Itching to build your legacy home? Perfect! That means, now’s the time to go ahead and take that long-anticipated European vacation. Especially if you’ve been checking out homes in your local market, and they all seem the same, with little character, or in some cases, way too much character, and even the photos on Houzz are starting to run together.
You need to see timeless architecture firsthand. You need to run your own hand over ancient handhewn stone, to soak in the exquisite details of carved facades and rain gutters cleverly disguised as gargoyles, to bask in the grandeur of vaulted ceilings.
At Bluestone, our motto is “Be Inspired.” In short, to build a masterpiece, it helps to be inspired by masterpieces. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to feel super-inspired by homes in your own hometown. But you’re guaranteed to feel inspired while taking in the Gothic Renaissance miracle of the Santa Maria del Fiore or the French Baroque Palace of Versailles.
Take an Architectural Tour of Europe.
America is a young country, so while we have some amazing architecture, there’s no way we can compete with millennia’s worth of European architecture. Some of Europe’s most impressive structures were constructed before America was even conceptualized—and for some of these buildings, construction took hundreds of years. Or, in certain cases, such as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (a surreal Art Nouveau meets Gothic marvel), construction is still underway. (It was begun in 1882.)
The Czech Republic has some of the most pristine examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance-Baroque and Rococo architecture in existence. And if you’re interested in minimalism, functionality, and harmony with nature, you should definitely head north, and tour the Scandinavian countries.
May we suggest Spain?
Granada, Spain is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Alhambra. Originally built in 889 as a fortress, the palace wasn’t added until 1333. Built by Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr, the last Muslim ruler of the Iberian peninsula, it’s still considered Spain’s finest example of Muslim architecture, even though the palace/fortress has changed a lot over the centuries. In 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella commissioned Christopher Columbus’s voyage from the palace, it had already undergone two major renovations, remaking the Moorish architecture in Renaissance style.
One of Spain’s biggest tourist attractions, the Alhambra has arched entryways and large swaths of stark exterior, complimented by intricately-carved arabesques. One of its most interesting architectural features is its open layout, with rooms and buildings opening into a central courtyard. Over the years, designers have been faithful to this key principal, adding new quads around new central courtyards. The interior is a haven of fountains and reflecting pools and a prime spot for inspiration for an aspiring custom-built homeowner who wants to incorporate water into interior spaces.
Toledo, Spain is a perfectly preserved medieval city, birthed at the intersection of three major world religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The city’s exquisite architecture reflects all of these influences.
In Bavaria, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside a real-life fairy-tale.
In Germany, you can visit Bavaria’s 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle, the real-life inspiration for Disneyland’s Cinderella castle. With turrets, interior murals, and a Byzantine throne room, Neuschwanstein was intended to be a romantic throwback, amplifying all that is beautiful about medieval castles. It has that quintessential “fairy-tale” look and was initially drafted by a stage designer.
In general when most of us picture “German architecture,” we’re actually picturing Baveria. Think Hansel and Gretel, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or any number of cozy, cottage-style fairytale settings. Bavaria is where you’ll find gabled roofs, aged timber, and Romanesque elements.
Stay in Amazing Homes and Hotels Around The World.
Perhaps the best way to know exactly what features you want in your new home is to try some of them out. After all, there is no substitute for experience. When you rent a luxury home from Dwell’s curated list or LuxuryRetreats.com—which only offers high-end properties—you can try out that specialty kitchen, or swim in that perfectly-landscaped, salt-water infinity pool, before actually committing to creating your own. You can prep dinner on the stone counter you lust after, and take your own measurements of that excellently-sized indoor sauna.
Luxury Retreats offers well over 1,000 rentals in Europe, so whether you’re looking for a gorgeous merging of indoor and outdoor space in Tuscany or a stunning outdoor living area overlooking the Mediterranean in Greece, you’ll find it here.
And if you’re traveling to a city with a Four Seasons Resort, you can’t go wrong with one of their suites. They’re always impeccably decorated and may help you conceptualize interior ideas.
Use Pinterest To Draw Inspiration from Others’ Travel Photos, As Well As Your Own.
Pinterest is an amazing way to discover examples of a specific feature or style of architect you’re interested in, as well as to share your inspiring European vacation shots with others looking for inspiration. Pinterest allows you to create custom boards organizing your own photos alongside photos from others. Looking for an innovative take on an indoor pool? Love Tudor exteriors? Whatever you’re looking for, you’re likely a Pinterest search away.
And you can upload your own photos to your Pinterest board. If you’re enchanted with the domes, turrets, arches, and geometric details of Ottoman architecture, upload the close-crop pics you took of the molding you loved while touring the Alhambra. If Tudor or Half-Timber is more your style, pin your Austrian vacation photos of alongside those pins you’ve taken from other inspiring sites, such as Bluestone Constrution’s portfolio.
Cue the “Working Vacation!”
When you’re ready to get off the internet and think outside the box (ahem, the local housing market), we hope you’ll cross the Atlantic and tour 900-year-old Romanesque palaces and 200-year-old French chateaus, or study site-specific architecture at close range, by spending a few nights in a modern addition to a 1910 Italian Alps chateau that perfectly complements its gorgeous setting.
You may even run into a highly-recognizable fellow American on your travels, since many American musicians and actors own incredible luxury homes in Europe.
At Bluestone, we are seriously inspired by the craftsmanship of Old World Europe. We think you will be, too. So grab your camera, power up your tablet, and pack your bags. Bon voyage!