There are boring, unstoried hotels. Then there are spaces where no detail is left unconsidered, no part untouched. I know this after my stay at The Nook, an “obsessively handmade, hyperlocal” Airbnb in Swannanoa, North Carolina (a fifteen-minute drive east of Asheville), which has been brought to life by Mike and Kristen Belleme. The Nook’s modern aesthetic has a story behind every corner and cranny. Comprised of separate yet cohesive spaces, it clocks in at a mere 400 square feet, inspired by Scandinavian design, familial connection to Japan, and Appalachian roots.
“This house is a collection of stories,” is the opening line of The Nook’s Airbnb listing. Sitting with Mike on a Sunday afternoon, this is beyond evident—the stories effortlessly pour out of him, like a parent gushing over a beloved child. They’re almost rapid-fire. There’s a buzzing energy present as he spills stories of the year it took to create this home.
A friend donated the wood for the lofts and the front porch. The kitchen cabinet is made of a black walnut desk that his parents almost tossed. The tea box is fashioned from cedar his parents used to make miso in the 1970s. Every type of wood used can be found on the 1.3 acres the house sits on. There’s a small diorama featuring a bird nest that was found in that exact place during construction.
Twenty-two collaborators, hailing only from Western North Carolina, have left their mark on The Nook. Shelter Collective, a multidisciplinary design studio, drew the plans for construction. East Fork Pottery provided handmade plates, bowls, and mugs made from regional clay. Daniel Holland painted the interior of the house and will soon return to paint a mural in the bedroom nook. Sean “Jinx” Pace helped Mike level the parking area and created the sign that welcomes you to the property. Andy McFate of McFate Furniture was by Mike’s side for the majority of the construction. He also contributed the ladders leading to two separate loft spaces.
One of Mike’s childhood chores was re-oiling furniture: “I loved that feeling of putting fresh oil on a really nice wood and seeing all the character in the wood appear,” he says. In a very similar way, he has put his touch on creating a physical, artistic space that embodies story, drawing solely on the history of craft and a deep community of creativity—two undeniable pieces of what it means to be in Western North Carolina.
Photography by Mike Bellame
MUST TRY SPOTS IN ASHEVILLE TO ROUND OUT YOUR WEEKEND
Farewell The South Slope’s newest resident serves mention-worthy coffee, an enviable natural wine list, and a seasonally driven menu. Spring for the Sweet Porridge—featuring grains from Farm + Sparrow, roasted apples, homemade apple butter, oat milk, and walnuts.
Forestry Camp With a menu highlighting Basque cuisine, craft cocktails, and small batch beer, Forestry Camp is a restaurant dedicated to bringing you “the best consumables on Earth.” Don’t sleep on their amaro flights—make sure you request a glass of Braulio, the dialed-back
cousin of Fernet Branca.
All Day Darling Brought to you by local favorites Table and High Five Coffee, comes the neighborhood breakfast joint of your dreams. The best part? No waking up early to beat the crowds. It’s open all day!
East Fork Pottery East Fork is known for their functional pottery—serving bowls,
coffee mugs, dinnerware—made from regionally sourced clay. Treat yourself to a permanent way to remember your stay in Swannanoa. (Bonus: East Fork is one of the collaborators featured in The Nook.)
The Nook. Search “The Nook Swannanoa” on airbnb.com; $145/night. Follow The Nook on Instagram at @thenookavl.