Rest, relaxation and resilience – The Mae House brings them all
LaTonya Yvette’s family retreat in upstate New York offers a calming space for BIPOC families in need of a break
Sunday 7 August 2022 By Robin Reetz Photography by Nina Barry
Two and a half hours from Brooklyn, in the small town of Athens, New York, a quaint 173-year-old colonial-style home sits on a spacious lot with a lush green backyard near the banks of the Hudson River. It’s a quiet, peaceful scene. One that’s repeated in the classic architecture and historic roots across dozens of similar homes in and around this part of upstate New York. Yet this house stands apart, not for its build, but its purpose. For The Mae House was created as a sanctuary; a sacred space for rest and community, built on the idea of equity.
Step inside that thoroughly conventional front door on any given day and you’ll find an ever-changing mix – of families, writers, artists – at work, rest and play. All of whom are there as a result of the work of the house’s owner and steward, LaTonya Yvette.
Yvette is a native Brooklynite. Like many committed city dwellers, the pandemic forced a significant lifestyle shift. Confronted with her children’s lack of access to nature, she purchased the house, just a few hours’ drive from the city, to give them a greater connection to the land and a space to call home. But while her decision was grounded in her family’s needs, there was also a more community-driven goal. From the outset, Yvette’s plan was to give back to the community by offering a relaxing retreat for BIPOC to rest and recharge.
The Mae House (Mae was a grandmother’s name, and is Yvette’s daughter’s middle name) was renovated in just six months, its progress documented on Instagram and TikTok by Yvette, who undertook almost all of the work herself.
It is a beautiful space – warm, light-filled and outfitted with both vintage goods and pieces from BIPOC makers and creators whenever possible. Everything else, down to the toilet paper, is sourced from sustainably focused creators. Local neighbourhood support is also a priority – guests are provided access to a map of BIPOC businesses in the nearby area. When Yvette isn’t there with her two children, the home is opened up as a rental and community space.
Its physical beauty aside, the most important aspect of the house is its signature Rest as Residency programme. As Cherokee Lynn, community engagement and outreach lead for the project explains, ‘The programme provides stays free of charge for BIPOC, particularly those whose families have limited access to nature and might not otherwise be able to afford a restorative vacation. Rest is liberation and resistance. We are working against the generational trauma and exhaustion that lives in the bodies of Black, Indigenous, people of colour.’
The Mae House has created a model for hospitality that prioritises community over profit and puts rest at the forefront, extending the home-share model and redefining hospitality as more than providing a welcoming experience to paying guests. It’s a modern way to travel and experience a place that offers a safe space and retreat for those who might need it most.
As The Mae House looks forward to its one-year anniversary, perhaps the biggest takeaway is not just about the importance of rest, but about finding better ways to incorporate community into the folds of every project. It’s a shining example of a business built around just that – and one that will continue to thrive and enrich all it surrounds for years to come.
Interested in visiting The Mae House? Learn more about the space on its website, and apply for the Rest as Residency programme here.