“We like to think John Dougherty was a sea captain,” says designer Megan Butcher of the inspiration behind her firm’s latest project: JD House, an eight-room retreat in the quaint coastal village of Mendocino. Named for its 19th-century former owner, the recently restored bed-and-breakfast—which includes a historic water tower and a cabin with Dutch doors—got a makeover that stripped away the doilies and updated the interiors with white shiplap walls, patinated wood floors, and furnishings fit for city-slicker visitors. Midcentury-style beds with caramel-leather headboards and clear acrylic coffee tables are juxtaposed with antique writing desks and Persian rugs. Sparse yet cozy amenities (soaking tubs, wood-burning fireplaces) do little to dominate your attention—and that’s precisely the point. “When you look out the windows, all you see is ocean,” says Butcher of the upstairs guest rooms. And when a picnic basket of pint-size Fido jars filled with breakfast arrives on your doorstep, there’s nowhere you’d rather be on a fog-socked Northern California morning. From $139; bluedoorgroup.com. —Alison Van Houten
Modern Hawaiiana is the name of the game at Oahu’s most eye-catching new lodging. Your phone may die before you can capture every gorgeous detail. The refreshed Shoreline Hotel Waikiki—the first Aloha State project of Dan Mazzarini’s BHDM Design—deftly straddles tropical exuberance and tongue-in-cheek interiors. Island flora painted by DJ Neff adorn a stairwell leading to the rooftop pool; faux ‘i‘iwi and other native birds descend on rattan-cage light fixtures in the open-air lobby above custom furnishings. “We said, ‘What if our space was kind of an eternal sunset?’” notes Mazzarini, whose hand is evident throughout. He even captioned a 3-D map of Hawaii affixed to a wall in each of the 135 guest rooms. “It’s like my signature on the place—a fun wink,” he says. This design demands a double take. From $219; shorelinehotelwaikiki.com. —Alison Van Houten
“The brewery is like a novel, with individual characters who have their own stories. Each time someone comes in for a beer, a story is shared, and a new chapter is written. This ongoing development comes with drama and sadness, joy and intensity, and makes for a wonderful journey every day.”
(This piece was written for Liquid Bread Magazine.)Read More
Known for her envy-inducing Instagram account (@laura_austin), as well as her work for clients such as Nike and Google, 28-year-old self-taught photographer Laura Austin recently embraced a new challenge: towing a Nest by Airstream around the U.S. for two months, solo. Here, the Los Angeles–based creative shares three lessons learned along the way. —Alison Van Houten
Five years ago, Chris “Chachi” McCumber encountered a group of strangers spinning fire at a festival in Maine. Awed, he approached them and said, essentially, “I want to do that.”
The group was engaging in “flow arts,” a set of disciplines that combine dance with object manipulation and can include juggling LED clubs — Chachi’s prop of choice nowadays — or twirling a flaming staff. According to the Flow Arts Institute, the umbrella term refers to “a variety of pursuits that harmonize skill-based techniques with creative expression to achieve a state of present-moment awareness known as Flow.”
The objects that people use in flow arts are known as “flowtoys,” and they run the gamut from simple hula hoops to poi, which to the layperson look something like weighted orbs tethered to one’s hands with rope. Depending on what’s in their quiver, a flow artist might swing a flowtoy in circles, roll it up and down their arm, throw it in the air — anything goes. Some props are meant to be lit on fire, but many, like the classic circus-style clubs that Chachi favors, are embedded with LED lights, a more practical option that creates dazzling, colorful patterns in the dark.
The vast majority of flow artists partake casually, gathering at events called “flowjams.” Although participants inevitably do watch one another perform, they mostly flow alongside each other, similar to the crowd at a concert or a dance (but more spacious). Largely unstructured, there are currently no flow competitions, and although various styles and techniques exist, there is no formal methodology, either. In short, it’s a way to cut loose. “Watching your friends is better than TV,” Chachi said.
The Bay Area is something of a mecca for the flow arts, with a number of regular flowjams and dedicated spaces. “We’re pretty lucky here in the East Bay,” said Chachi, who helps organize a gathering known as Friday Night Lights with his friend Jacob “Tiktok” Turner (they both prefer to be called by their nicknames). In addition to continuing that event’s six-year run, Chachi works on the production team at Flowtoys, an Emeryville company run by the husband-wife team Prisna and Sean von Stade.
In 2004, the von Stades — who themselves met through a flowjam — co-founded Flowtoys in hopes of nurturing the positive impacts that the flow arts can create. “My motivation for providing flowtoys in the world is inspired by the positive effects I’ve seen, especially in young men,” Prisna said. “Many men are not comfortable in their bodies. They’re not comfortable dancing, but once you put a staff in their hands, they forget about their bodies and focus on moving the staff. Then, shortly after, they start moving their bodies.”
