Learn the art of Escapology with Colin & Justin

Escapology: Modern Cabins, Cottages & Retreats, by Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan is available on October 13. published by Figure 1 Publishing

Do you dream of escaping the city and living far from the madding crowd, in a remote forest, or by a crystal-clear lake? Throughout the pages of Escapology, Colin & Justin’s latest style tome, peek into the escapes of the brave people who’ve done precisely that.


WE’VE LONG SINCE ADVOCATED that our inner sanctums should be personal, practical and beautiful, and, with many of us now (due to the ongoing pandemic) experiencing our domestic landscapes in a new way, it appears folk are finally learning to fine tune their spaces. And gosh, does “home” these days deliver a wealth of new functions. From boardroom to schoolroom, restaurant to clinic, the average domicile has properly stepped up.

Yes indeed, everything, everywhere, pertaining to real estate, is changing. Property prices are rising, DIY talents have amplified, and leisure spending on fodder such as outdoor furniture, saunas, and hot tubs is rocketing. It’s clear consumers are personalizing—and elevating—their nests, and that, as we see it certainly, can only be a good thing.

So, what’s the best means by which to create a truly escapist domicile? Well, positioning within the city tends to be a practical exercise, dictated by school catchment or perhaps commutability. In the “second home” market, however, purchases tend to be made with the heart: structures that commune with nature are paramount, as are places that indulge the escapist gene that exists in all of us

If you’re looking for getaway inspiration, make the “second home” sector your first port of call. This in mind, herewith a few key abodes from Escapology, each of which offers a wealth of design components to inspire and excite in equal, decompressing measure.

The Bunker, Montana, U.S.A; by Miller Roodell Architects and Abby Hetherington Interiors.

At the heart of The Bunker in Montana (by Miller Roodell Architects and Abby Hetherington Interiors) lies a veritable forest of woodsy ideas realized as a state of the art chef’s kitchen, whose beautiful lines are clean and unbroken. The food prep zone references the kind of design cues normally reserved for glossy modern structures, but arranges them in a muted, natural application.

Design takeaway? When chasing your escapist vibe, don’t be afraid to combine different timbers. As Mother Nature would surely say, had she been gifted with the power of speech: “There are many different tree genus in my forest—yet they co-exist, perfectly.” Sage counsel, indeed, so let your wood loving predilections run free.

Texture, too, is another important consideration. Wherever possible, create schematic contrast and decorative interest—be inspired by The Bunker’s rough-hewn ceiling beams and polished oak floors, and by modern, super smooth wood veneer walls that lead to the hallway. It’s all rather swoon-worthy: the play of timber colours, lumber genus and textures are the visually delicious ingredients that conspire an undeniably commanding room recipe.

A barn conversion in Oxfordshire, England.

Many escapes have a “go big or go home attitude” and, in this English barn conversion in Oxfordshire, that ideology is successfully played out. An enormous fireplace and chimney are conceived as one huge sculptural object, thanks to large stone blocks that taper to a lime-plastered flue which echoes the sloping forms of rural brick chimneystacks. “Out-scaling” a focal point piece such as this not only creates a sense of escapism, it also fires up the overall experience. Imagine sitting around that beautiful structure on a cold winter night, versus crowding around a skinny baseboard heater: both, certainly, are warm, but a roaring hearth (or a convincing electric or gas alternative) offers an experience that’s way more memorable. Atmospheric? Yes, and then some.

Yellowbell, Wyoming, U.S.A.

Design that embraces its surroundings—to make you relax, upon arrival—is, as we see it, quintessentially escapist. This in mind, consider “opening” dark areas in your home—using glass—to amplify views. Similarly, add sliding doors to connect your home’s interior with its exterior.

The bathroom at Yellowbell, an imaginatively designed log cabin in Wyoming, perfectly demonstrates how to make the everyday amazing. We love the expansive glazed bay in the bathroom, where a deep soaker tub indulges bathers with unparalleled views of the peaks of the Grand Tetons. Seriously: in a world where consumers (we, included) are obsessed with spa treatments, bath oils and supposed health giving tinctures, could there be a better stress reliever than a long hot soak with a breathtaking mountain view? We rest our case.

Vipp Shelter, Lake Immeln, Sweden. // photo by Anders Hviid-Haglund

More often than not, true “escapologists” build respites that are tucked in unexpected places—perhaps high on a hill, or discreetly positioned in a copse in some remote, beautiful forest. This observed, the journey required (before decompression can truly begin) can be arduous. But if the hero cabin is truly exciting? Then those long journeys are more than worthwhile. One such journey is to Vipp Shelter on Lake Immeln in Sweden. Are we allowed to have favourites? Probably not, but, were we permitted, this one would surely be up there.

Upon arrival, visitors are met with an odd couple marriage of nature and manufacture. Nestled in forestation, sits a compelling glass and steel structure, whose understated lines blend into the shadows as the sun travels across the sky. In the same way that an archetypal little black dress is comfortable, timeless and elegant, so too does this wonderful—and understated—structure appear to be stylistically relevant and perpetually on point.

Interior designers, style commentators, celebrity interviewers and lifestyle gurus COLIN MCALLISTER and JUSTIN RYAN split their time between Toronto, Haliburton and Glasgow. You may know them as hosts of Cabin Pressure (Cottage Life) judges on Game of Homes (W Network and Discovery Family) or experts on Cityline (City TV). Their eponymous decor line C+J Home is available at Homesense and Marshalls. Catch their latest program Great Canadian Cottages on Cottage Life.

Leave a Reply