Ten-gallon lodging: Brooklyn’s Urban Cowboy B&B.
When friends drop by my apartment, I offer them tap water or a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon that’s been aging in the crisper. When guests visit Lyon Porter’s house, also known as the Urban Cowboy B&B, they are presented with a bar menu.
“Would you like water, whiskey, wine or beer?” Jersey Banks, who helps Lyon run his Brooklyn home/inn, asked me after I had stashed my bags beneath a pair of antlers.
I mulled the options and selected a white wine. I motioned to Bambi to please mind my things while I swilled. After I polished off the first glass, Jersey was ready with a refill. I declined, however. I didn’t want to be remembered as the visitor who skewered herself on the rack.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: Homeowner opens up his or her dwelling to out-of-towners, providing room, breakfast and a certain level of intrusiveness. The reasons for venturing into the B&B biz are varied. Some innkeepers hope to fill their empty nest with a never-ending flock of birds. Others wish to pursue an anti-corporate lifestyle. And a few seek the extra income (and shelving) to support their Hummel-collecting habit.
The 34-year-old father of a 3-year-old cub doesn’t fit the doily-laced profile, unless it is edged with fringe or faded denim. The former professional hockey player bought the 100year-old Williamsburg townhouse in October 2013 as his residence. But revelatory experiences in communal living — first at a friend’s Williamsburg loft and later at a surfing retreat in Nicaragua — caused him to rethink his plan. Instead of one man in a single-family home, he decided to invite company over and not kick them out at midnight.
“What does my generation want out of a bed-and-breakfast?” said Lyon, whose lodgings turned a year old last month. “You’re not isolated in a box. We want people to interact. And I get to share my dream house with other people. ”
To realize his dream, he needed to rebuild, restore and reimagine. He renovated the structure to expose the original pine plank floors, joists and brick walls. He installed a pair of garage doors in the front and back, lowering the threshold between indoors and out. For a touch of Aspen indulgence, he added an al fresco hot tub and sauna. As for the alt-Western motif: The inspiration came in part from the towering blue spruce tree by the entrance and the wilderness-y shelter behind the main house.
“If you can’t afford a cabin in the Adirondacks,” he said of the full-service Kanoono Cabin, “you build one in your back yard.”
True to his B&B’s name, Lyon furnished the ground floor with fashionably worn-in couches, gunmetal chairs and a nicked dining room table. He looped cow wrangler’s rope around the beams and assembled a potted cactus garden. And he filled nooks and crannies with a season’s worth of “Antiques Roadshow” discoveries, a curated mess that he calls “intentional clutter.” For example, his grandfather’s monogrammed cigarette case rests among bottles of liquor and a streetlight-shape lamp engraved with the word “bar.” A replica transatlantic steam trunk displays a lineup of hats and a recent donation of 1,500 albums. A potbelly stove squats in a corner, patiently waiting for an evening chill.
“It is rustic luxury,” he said, “with a nod to the industry of Williamsburg.”
The neighborhood’s commercial strip, best defined by shaggy beards and stenciled-bird accessories, is within walking distance (about 15 minutes). However, the Urban Cowboy keeps its holstered hips in check.
Minutes after entering through the garage door, I was greeted by Lauren (who had patiently talked me through the complicated subway route), then Jersey, then a glass of sauvignon blanc, then Lyon, then two strangers and finally, Lyon’s son, the only person to give me attitude. (Apparently I was sitting on the wrong side of the couch.)
Neighbors and pals often drop by; a confirmation e-mail reads, “At times we have our friends over for intimate gatherings, please feel free to join!” When I arrived, about a dozen friends-of-Lyon were socializing around the kitchen island and parlor, many with cocktails and unlit cigarettes in hand. A Toronto transplant waved me over and offered me a seat on the carousel of conversation. I took several spins before realizing that an hour had passed and Bambi was still on luggage patrol.
All four rooms occupy the second floor, which guests reach via a curving staircase decorated with cow-skull-patterned wallpaper. My room, Lion “Master” Den, sat at the end of a short hallway, past Dream Catcher, Peace Pipe and Vision Quest. Another guest was leading her boyfriend on a virtual tour, sticking her FaceTime into the various rooms. I invited her inside my space, and she cooed over my bathroom. She walked away lamenting the bathroom that she had to share with the other three rooms.
I could understand her envy. The white-tiled shower, which was as large as a Manhattan studio, came with a ship’s porthole and a swing that held the toiletries. The oversize towels could easily wrap around a whale’s waist. A mermaid sculpture lounged by the double sink like a grown-up bath toy.
The room was sparsely but thoughtfully furnished with a smattering of leonine artworks, a pair of dream catchers dangling over the bed and a ladder draped with a Navajo blanket. The bed’s mattress seemed to have been stuffed with marshmallow fluff, and the white comforter felt like a thick layer of frosting. (Jersey had warned me of the bed’s poppylike effect.) There was no TV, just a white-noise machine that pushed me deeper into the womb. A dossier of information advised me to turn on the closet light and close the distressed-wood door. Yellow rays shot through the holes like starlight filtered through treetops.
Breakfast is served long after the early bird has flown off (loosely 11 a.m. on weekends). The casualgrazing affair featured pastries under a glass dome, bagels, fruit and other morning fuel. Having piled my plate with blackberries, grapes and an everything bagel smothered in strawberry jam, I set up a picnic in the back yard and watched Lyon emerge from his private door. I wished him a good day as he collected his child and set off for his other job as a real estate broker.
After I finished eating, I carried my dishes into the kitchen. No one was around, but I knew what to do. I washed them and set them out to dry — same as if I had been visiting a good friend.
The Urban Cowboy B&B, left, in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood is the dreamchild of Lyon Porter, a former pro athlete and communal-living convert. He designed with “rustic luxury” tastes and space for social interaction, above.