You Don’t Have to Go on Vacation to Live in One
Woven in to what my iPhone identifies as the “Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest” (nearby town Porto Seguro was where misguided Europeans landed in Brazil 500 years ago) is a town called Trancoso in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
Since the 1970’s Trancoso has become increasingly well known as hippie-refuge turned playground for the elite. A 2010 New York Time’s article describes Trancoso as, “a former fishing village that has turned into a super-trendy getaway for Brazilians and fashionable jet-setters willing to pay St.Tropez prices for rustic accommodations on an unspoiled beach.” But that’s only December through February, Brazilian summertime and Trancoso’s peak season.
The rest of the year it remains the sleepy, almost overwhelmingly charming town it’s always been. Trancoso is known for its Quadrato, a unique town square surrounded by short, colorful houses occupied by locals. The wide grassy field in the middle serves as a soccer field, marketplace and the home to a church as old as the town itself.
Walking the Quadrato one feels instantly at home, a rare feeling in a place as foreign as Brazil. The only reminders of Trancoso’s glitzy reputation are overpriced shops stuffed in tiny, colorful storefronts indistinguishable from people’s homes. There are rowdy regular afternoon soccer games and from 3’o clock onward groups of old men sip beer at wooden tables that spill out of restaurants onto the Quadrato.
Among these tightly packed, colorful homes, restaurants and storefronts is a blue door. A man in a black shirt with an earpiece sits outside, he is guarding the entrance to Uxua. Uxua hotel is the offspring of Dutch creative Wilbert Das, former creative director of Diesel. Das purchased the property in 2009, restoring and adding to what was once a series of old fisherman’s homes.
The result is a sprawling eco-resort with lush gardens, ten unique casas and décor so impeccable you feel like you’re in a magazine. Uxua is unlike any place I’ve ever been, and that’s saying a lot. Born into a travel-hungry family, I’ve stayed in hotels from India, to Costa Rica, to Italy, to Tanzania. Not one is comparable to Uxua.
After I managed to pulls my eyes off of the adorably tiny monkeys that frequent the hotel bar and the sparkling pool of aventurine crystals, I asked myself why Uxua felt so perfect. After much contemplation, and ruling out the obvious (monkeys, beach and fresh coconuts, etc.), I realized why. At Uxua there is not an inch of space that isn’t visually appealing. Every corner, bathroom and molding, hell every toilet paper holder, is thought out, charming and aesthetically pleasing.
In addition to this, Das’ use of color, local products/design, antique and repurposed items, lush greenery, spontaneity and practicality create a true paradise. So how can you bring a little of Uxua’s perfection in to your own life without the pricey plane ticket? I’ve identified ten ways to bring some Bahian Breeze to your home.
1. Every Inch Counts: Many of us (including myself) make the mistake of focusing on the overall look of a place instead of the little details, when it is those little details that can take a home from nice to perfect. Follow in Das’ footsteps and try to look at every inch of you’re home with a critical eye. Is there a more appealing way to store linens or keep fruit on the counter? Treat everything as if it were it’s own space worthy of your full attention.
2. Think Local: In creating Uxua, Das did an incredible job of working with local artists to incorporate local design. Just because you live in Chicago or New York doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s going on just outside of your home. Bring in local elements like an old bus stop sign or a framed poster and acknowledge where you live, it will make both you and your guests feel more in synch indoors and out.
3. Color, color, color: Uxua and the town of Trancoso use an incredible array of paint colors. As an American, I feel confident saying that we are often too scared to paint an entire wall bright yellow or buy all blue dishes. But if you coordinate well and stick to charming/well matched colors it will instantly brighten your home and day.
4. Add a few dashes of fun: Just because we are talking design here doesn’t’ mean you should cut out all the fun- not everything has to look like it could be in a Ralph Lauren catalogue. In fact some of the most memorable elements of Uxua were the few places they strayed from impeccably placed items and threw in something unexpected such as a picture of naked woman holding a sloth in the lobby or giant straw hat shaped umbrellas over beach lounges.
5. Wood, and more wood: Part of Uxua’s appealing aesthetic is that most of the furniture and buildings are made out of recycled/repurposed wood. There’s something about old looking wood that charms without being too in your face. Start slowly, maybe a small wooden side table or even a distressed wood bowl, just don’t go for Ikea’s glossy finished was-this-ever-part-of-a-tree look. For a real treat check out Brazilian designer Hugo França who has a workshop in Trancoso and has mastered the art of reclaimed woodwork.
6. Surround Yourself With Life: Whether of the plant or animal variety life undoubtedly brightens any home and can be a decoration in and of itself. If you have a pet, spruce up his or her bowls, beds, etc. or consider how lovely a fish tank or even a self-contained ecosystem globe (I’m obsessed: http://www.eco-sphere.com/) can look. Finally, surround yourself with plants whether you live in the city, country or somewhere in between. Succulents are a particularly pretty and generally easy to care for. Plant a small herb garden in your windowsill or buy a pot of ivy for the counter. Fresh cut flowers are always a good idea, improving the look of any space and scientifically proven boost your mood!
7. Functional Can also Be Visually Appealing: At Uxua function was seamlessly woven into beautiful design. Hand towels were rolled and decoratively placed by the sink and pitchers of water or juices were covered with beautiful bits of lace with beads on them to keep insects out. Consider how you can combine needs with aesthetic appeal.
8. Pay Attention to Light: This one may seem fairly obvious but light and sources of it have a huge impact on how a space looks and how we feel in it. Personally, I try to utilize natural light as much as possible.
9. Consider Investing in a Bed Canopy: Even if you live somewhere where you don’t need a mosquito net over your bed there’s something irresistibly exotic about being surrounded by gauzy white at night. Consider getting a nice looking mosquito net or simply a curtain/canopy to create an aura of intimacy. It also allows you to leave the windows open while you sleep without worrying about bugs. 10. Think Like a Lounge Lizard: There were no shortages of places to lounge in Uxua from proper couches to hammocks to giant chez lounges/day beds. Even in a small space, try to have plenty of places to simply plop down for both you and guests. It encourages relaxation and is a nice way to fill space. You can even try floor pillows, a way to turn floor space in to elegant seating that can be tucked under a coffee table during the day.
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