“I wanted to create a special place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” Lyon Porter says in his clear, strong voice. “I had built this house for myself, it was my dream house. I was on a surfing trip in Nicaragua, and a stranger asked me what I did for a living. I told him I ran a bed and breakfast. I have no idea why I said that, the words just came out of my mouth. And so I decided to go with it.”
In 2014, Porter opened his renovated Brooklyn townhouse as Urban Cowboy B & B, and guests from around the neighborhood and across the globe quickly booked evenings in the air-light rooms and gathered around the kitchen counter for late morning chats. “It was just this kind of magical timing and everyone around seemed to also be looking for this space that felt intimate where you could have conversations and connect,” Porter says.
“A lot of people who were staying with us were talking about Nashville, so we went down there one weekend on a whim,” he recalls. A conversation with someone at a local dive bar led Porter and his partner Jersey Banks towards a gracious Victorian house that was being run as a bed and breakfast. They knocked and the door opened. The proprietress toured them through the rooms. “Would you ever consider selling this?” Porter asked. “For the right price,” she replied.
A year and a half later, Urban Cowboy Nashville opened, each room of the Victorian recast in cowboy style, with walls clad in textured wood-art and graphic paper, leather conversation sofas draped with bright saddle blankets and clawfoot tubs cozying up in room corners.
“Starting the B & B has taught me to take things as they come and to go with the flow – parenting is the same way,” Porter reveals. “Hospitality is all about the people, parenting is all about the kid. When a guest arrives after a 22-hour flight and they’re tired and uncomfortable, you just need to be understanding of where they’re at. I try to take that approach with children, too.”
“It’s tough to be present in today’s world with all of our technology,” Porter reflects. “But it’s important to be present as much as possible. Sometimes when I go to the playground and look up 20 out of 20 parents are on their phones instead of engaging with their children. I try to set aside some no-phone times.”
And is Porter raising up a young hotelier? “We’ve been renovating the Nashville space, and my son is so interested in building–he wants to swing hammers and be a part of the construction process,” Porter relates. “He’s also learning a lot from all the different people he’s around, several guests will stay with us multiple times throughout a year, so he gets to know them over time. I think it’s such an interesting way to grow up.”