also known as Burnmouth Cottage) on the Isle of Hoy in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Wood and stone never looked so authentic and right.

There are a couple pre-requisites for an enduring cabin:  authentic materiality and an indoor-outdoor room to inspire the writing of a great novel, season after season, year after year.

Ideally, a great bar to help inspire the great novel. (This one at the 350-year-old Hermitage Plantation set up high on the island of Nevis in the rainforest.)

And morning wake-up tea to sip and contemplate one’s amazing escape from the city.

I can highly recommend Stanley Mitchell Hut, a wood-frame jewel of a cabin built in 1940 and set in a meadow about 6,825 feet in the Little Yoho Valley in Yoho National Park, BritishColumbia.   We signed up to be custodians of Stanley Mitchell Hut one summer and played host to climbers from around the world.  Contact the Alpine Club of Canada if you’d like to do the same. (Photo by Paul Zizka.)

Where there is a cabin there are almost always piles of sweet-smelling wood.  In Sweden, wood piles are exquisitely designed.  So, let’s remember that for our ideal cabin.

The Bergman-Werntoft House by Johan Sundberg, near Malmo, Sweden.  The wood piles are in the back.

Or perhaps you were thinking of the ultimate indoor-outdoor, more outdoor than indoor, cabin. So long as there are books and a place to write, I wouldn’t mind.

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Nature’s veil:  Sea fan and Geneviève, Nevis.

A veil is the mystery that comes before. Before the great flood of humanity moves below: Brookfield Place by Santiago Calatrava casts a veil over historic and modern office buildings, creating a monumental atrium in downtown Toronto.

Particularly astute at combining seductive forms with astounding engineering, New York based-Asymptote Architects created a grid-shell exterior veil for the Bas Hotel, Dubai. It edges a Formula 1 racetrack.

 Anybody recognize the bride?  Her dress and the barely there veil of ivory silk tulle was designed by Alexander McQueen. Please note that the trim of hand-embroidered flowers was embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. The veil is held in place by a Cartier ‘halo’ tiara, lent to Miss Middleton by The Queen…something new, something borrowed, something blue…

Blue Light Showers by public artist Jill Anholt.  Water from Lake Ontario, purified by ultra-violet light, cascades down the mesh veil and into water channels at the newly opened Sherbourne Common on Toronto’s waterfront edge. Feeling blue?  Go see this at night.

Nevis is an enchanting balm for the soul…A mountainous, historically-charged island in the West Indies that’s untouched by the overzealous commercialism of many islands in the Caribbean.   And, yes, you have to commit to getting there. After two long-haul flights, our third and final one was a wild ride on a 20-seater designed in the 1960s.  Vintage is something I like in furniture.  Not so much for planes.

 We flew straight into the sunset, and massive storm clouds, leaving Christmas festivities and sub-zero temperatures far, far behind.

The island is a storybook of how to live and create a home – especially an intimately-scaled home – like this colourful wood-frame pitched delicately, magnificently against the rolling foothills of Mount Nevis. The legendary Hermitage Inn, built 340 years ago, is a collection of pitched-roof private villas at 800 feet above sea level with a Great House finished in Nevis hardwood and defined by its perfectly proportioned dining room, verandah and library.

 There’s tragedy, too, pressed into many of the island’s ruins. The Eden Browne estate looms dark and foreboding against an overgrown landscape where the groom killed his best friend on the night of his wedding.

There are copper vats and iconic stone kilns still scattered across the island where slaves historically laboured on sugar plantations.

The production of “white gold” produced monuments in stone.  They might be confused as temples to Mayan Gods.  And now many of these artefacts are left to fall into ruin, while wild goats graze around them.

 The beaches are vast, untouched and deserted.  Just us and the palm trees bent over the sand, and the vervet monkeys prankstering around in the bushes.

Several plantations on Nevis have been transformed into elegant restaurants and hotels.  The Golden Rock Inn and Restaurant has been given a bold contemporary look by its owners, the acclaimed New York minimalist artist Brice Marden and his wife Helen.  (Marden’s work was featured at the MoMA in NYC in 2006, and his large abstracts have been sold on the block at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for many millions – each.)

Marden asked the Paris-based designer Ed Tuttle, whose portfolio includes the luxury Aman hotels, to put his stamp on Golden Rock. A large podium with reflecting pool and steps leading to a dining terrace has been inserted into the lush landscape.  Stone plantation buildings with vaulted ceilings serves as a cafe and bar, revitalized with lounge furniture and shutters painted the plantation’s signature colour of burnished red.     Marden tours around the open-air restaurant, wearing his favourite black toque, saying hullo to us today and supervising the ongoing upgrades and aesthetic ordering of the wild, dense rain forest.

The Nevis fireworks on New Year’s Eve were dazzling.  So was the ‘Killer Bee’ rum punch at Sunshine’s beach restaurant.  And, most of all, dancing in the sand in bare feet.  Happy New Year !   It’s going to be a good one.  With love, from Nevis.