Piaule opens as a new minimalist escape in the Catskills
Boutique homeware label Piaule has opened a Catskills hotel featuring 24 minimal wooden cabins, an all-day dining restaurant, and a spa, set on an immersive nature reserve
It’s hard to imagine that the quest for the perfect towel would ultimately lead to the opening of one of the most talked about hotels in the upstate New York region, but that is just what has happened with Piaule. Founded in 2016 by Nolan McHugh and Trevor Briggs, the boutique homeware label has become a force to be reckoned with since opening its 50-acre modernist retreat this summer.
Inspired by their own experience of renting out their apartment in New York City, McHugh and Briggs began thinking about opening a hotel more than four years ago. After the pair made over 100 visits to potential sites, and weathered a global pandemic, Piaule Catskill opened its doors to its first guests in summer 2021.
Boasting a panoramic view of Catskill Mountain, and located a decompressing two and half hours’ drive from New York, the hotel Piaule (which takes its name from the French slang for ‘digs’) is comprised of 24 minimal wooden cabins that have been situated within the site’s naturally wooded landscape. Formerly an active bluestone quarry, the hotel grounds feature state-protected wetlands and nature preserves that have all been kept in place. The inaugural assortment of cabins and the hotel’s main guesthouse occupy just five acres of the overall site.
The line demarcating what’s indoors and outdoors blurs at the main guesthouse, where a check-in area, a retail gallery, an all-day dining restaurant and a spa are all housed under a dramatically angled zinc roof. Natural light floods through its façade of floor-to-ceiling windows, which seems to make the space’s white oak interior – featuring a dual-sided wood burning fireplace, Danish seating and floors made from the local bluestone – glow all the brighter.
Down a gravel path and nestled in the woods lie the prefabricated cabins. Rustic in their simple, slightly industrial form, the cabins have been designed in collaboration with sustainable prefab pioneer Garrison Architects. Each cabin sits on piers to minimise its impact on the landscape, while being strategically positioned to maximise privacy.
Bringing the landscape indoors
‘The cabins were built in a factory before being dropped into place, which was something we wanted to pursue as a more sustainable method of construction, but that also came with constraints on size and other factors that we had to work within,’ recall McHugh and Briggs. ‘We collaborated with Garrison Architects to bring the vision to life. The inspiration was largely from Japanese and Scandinavian architecture and design, but the primary consideration was the relationship with nature and how best to bring the sounds, smells and sights of the landscape into every room and every moment of the guest experience.’
Behind each cabin’s heavy metal doors, floor-to-ceiling windows, equipped with concealed screens that can be pulled out, ensure that guests can enjoy the fresh air. Matching black-out shades also guarantee a deep slumber, should you decide not to rise when the sun comes up. Filled with elegant creature comforts such as waffle versions of the aforementioned towels, crisp organic cotton sheets, handcrafted solid oak beds, and flat-pack stone, wood and glass-topped furniture – all of Piaule’s own making – and with no television in sight, the cabins evoke an instant sense of calm.
McHugh and Briggs are no strangers to collaboration: cedar-scented bathroom amenities have been produced together with Village Common, a Catskills local, while sconces and ceramics have been designed with Kati von Lehman, and antique French stools were sourced together with Lichen NYC.
A fully curated guest experience
‘The idea was never to create a “shoppable hotel” or “liveable showroom”, but it was paramount to us that no detail of the experience was overlooked. So every time we felt like we couldn’t find the perfect thing, we tried to make it ourselves or collaborate with an expert,’ explain the duo. ‘Some of those things, like linens, glassware and ceramics, were already Piaule products, but other things provided new opportunities to work with local makers and craftspeople [like the] bath products [and] furniture. If guests want to purchase those items, it’s a win-win for everyone.’
What really sets Piaule Catskill apart is the presence of its spa and wellness space, which is sunken and hidden in the hillside beneath the main guesthouse. Showcasing the same view of the mountains and the heavily forested surroundings, the pools, steam and sauna rooms and treatment spaces – which will eventually offer a full menu of sound baths and reiki treatments, in addition to the massages, facials and yoga currently available – will be worthy of a visit in themselves.
‘We want to express the brand in a way that is more meaningful than just selling products – to create a rich, unforgettable experience that embodies Piaule’s principles of harmonious living, immersed in nature,’ conclude Briggs and McHugh. ‘Thoughtful design and architecture enhance that experience.’ §