The von Stades ran the first iteration of Flowtoys out of their San Francisco apartment before relocating to a live-work loft in West Berkeley in 2007. But Flowtoys soon outgrew its home, and the pair acquired a small warehouse in the neighborhood, which they built out to house a small production facility with a workshop, office, and studio, where they filmed their own promotions as well as prominent flow artists who came through town. In 2014, the von Stades moved Flowtoys into its current home in Emeryville.
Today, Prisna and Sean continue to run Flowtoys, she in a managerial role and he as the more technically oriented toymaker. Including Flowtoys, five interconnected companies operate out of the Doyle Street location and assist with the production of Flowtoys, which range from LED poi, which is a prop with roots in Maori culture, to the Toroflux, which is described as a fourth-dimensional slinky.
In addition to making performance-ready props for average consumers and professionals —Flowtoys feature in Cirque du Soleil, among other productions — the von Stades use their Emeryville studio for events related to the business. Every Wednesday evening, they host a free, beginner-level, prop-based workshop. Although tutors often focus on poi, martial-arts-inspired disciplines like staff manipulation and rope dart are also in the mix. Then it’s time to play. “It often feels like a family gathering,” Prisna said. “People come together and share skills and techniques and inspire each other.”
Flowjams typically feature music of some kind, and flow artists are a common sight at many concerts and music festivals. “There is something special about dancing with props to your favorite music artist, surrounded by thousands of people who also love that artist, that can’t be replicated at home or in a park,” Prisna said.
However, the relationship between strictly music-oriented venues and flowtoys can be tricky. Some large theaters, such as Bill Graham Civic Center, have issued blanket bans on “objects that can be used as projectiles, such as glow sticks and Poi Balls” (presumably for safety reasons). Chachi said that sometimes security will give him a hard time when they see his clubs, but then loosen up as soon as they see him juggle — perhaps because they’ve realized he’s in control.
“Some venues love flowtoys; some don’t,” Prisna said. “Some venues simply don’t have the space to enable people to spin props safely for both the spinner and other attendees. Some spinners can be careless, other people can be clueless and think nothing of walking into someone spinning a prop. In an ideal world, event organizers would be educated on the benefits of the flow arts, and we could have flow zones dedicated to dancing safely with props.”
It’s not a difficult argument: The flow arts are ostensibly healthy, not just physically but mentally. “It engages the mind and body, and many would say soul,” Prisna said. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of how many lives it has turned around.”
One of those people is Tiktok, who credits the flow arts with ameliorating his depression. “It got me out of a very dark place,” he said. “It taught me to cope with my life.”
For the time being, flowjams are the obvious solution to avoiding conflict with venues. And pragmatism aside, dedicated flow events yield special results. “Whenever you bring together active practitioners or people who are enthusiastic about any artform, all sorts of magic happens,” said Prisna, adding, “having a space dedicated to the flow arts creates a crucible for learning.”
The flow arts remain largely characterized by exploration rather than mastery. “It is in this untapped frontier that many people are finding their flow, so to speak,” Prisna said. “This will evolve if it becomes more structured, but for now, many of us get to write our own stories.”
No more excuses—it’s time to check Russian River canoe camping off your bucket
ALISON VAN HOUTEN
Lined with lush stands of Coast Redwoods and Sonoma County’s seemingly
ubiquitous vineyards, the lazy backwater of Northern California’s Russian River is a
must-visit destination for any nature lover. Follow the watercourse from the inland
valleys all the way out to Jenner, where the river spills into the Pacific, for a crash
course in wine country’s allure. No canoe? Don’t fret. Myriad outfitters and
campgrounds mean there are options for every adventurer.
When to Go
The dog days of summer are a safe bet. However, early autumn can be equally
enjoyable: The weather is still pleasant, but a fraction of the people will be on the
water come September and early October. And because seasonal dams erected
near Johnson’s Beach and Vacation Beach usually come down after Labor Day, fall
paddlers don’t have to portage boats, either. (It’s wise to bring a lightweight,
portable kayak dolly in the summer.) During the winter months, storms can swell
the river, creating strong currents and hidden obstacles. Suppliers may not open
shop again until mid-May or later, so June through September is the ideal window
for planning trips in advance.
Who to Go With
Outfitters can set you up with anything from kayaks to tour-ready stand-up paddle
boards, although a classic canoe is the best choice for those toting large coolers.
