Over the weekend, the New York Times profiled the Melikhovo estate in Russia, where Anton Chekhov wrote 42 of his works, including the acclaimed play “The Seagull.” It is a rural idyll full of flowers and quaint clapboard buildings.
Sometimes writers write in garrets, and painters paint on subway walls, and musicians play in basements with bad acoustics. But just as often they become attached to and inspired by places they visit and, as in the case of Melikhovo, come to make home. A retreat from the rhythms of city life is often just what they need to boost productivity. Here are some of the loveliest places that came to give their owners and visitors the creative boost they needed to write, draw and record.
Via Julia Knop.
Druid Heights, California
Founded by the carpenter Roger Sommers and the lesbian poet Elsa Gidlow, this former hippie enclave is now abandoned but in its heyday offered shelter from the tedious, irritations rhythms of the world. Also, it had a hot tub. Nestled among redwoods in Muir Woods, you can rather see the appeal, even though it’s now in ruins. Famous occupants: Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Catharine MacKinnon. The Eagles and the Doobie Brothers played there. Now more or less abandoned.
Yaddo, New York
Many people have heard of Yaddo, an easy place to remember because of its utterly unusual name. What they may not know is that it was given that name because the man who originally owned the mansion, Spencer Trask, made it into an artists’ retreat as a gift to his wife Katrina after their four children all died in infancy. “Yaddo” was the way one of the children pronounced “shadow.” The estate has a gorgeous rose garden and a list of illustrious alumni that could probably wrap around the world a couple of times. And the mansion, itself, is imposing.
Max Gate, Dorset, United Kingdom
Max Gate was where Thomas Hardy lived after the age of 34. (Before that he lived in the pretty little cottage he grew up in.)
Taos, New Mexico
Taos has long been an artist’s paradise in the West. Its reputation comes largely from the efforts of the early 20th-century socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan, who had long been a patron of the arts before she arrived in Taos in 1919. Her house — pictured above, now a hotel — played host to D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe, and Willa Cather.
Pollock-Krasner House, New York
Before the Hamptons were known primarily as a place where Lizzie Grubman would run over errant clubgoers with her SUV, they had a reputation as an artists’ enclave. That reputation rested in large part on the Hamptons setting for Jackson Pollock’s famous spatter-paintings, in the above house, which he shared with the abstract expressionist Lee Krasner. They bought their pretty but modest house (note to the Hamptons: you can be creative in less than six bedrooms!) with the help of Peggy Guggenheim and settled down to work. After Pollock died in 1956, Krasner stayed until her own death in 1984.
Dove Cottage, United Kingdom
Dove Cottage is in the beautiful Lake District of England, and is where William Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy and wrote much of his famous poetry in the early 19th century. Eventually the house grew too small for he and his children, but how they left that spectacular garden I’ll never know.