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When I traveled around the country talking to readers about my last book, A Room of Her Own: Women's Personal Spaces, I was struck by how many women told me they had created--or yearned to create--a personal space, a private sanctuary for themselves in their homes. The concept of a personal space struck a deeply responsive chord with so many women, which seemed to cut across all demographic boundaries--age, geography, whatever.
But as I talked to people, it also became increasingly clear to me that the need for a haven, a retreat, is a universal one. Families, couples, and singles--regardless of gender--share this almost primal urge to have what began to take shape in my mind as a "getaway." Suddenly, and with a sense of energizing enthusiasm, I was on to a new project--Getaways.
As I do with all my books, I got on the phone, sent out letters, and faxed friends and designers asking them if they had or knew of a getaway, a special place that offered a sense of sanctuary. I was thrilled to receive a huge and enthusiastic response to my queries. Some wrote eloquently about their homes on the water, whether this was the ocean, a lake, or a small harbor. Others submitted wonderful photographs of shacks in the mountains or secluded cottages. I found that a getaway did not have to be a second home: many had created one in their primary home or apartment right in the midst of the city.
Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose home I was privileged to photograph, eloquently captured the essence of a getaway. "It's a vision of a place you've had in your mind," Toni told me, "and when you find yourself there, you recognize it." I discoveredeye-pleasing spaces that came in a dazzling variety of guises, from the Donahue family's charming boat basin in Rye, New York (which has been in the family for three generations), to actor Michael Keaton's fishing shack in the Rockies to Los Angeles designer Lynn von Kersting's secluded pool and pavilion snuggled above the clamor of Sunset Boulevard. Katie Couric let me photograph her elegantly relaxed home in upstate New York, where she and her daughters escape on weekends from her hectic schedule at NBC. I traveled out to the end of eastern Long Island where Walter Iooss, Jr., the well-known sports photographer, and his wife Eva opened their incredible home to me on the Montauk cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
A very talented designer, Sarah Smith, gave me and my photographer access to several exquisite getaways on a small island off the Connecticut coastline, where three or four generations of families gather each summer. The design philosophy there was very much one of relaxed comfort. Sand-filled Top-Siders and water-soaked golden retrievers were welcome in any room of the house!
The discovery of a getaway, I found, often has the characteristics of an epiphany. Renate McKnight and her artist-husband, Tom, owned homes in New York and Palm Beach but were visiting friends in bucolic Litchfield County in Connecticut when they drove past a stately old Colonial house on Litchfield's Main Street. As Tom told me, "We both knew it was the house we wanted." They contacted a local real estate agent and have now lovingly restored and renovated this wonderful home.
Jennifer and James D'Auria told me a similar tale about the discovery of their getaway. New Yorkers through the week, Jennifer is an actress and James an architect. They had a small weekend house on eastern Long Island but both had a very clear vision of the house and property they yearned for. One night, while driving in a wild rainstorm, Jennifer spotted a For Sale sign on a piece of land. As Jennifer said, "The country road was right, the hills were right." She drove back, got James, and, as you'll see, created an exquisite home in the potato fields of Amagansett.
Time and again, the owners of the spaces I photographed reiterated the sentiment that Toni Morrison had expressed to me, that feeling of "coming home." Whenever we find this place--whether at the beach, in the country, or in our everyday homes--I know that we can add a richness to our wondrous but sometimes hectic lives by following our vision and creating a getaway of our own.