Hotels can be great places to stay, but true vacation homes have a spirit all their own. The recipe is beautifully basic—a dash of history, a splash of quirk, and a boat-load of TLC. Like a good cast iron skillet, the ambiance is seasoned by time, capable of satisfying the most complex tastes.
Take The Red House in Otter Rock, Oregon for example.
The Red House rises from a dead-end street a stone’s throw from a festival of sea-rock extravaganzas with names like Devil’s Punchbowl, Little Man’s Cove, Marine Gardens, and Otter Crest. It’s surrounded by 7.5 acres of soggy Douglas fir and giant Spruce trees that sway in the salty sea breeze, inviting you into another world.
The approach feels like a walk back in time. Suddenly, it’s early 1900s. You can imagine the hubbub of the old camp, once located here, where WWI officers cooked beans while scanning the Pacific for signs of invaders.
Freelance artist Bekki Levien and her brother are the home’s caretakers now. Her parents, the Levenspiels, bought the second, older home on the property in 1960 from Bill and Barb Erickson, farmers from southwestern Washington State. Initially, the families lived as summer neighbors on the property with Bill and Barb staying at The Red House.
“You know that picture of the farmer with a pitchfork and his wife, that’s what they looked like,” says Levien. “Bill was tall and skinny and Barb was short and squat. It was a vacation home for them, somewhere they didn’t have to deal with livestock and fields.”
With no children of their own, Bill and Barb welcomed their vacation-neighbors and upon becoming too old to travel to the coast, they sold The Red House and the remaining property to the Levenspiels. The two families remained in contact even when not at the beach together. Levien has a box of letters Bill and Barb wrote to her parents over the years, and she treasures the dusty diary that Barb maintained during her time at The Red House and subsequently gifted to her family.
Levien spent many summers with her three boys in The Red House while her husband worked in nearby Corvallis, Oregon. Until recently, she rented the property only long-term to individuals who, in The Red House tradition, became part of the family. The last long-term renters she hosted at The Red House stayed for 20 years and raised several children of their own. Last year, the family returned to The Red House to celebrate their daughter’s wedding.
Some things change, others never will. Today, like many vacation homeowners, Levien exclusively rents The Red House to short-term guests such as myself. She makes more money this way, plus it’s easy. Levien says she’s happy to have more people enjoying The Red House’s unique charm. She uses Vacasa to keep the beds filled and ensure The Red House is cleaned to her admittedly high standards between stays.
For Levien, who prefers The Red House’s sheets be tucked in a particular fashion, having trustworthy local housekeepers familiar with her home is the only way to guarantee guests enjoy that same unique experience she grew up loving.
This summer, based on Vacasa’s advice, Levien installed a hot tub. Her bookings have increased and both she and her guests are getting more enjoyment out of the place. The Red House’s family keeps growing.
“I love sharing The Red House with Vacasa guests and my family. It’s not just another rental someone put on the market. The Red House has character; it’s really special,” says Levien. So much of it’s been personalized by us.”
The Red House boasts a book of the Levien family’s favorite local hikes featuring knowledge passed down from nearly a century of exploring. When the flowers are in bloom, she stops by to put a bouquet on the dining table for guests. Her grandmother’s paintings hang in the house. Bill and Barb used to collect and polish beach rocks with Levien’s parents; the families had accumulated 40 years of polished rocks, so when Levien remodeled the fireplace, bathroom counters, and kitchen backsplash, she used the rocks to create mosaics.
“It’s our home, but it’s a home for other people to enjoy too,” says Levien. “The Red House has always been communal in that way.”
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at a true vacation home, take the time to fill out the guest book and add your voice to a legacy. Owners like Levien cherish every note and appreciate advice on how to make the stay even more unforgettable.
By Kyle Cassidy, our Senior Editor of Contributed Content