Ten-gal­lon lodg­ing: Brook­lyn’s Ur­ban Cow­boy B&B.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY AN­DREA SACHS an­drea.sachs@wash­post.com

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.

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