Forestville stalwart Burke’s Canoe Trips (from $68; burkescanoetrips.com) have it
dialed in. They’ll turn you loose with a canoe (or kayak) plus paddles and life jackets,
and shuttle you back to your vehicle in a big white school bus afterward. For a more
structured experience, hire guides from Healdsburg’s Russian River Adventures
(from $45; russianriveradventures.com) or River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips (from
$50; riversedgekayakandcanoe.com) on the upper section of the river. Keen on
getting some river time on a stand-up paddle board? SUP Odyssey east of
Guerneville offers hourly and multi-day rentals (from $25; supodyssey.com).
What to Bring
Although it’s feasible to grab last-minute items in Forestville or Guerneville (Big
Bottom Market is a favorite for day-one lunch), stock up on food and camping gear
before you exit U.S. 101. In addition to the essentials—sunscreen, dry clothes,
sunglasses, and plenty of food and water—be sure to bring swimming gear. You’ll
find innumerable spots for a quick dip, from naturally formed jumping rocks to rope
swings fashioned by the locals. Bring bungee cords to secure everything should
your boat tip as you clamber out. Water shoes and dry bags will also make your trip
more enjoyable, as will binoculars.
What You’ll See
Great blue herons and hawks are among the most common birds in the area, and
Western pond turtles are frequently glimpsed too (identify them by their mottled
heads and dark-patterned shells as they sun themselves on fallen trees). Keep your
eyes peeled for stealthier species, such as bobcats, mountain lions, and even
elusive red foxes. And don’t forget to look down—in the water, endangered Coho
salmon swim alongside countless aquatic species, including rare river otters.
Where to Go
Over 100 miles long, the Russian River is most digestible if you focus on the lower
section—especially for weekend warriors. While you can set out anywhere with boat
access, make sure to have a plan in place as cell service on the North Coast is spotty
at best. If you have two vehicles able to haul boats, meet in the town of Jenner and
set up a two-car relay system. Be sure to hit up the Jenner Visitors Center just off
Highway 1 (707/865-9757) to brush up on your local knowledge before embarking.
Leave another vehicle (or get dropped off) in Guerneville, where you’ll have your
pick of Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville River Park, or the less formal Vacation Beach,
about two miles south of town, for unloading. Those on a prolonged schedule can
start upstream in Forestville—Wohler Bridge and Steelhead Beach Regional Park
both have suitable launches—or even Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach if
you’re feeling ambitious. However, you may have to portage boats near Johnson’s
Beach or Vacation Beach. Meandering downstream, you’ll pass an abundance of
private docks. Somewhere around 90 percent of the Russian River watershed is
privately owned, so respect private property signs as you get a sneak peek of this
wonderful zone. And don’t be surprised if a passing paddler gives you a friendly
blast of water—it’s a river tradition! Refuel on the go as the leisurely summer
current conveys your boat, or sidle up to any old sandbar at lunchtime.
Where to Roll out Your Sleeping Bag
Camping is another story. All overnighters must sleep in designated sites, but the
proliferation of campgrounds along the waterfront means it’s no problem. We
recommend camping at River Bend Resort in Forestville for the first night of a multiday
journey (from $56, 2-night minimum on weekends; riverbendresort.net). You can
even sleep in a cabin or tricked-out bus refurbished with reclaimed wood. Prefer to
rough it? Ditch the boats at Schoolhouse Canyon Campground’s private beach and
cross River Road to their tent sites (from $40, first come, first served or 2-night
minimum for reservations; schoolhousecanyon.com). Downstream in Duncans Mills,
Casini Ranch Family Campground (from $51, 2-night minimum May-Sept.;
casiniranch.com) has several beachfront sites you can practically paddle up to.
Situated right on the water on a huge horseshoe bend, it’s a good hitching post for
a night or two if you have a yen for amenities like a general store, guided hikes, and
weekly bonfires on the beach during high season. For a more natural experience
(read: no plumbing), continue on to picturesque Willow Creek Environmental
Campground ($25; first come, first served; https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451). It’s
not much farther to the boat ramp by Jenner Visitors Center, which is a good thing
because strong winds often pick up late in the day and you’ll want to make it back
to the estuary early. Remember, you’ll need time to retrieve your vehicle and refuel
at one of the Bodega coast’s numerous chowder shacks on the drive home. Plan on
4-5 hours of actual paddling each day (or up to 7 hours if traveling by canoe), but
allow plenty of time for distractions. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
Turn to these new titles to elevate your plant game, whatever your skill level. —A.V.H.
Dry Gardens: High Style
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With a foreword by Bay
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Born out of a cross-country,
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Terrain: Ideas and Inspiration
the Home and Garden
A crafty guide to plants as
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Photo by Bente Marei StachowskeRead More