Conversation with Gemma Ingalls
Gemma Ingalls and her husband Andrew are the ultimate chic nomads. As a couple, they’ve worked all over the world, photographing everything from food to the great outdoors, for publications including Architectural Digest and New York Magazine. They’re rarely in one place for long. Last year, they shot four books, each with a different theme – interior design, architecture, cookery and most recently floral design. In Full Flower, which they also authored, is a survey of contemporary floral designers around the US. To bring the book to life, they drove across country (with their young kids), visiting each of the 21 designers.
Gemma and Andrew are frequent guests at BoutiqueHomes, so our paths have been crossing (virtually) for years. But it wasn’t until recently, when they moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, that we had a chance to meet Gemma. Over lunch, we compared notes on architecture, photography, travel and the joy of crazy road trips.
SO, THE KIDS GO EVERYWHERE WITH YOU?
Gemma Ingalls: “Yes, they’ve driven all the way across country with us twice! Our son, Ollie, he’s five and he’s been to 15 countries with us. Since Izzie was born – she’s three – it’s become significantly harder to travel, but she’s been to eight or 10 countries as well. We like to stay together as a family. We pretty much just pack the kids and all our photo stuff, and hit the road!”
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TRAVEL WITH KIDS?
GI: “We’re pretty organized about it. Making sure that wherever we land feels cosy to them, and that we have things with us – art supplies, a new little toy, things that make them feel at home, like a stuffed animal and a blanket. We always make sure we have food for the morning so that we don’t have to get up immediately and try to find a place to have breakfast, if there’s no room service. Although they’re pretty familiar with room service – and they definitely like that!
“They’ve stayed in all kinds of places with us – from the Four Seasons to a hogan [traditional Navajo dwelling] at the Grand Canyon, with a dirt floor and no bathroom. People get in a rhythm of life and they feel bound to it – especially with young children. For us, that’s not the case. Children are really adaptable. For me, traveling is one of the most heart-opening things you can do in life – getting outside and getting a new perspective.”
WHERE HAVE YOU STAYED THROUGH BOUTIQUEHOMES?
GI: “More places than I can remember! The Neskowin Beach House in Oregon [pictured above]… the Black House in Iceland [bottom]… the Glass Cabin in Washington state, which sits on a beautiful tidal bay. The greatest thing about BoutiqueHomes and other curated travel websites – is that people have access to more intimate pieces of land that a hotel could never have access to.
"The Neskowin Beach House is a really good example of that – a beautiful location on the coast of Oregon, perched up above the water. You feel pretty isolated, and you have a direct ocean view and this very intimate house. Having the opportunity to experience that, to share the homeowners’ perspective, is really wonderful. We also stayed in Yosemite in a cabin, with a tire swing – which was very rustic, super cute. We’re pretty aesthetic people, and we get inspired by people’s homes.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE PLACES?
GI: “We find inspiration everywhere. We really love Lummi Island, off the coast in the north of Washington state. You have to take a ferry to get there, and it’s very remote and beautiful. We really like the Anderson Valley wine country in northern California – it still has that feeling of farmland, with a little bit more sustainability and less flash than Napa.
“I just got back from Oaxaca, which was really inspiring culturally. The history of food there was just so overwhelmingly tangible, and also the craftsmanship, the weavers and the ceramic artists. That city is pretty exciting right now. We were in Copenhagen in July and flew to the Faroe Islands. They are less touristy than Iceland, but the landscape is similar. They have amazing bird life, incredible people – it’s a very magical place. And we always go back to Vermont, which is where I’m from. That’s really about being in nature, buying raw milk, picking blueberries and swimming in lakes.”
WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN YOU TRAVEL?
GI: “Location is important – the house itself and the land it sits on. The aesthetic that the owners have created. And the feeling. Often hotels, even if they are really beautiful, are more anonymous. It’s not about the price – it’s about something having its mark, a sense of identity, and a sense of place, energy and intimacy. It really bothers us if we get to a house and the bedspread is awful and there’s a bunch of weird store-bought paintings on the wall. We’d rather do the extra work to find a special place to stay in.”
To stay at Gemma's home in Los Angeles, click here.
Photographs by Ingalls Photography.