Off the page: ‘Escapology’

Tired of staring at the same four walls? Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan know the feeling. This duo of British interior designers have carved out a career niche in bringing to life what they call “rural retreats”—second homes far from the bustle of any city.  

McAllister and Ryan penned Escapology: Modern Cabins, Cottages and Retreats as a way of sharing their passion with the public, and the timing couldn’t be better. As the pandemic forced people around the world inside their homes, it also left many wishing they had an alternate home in which to spend their time. 

“We’ve fallen head over heels in love with the rustic idyll whilst carving a secondary life, far from the madding crowd of our regular urban existence,” they write. “More than ever before, we’ve now learned to take our feet off the gas, as and when schedules allow.”

In their own work, the pair follow a self-imposed rule of “architectural assimilation,” choosing to merge the rural retreats they design into the surrounding landscape. Even with that emphasis, the styles of these spaces manage to vary wildly, from contemporary and sleek to warm and rustic. 

Escapology breaks down the varying types of country homes that one might choose—including log cabins, post-and-beam residences, modern minimalist homes and Scandinavian structures—before helping would-be second homeowners explore the pros and cons of their choices and highlighting the highs and lows of building new versus renovating an existing property. (Spoiler alert: Starting from scratch in an off-the-grid location can be a real headache!) 

But the heart of this home book is in its tours of real-life rural hideaways. Head up to Montana to meet a metal-roofed cabin tucked into a snowy valley, and then farther north to Vancouver to see a sleek prefab hut that was as easy to assemble as an Ikea bookcase. In Norway, a solar-powered cabin is set on a hillside, while a concrete casa in a Mexican forest consists of four separate pavilions connected by an exterior walkway. The views of these unique dwellings are as stunning as the natural scenes outside their windows.

No matter the location, the authors attest that an out-of-the-way respite is as good for the mind as it is for the spirit. “We oft’ opine that a cabin is like a clinic and a spa, both functions rolled up into one gloriously woodsy package,” they write. “It’s the very place unto which we escape to rest and recover. Little wonder then, we feel so invigorated as we load out, after each break, and head back to the city.”