How many designers’ stories start with the words “When I was a kid…”? While there is a sense of elevated respect for someone who has nurtured a talent from youth, it is equally important to trust someone, at any stage in life, when they follow a passion. We sat down with Lyon Porter, an amazing designer who began nurturing his talent later in life. Lyon is the owner, designer and developer of one of our favorite bed and breakfasts, Urban Cowboy. He gave us an inside look at all the things entrepreneurs, and those in need of inspiration, need to know.
When Lyon started designing his dream home, he had spent most of his time as an athlete on a minor league hockey team before becoming a top real estate broker in New York. “I was not a designer or a creative at the time,” Lyon explained. “I wanted open air living in Brooklyn, with a tree by the front porch and a hot tub in the backyard.”
During a trip to Nicaragua, a fellow traveler asked Lyon a common question, “What do you do?” Without hesitation, and for the first time out loud, he responded, “I am opening a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn.” What started as a personal project quickly turned into a business model. Lyon was able to fuse his creativity with his passion for surrounding himself with people from around the world.
Another serendipitous moment produced the well-known bed and breakfast’s name. A journalist writing a piece on the venture was approaching a hard deadline and needed to know what to call the bed and breakfast. “I was going through a transitional period where I was inspired by freedom. Cowboys and Americana were always represented by freedom and being out in the wild. It just came to me and I answered, Urban Cowboy.”
New Project – The Treehouse
Following the success of Lyon’s Brooklyn and Nashville locations, he was approached to collaborate on a new project located fifty feet away from the Urban Cowboy-Brooklyn. Lyon designed The Treehouse as a reverse Urban Cowboy, with the living room on the upper level and the bedrooms on the bottom floor. The details of his design are breathtaking. (To take a virtual tour, scroll up to the gallery.)
Advice For Entrepreneurs: Highs and Lows
If you grew up in a household where you took turns around the dinner table naming the high and low of your day, you will appreciate the inspiration behind our new “Highs and Lows” series. We are gathering around the table with top entrepreneurs to discuss the high and low of their journey. Lyon Porter’s feedback embodies the spark that is Urban Cowboy.
“I literally have a high and low every day,” he began. “I’m living my dream, and it’s a daily thing but it’s extremely hard work. My partner, Jersey, and I have a dream to open up a collection of homes – not hotels – that we want to go to and to create hubs for travelers, creatives, friends and family. We want to have these homes be inspiring and relaxing, and fun and wild, and a bit sexy. That dream is what we are living, but it takes such a heavy lift each day to keep doing it.
“Jersey went to nashville for 6 months when we had a hard deadline money loan, and we were running out of money. You find yourself sitting there, surrounded by dust, holding each other and saying I don’t know if we are going to get through this. Everything is on the line and remains on the line everyday. The lows are so crazy because the stress is extremely real, and it’s a situation where I really think if someone is thinking about doing this, they have to be ready. Things take a lot longer than you want them to. We just had to do a bunch of work on our current property. There are always things you’re not scheduling, or not forecasting, like the fridge that cost $8,000 breaking. These are all heartbreakers, but these are all offset by meeting some of the people you meet along the way.
“The highs are the people. The highs are the amazing experiences that we created here. People get married, people fall in love and people build lifelong friendships. You’ve just got to find something you are extremely passionate about and make sure it is a part of your life. You will never be prepared for the lows. I have another job in real estate to support those unexpected lows.”
What does Where Old Meets New mean to you?
“I use all reclaimed materials, whether I’m sitting in my apartment and I see an old road flare and use it to light my apartment. I love old pot belly stoves because of the way they were used, and new styles as well. There’s something about historic nostalgia that I think myself and a lot of people respond to because there’s just a spirit to things from the past. For example, I collect coffee makers from around the world. You collect these things and there are stories behind them. Another example is the old brass cigarette case my grandfather gave me. Functional antiques or decorative things that have a story. It’s like the leather jacket theory. You wear the leather jacket and as it gets beaten up, it forms to your body and then it becomes your favorite thing because there’s a relationship to your life. A majority of new designs that are modern typically become dated quickly. If you build something with a timeless, classic element, it ages gracefully.”
When speaking with Lyon Porter, it’s evident why Urban Cowboy is so special. He creates space for community, and continues to nurture that environment for guests. Urban Cowboy-Nashville is scheduled to open a bar in the historic back house this fall. Lyon Porter’s success shines with a genuine down-to-earth tone, emanating the confidence that there is room for everyone at the finish line.
Interview By Joanna Heitz
Photos Provided By Urban Cowboy