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Lovely Places: Foxfire Mountain House, New York

The roof is down on the convertible Mustang. Twinkling in the sun, the mountainsides and their gentle peaks are lush with midsummer greenery. Pristine lake after pristine lake is making you feel kind of romantic. You might find yourself humming 'Hey Baby' by Bruce Channel*. Welcome to the Catskills, upstate New York.

That this is the area where 'Dirty Dancing' was set is only one of two reasons I shaped an entire mini US road trip around it. (But it was a deadly serious reason. I loved, loved, loved that film as a kid. I still love it as an adult and was more than a little overexcited about being in the very lakes and mountains where it was set.) The other reason is the Foxfire Mountain House, just outside the town of Phonecia at Mount Tremper, which became a dream destination when I ogled photos of of it on the Remodelista newsletter. It's lucky Foxfire turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed, since disappointment was on the horizon elsewhere...

* This hummable song, some may recall, features in this rather famous scene in the soundtrack to the 1987 film

It wasn't that we didn't arrive via convertible Mustang because I'd left it too late to book one – even our ugly white Ford Focus hire car couldn't dim appreciation of our scenery-heavy drive down from Vermont, through 'Last of the Mohicans' land, all pine-fringed roads, waterfalls, rocking chairs on porches and Hudson River. It wasn't even that, because we needed to save the phone batteries for directions, we had listened to the radio, and tuned in to an angry, far-right talk show host for a bit too long. It was, quite simply, a classic car bicker between a husband and a wife.

We were now surrounded by the verdant Catskill Mountains and I was driving, dreamily planning our lakeside picnic the following day. Probably singing 'Hey Baby' to myself. He, meanwhile, was harbouring idle resentment about the directions I'd disputed somewhere around Saratoga Springs, and he'd been Googling.

"Dirty Dancing wasn't actually filmed anywhere near here," he said with almost-convincing insouciance. "It was filmed in Virginia." Just like that, a little piece of my 1980s-nostalgic, Catskills-excited dream died right there.

But onwards and upwards! And, as I said, hurrah for the Foxfire Mountain House. And for the cold glass of white penitently brought to a childishly crestfallen wife on a swing seat on the hotel's verandah about 5 minutes after we'd arrived.

And what a verandah!

Obligatory swing seat shot.

The mix of encaustic tiles works so well, doesn't it?

The white, weatherboarded building is around 100 years old and is set in tranquil grounds that host regular weddings out the front and which also feature a macrame hammock strung between two ancient trees, a tiny petanque court, a lily pond, a beautifully organised herb garden and an airy little cabin with its own bar for events.

Above, the entrance to the house. Below, the little cabin.

And inside...

I bumped into co-owner, Eliza Clark while I was snooping around outside; she was busy doing something restorative to some old chairs she'd just acquired and came over to say hi. Eliza is a TV producer and director and bought the place with her husband around four years ago. It had previously been staff quarters for another local hotel, and they spent a couple of years renovating it with Eliza leading the decor decisions. We mused about the trials of renovation projects and she told me how much thought had gone into every single detail. Nothing is off-the-peg, and unique vintage pieces include the little things – the towel hooks, the door fixings and the lace at the windows.

The lounge area downstairs was really cosy. Here's the record player corner. (Such amazing old vinyl, too – yes that is the original 'Abbey Road' album.)

Here's our room.

Check out the insane lampshade made from shells. In a less 'rustic minimal' interior this would look kitsch. Here it just looks covetable (in my house it would look kitsch).

The bathroom was pretty special. It's all about sourcing good salvage.

Painting the exterior of an old sink, just as you would a roll-top bath, is a nice touch and black is simple and unfussy and nearly always works.

Which came first, the hook or the tiles? These lovely old hooks for towels pick up the blue featured in both the floor and the wall tiles.

The light switch is a corker, isn't it?

The attention to detail was next level. And one of these tiny accessories has since had me obsessively internet-scouring for my own place. But more of that story in another post...

Meanwhile, I've got a new project on the go (again, more of that soon, too) and I found this a really inspiring visit in that respect (less inspiring on the lake lift front, obvs). What do you think of the Foxfire Mountain House style?

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