Monday, 20 May 2013

Mississippi style: rustic Americana

Well hello again. So I'm finally back from a pretty epic holiday in the States: a road trip from Nashville via Memphis, down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, birthplace of the blues – with a few deviations en route including a tranquil log cabin on the edge of a beautiful lake, a mental casino village that scared the life out of us and a long weekend in New York City. 

I'll be writing a full travel story about it on the other website I edit shortly. Meanwhile, here, some design highlights, starting with possibly my favourite stop-off – the excellently-named Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale.

The place is made up of a series of shacks, all different, that you rent out like hotel or motel rooms (above you can see the porch outside the one we rented, complete with rocking chairs). 

The shacks have all been bought by the owners and transported from nearby former plantations, and are the rooms once inhabited by plantation workers. In the wrong hands, it could be a somewhat ghoulish given the area's history, but the owners are big on history, huge on blues (which originated inside some of these very shacks, or some like them) and sensitive to what they're doing. They've also got a marvellous recycling ethos – though a few of the shacks are reconstructions, many are the very same buildings but with their corrugated iron and weathered wood patched together more solidly, and with electricity, plumbing (including great showers) and insulation subtly added in. Check out our room...

Isn't it brilliant? The bed headboard is made out of some kind of scrap metal. It looks great and I like the contrast with the soft, floral bedspread.

Loved this simple turquoise metal chair. Looks great against the bare wood boards and walls. 

A rocking arm chair in one corner of our room. The framed collage above it on the left shows the adverts for each individual shack. These are printed in the style of Hatch Prints, in Nashville, which I'll do a separate post about because it's so amazing.

The bathroom is beautifully plain but had one of the best showers of all the places we stayed. Love the burnished copper surround to the sink, and the contrast of that with textures of the wood walls and corrugated metal ceiling.

The view from inside our room. Pretty awesome, huh? And (very tiny in the distance) you can see my travelling buddy carrying one of the free-to-borrow guitars at reception.


Love the faded colours of the exterior of one of the other shacks.

And the pressed tin ceiling tiles from one of the other bathrooms (you can read more about these tiles in this previous post on the topic).

Each shack had a different coloured (eco) bulb lighting up its porch. Nice touch.

We stayed in this room on the first night. Love that quilted bedspread...

...And the little kitchen area...

 ...and the sweet bathroom.

This, above, is the shack from the outside.

To put it in context, above is a shot of the whole place from the other side of the deserted railroad track that runs in front of it. What about the Mississippi sky? It was immense – and dramatically different from the next state up, Tennessee. The further south we drove, the flatter the landscapes and the huger the skies. We were mesmerised.

And a close-up of those posters for the individual rooms. Below, the bar area, reception and general out-buildings at the Shack Up. I want to go back already.

I am a bit obsessed with American style ovens. This, above, is a really old one obviously, but even the modern ones are the same satisfyingly broad shape. Aren't those handles lovely? And as for the fridge – Smeg, eat your heart out.

The "TV area" at the Shack Up's bar.


Cowboy-friendly wall dedor upstairs at the bar. 



Some more of the shacks you can stay in. The automotive accessory (one of many rusting old trucks dotted about the place) should really look tacky and novelty. And if the place wasn't so quiet and untouristy, maybe they would have done. But we'd just come from brash, theme-parky Memphis central a few days earlier – and in this sleepy setting, they just added to the feeling that you'd stepped back in time.


We really struggled to tear ourselves away. But then we had the excitement of the open road for the next bit of the journey's inspiration... 

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