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Travel & Lifestyle

theSTORE – Where to Stay in Raleigh, North Carolina

I truly believe that the design of a living space matters. Maybe because I’m a freelancer in creative industries and I spend the majority of my time working indoors. I can’t help but be drawn to places with good design and beautiful natural light, where I feel fully awake and inspired.

Bed room decoration of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

When I was staying in Raleigh, North Carolina, I discovered a hidden gem. I booked my night on Airbnb at theSTORE because of the beautiful pictures. When I arrived and checked in, I was blown away by the space. The clean lines, the most beautiful light, the spacious space, and the details. I felt like a six-year old in a candy store.

John Reese is the owner, designer, and builder of the space. He was so kind and showed me around the house, and explained the design principles and details to me.

theSTORE was renovated from a two-story market built in 1917. Even though the structure of the grocery store is still there, the interior has been completely changed.

The first thing that caught my eye was the windows. Instead of using curtains, John used translucent glass panels framed with wood and steel, mounted on a steel barn-door track so the frames slide along the wall. According to John, the panels do not accumulate dust the way curtains do. For me, that soft diffused light is everything.

The house is built with a lot of attention to lighting. For example, when you walk up the elegant stairway, you’ll notice the rectangular windows on both sides of the wall, lighting up the space with natural light. If you look a bit further, you’ll notice that in the same position, there are windows cut through the wall of the interior bathroom and the bedroom that mirror the stairway windows. These windows allow light to travel across the rooms.

Stairway of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

The other design element that caught my eye was the wall on the second floor. At the first glance, I thought it was an art installation. But John explained that it was simply 16 cabinets bolted onto the wall, spaced two inches apart. So the wall became a practical storage space with such geometric beauty that is pleasing to the eye.

The wall of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

From John, I learned about how he uses paint to create and divide space. In the bedrooms and bathrooms, you’ll see paint with calming neutral colors on one or two sides of the wall. When certain design elements don’t fit, these colors will help to line up space so it looks clean and organized.

Using paint at TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

John used a mixture of high and low to design and create this beautiful space. I’d never have guessed that some of the items were from IKEA, some from friends, and some even abandoned materials, even though the whole place has a ten-million-dollar feel.

I’ll stop right here so I won’t spoil all the surprises for you.

Next time I visit Raleigh, theSTORE will be my first-choice place to stay. I hope it is yours, too.

Lighting of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Kitchen and living room of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Beautiful stairway windows of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Living room of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Kitchen of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Bathroom detail of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Lighting of the stairway of TheStore Raleigh, North Carolina

Travel & Lifestyle

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

A couple days before New Year’s Eve, we decided to go to Marfa for a short stay. It is a famous small town in west Texas known for its contemporary minimalist art installations. You might have seen pictures of the iconic landmark – a Prada store, a couple miles outside Marfa, sitting in the middle of the desert.

The weather there was surprisingly nice. I was expecting freezing winter weather, but it was warm and sunny during the day. And it was comfortable with a leather jacket or light coat during the evening. Check out this post for what to wear in Marfa in winter.

If you travel to Marfa the first time, I highly recommend you book the Chinati Foundation tour in advance so you can visit the most famous art installations in the area. We booked the trip just a few days in advance and we were lucky enough to take the last few spots of a full exhibition tour. The tour takes 6 hours and starts in the morning, with a 2-hour lunch break. It might seem super long, but it’s really worth it because it shines a new light on these artworks when you hear the stories behind them. Plus you won’t be able to access most of the exhibitions with the self-guided tour option.

If you have limited time, the selection tour (which lasts 2.5 hours) is the next best option. I would recommend the one that starts in the morning. That way you can see Donald Judd’s 100 untitled works in mill aluminum in stunning light conditions. It was one of our favorite installations. We went back a couple times at different hours and the feel of the place totally changed each time.

A few things to note.

Almost all of the famous art installations are located in different buildings without clear signage and are locked except during the tour. And the self-guided hour is extremely limited. That’s why a tour booked in advance is the best way to go.

You are not allowed to take any photos during the tour or inside of any of the exhibitions. So if photography is a part of your plan, you’ll be very disappointed (I was!). The only installation where photography is allowed is Donald Judd’s 15 untitled works in concrete (which is outdoors). During our visit I managed to snap a few illegal shots with my phone but they hardly caught the magical real-life vibes of the exhibitions. And hopefully I won’t be added to the foundation’s blacklist for sharing these photos.

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

One word about the famous Prada store. If you plan to shoot there, definitely go before noon. We went at the wrong time and arrived right before sunset. The store was totally backlit and it was next to impossible to take any good pictures.

When you’re in Marfa, you have to try out Stellina, the best restaurant in town. The place has great vibes, superb food, and a huge selection of healthy dishes. You have no idea how happy I was when I saw that beautiful roasted cauliflower and kale salad while most of the meal options nearby were very heavy Tex-Mex. Be sure to arrive early (since they don’t take reservations) or else you could face super long wait times. Also, check out LaVenture at the boutique Hotel Saint George. We only had coffee there, but they also have a great menu and offer lunch.

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

We spent two quiet and peaceful days in Marfa, enjoying the artwork, the slow pace of the town, the beautiful nature, and the stars in the pitch dark sky. It was a perfect trip before New Year, because it gave me some time to detox from all the buzz and enjoy the peacefulness of the desert. I felt refreshed and ready for the new year. And I’m already looking forward to visiting the place again.

Marfa First Timer Travel Guide

Travel & Lifestyle

Driskill Staycation

Driskill Staycation

Driskill Staycation

2017 was quite a busy year that was filled with travel. That’s why I booked a staycation for my husband and myself for Christmas, so we could lay back and relax. I chose to spend the nights in The Driskill, a beautiful landmark located in downtown Austin. Not only do I love the aesthetic of their interior design, but the hotel is close to so many great restaurants and bars and an iconic movie theater.

Driskill Staycation

Driskill Staycation

If you stay at The Driskill, here are a few things to do:

  • Watch a movie at the Alamo Draft House (on 6th street), a famous Austin-originated cinema chain that’s known for its strict etiquette and a comfortable environment where you can order wine and pizza from your seat.
  • Stop by Cafe Medici for coffee.
  • Enjoy some of the best margaritas around and have a hearty dinner at Gloria’s Latin Cuisine.
  • Experience proper Texas BBQ at Cooper’s Old Time Pit. Everything is tasty but you have to try the brisket.
  • Have a drink at Midnight Cowboy, a hidden lounge with fantastic cocktails. Reservation is required.

All of these places are accessible by foot and you’ll have a fun experience full of Austin vibes.

Driskill Staycation