Big Little Life: Yurt Lifestyle

For Megan Eaton Griswold, the journey is the destination, adventure is the fuel and creativity is the glue that holds it all together.

Megan’s dog, Isabelle, on back deck stairs.

Taking in the crisp dusk air.

Megan Eaton Griswold

Not many Columbia and Yale University-educated, career multihyphenates live in a “yurt”– a traditional Mongolian structure – on a Wyoming plain with a view of Grand Teton perfectly framed in their back door, but when Megan Eaton Griswold describes her home it sounds completely natural, and decidedly appealing. “It’s unintentionally intentional,” she jokes. “I was raised in a design environment and I love the idea of taking a structure that is not known for its elegance and making it stylish and modern.” She has done exactly that.

Griswold is a renaissance woman. A writer with an advanced degree in International Relations from Yale, she is also an Airbnb entrepreneur, an NPR commentator, a certified acupuncturist, a designer and purveyor of luxury goods and a dedicated outdoor adventurer – calling herself “the anti-guru.” According to her website, she has delved into everything from Plant Spirit Medicine to Sanskrit and Vedic chanting and traditional Chinese medicine. And although she went to school in New York City and lived there for a while in a very tiny apartment in the West Village, she has a special affinity for Wyoming; it’s here that she taught at the National Outdoor Leadership School. So the yurt in the midst of Teton National Park seemed like a natural choice.

A porcelain stove from Italy heats the yurt.

The living area has a sleeping sofa for additional sleepover space.

The sleeping loft is big enough for a queen-sized bed.

The kitchen has 800 pounds of marble, and is a modern box in the center of the yurt. The walls are painted with Farrow & Ball’s White Elliyah, created by Martin Kesselman of INCOLOUR in New York.

Her yurt stands in a camp of 13 such structures just outside of Kelly, Wyoming, which is inhabited by writers, artists and outdoorsy types who want to live close to the land. Some of them have lived in that spot for 40 years. “It’s kind of a RV park for yurts.” The residents share a rustic bathhouse – she calls it “sexy dilapidated” – and a sense of adventure coupled with a willingness to endure sometimes-harsh conditions. Though the yurts are insulated, in winter the temperatures are typically in the 20s, and can frequently plunge to as low as -20°, accompanied by 40 mph winds. One needs to be prepared to winter in a yurt.

Griswold’s yurt eschews the usual layered rugs over a dirt floor and a rustic bare wood lattice-work interior for clean, modern architectural white, a marble kitchen that would be at home in a SoHo loft and a porcelain stove imported from Italy, “by gondola.” Her furnishings include midcentury Panton chairs, acrylic accent tables and a basket by which her now departed pup, Isabelle, accessed the sleeping loft and its queen-sized bed. Griswold admits that “It’s kind of a fairy caravan with Internet.” She hates the term glamping, which has become very popular in recent years, and readily substitutes a word she made up herself. “I prefer ‘camperous,’” she says.

The structure she currently lives in – her second yurt – was custom designed to her specifications, and when it arrived she arranged to transport it on a borrowed flatbed truck to be spray-painted white. With that accomplished, she enlisted the help of friends and neighbors to assemble the 25-foot-diameter yurt. It is a split-level design. The front door is 9-feet-high, and the main space is up a couple of steps. At the back of the house a deck lit by LED lights and shaded by dramatic canvas panels extends the living area, with a dining table and chairs, as well as a generous banquette and built-in storage for gear and household items. When guests arrive, as they frequently do, she has a full-size sleeping couch in the main room, and two guest tents nearby. Her current project is to take a “muscle sports mobile” Sprinter van and outfit it with elegant furnishings for a sort of mini-RV traveling guest bedroom.

Basket lift for puppy access.

The closet area underneath the loft bedroom.

In addition to all her many endeavors, she also sells her “camperous” lifestyle online. “I have always been fascinated with tiny spaces. And I have this knowledge about living off the grid in a luxury way, so I started the website to share that knowledge. I am always looking for other streams of income, and I realized that some of the things I know have monetary value.” Her webshop includes a version of the yurt she currently lives in, as well as tents, furnishings, gear, jewelry, fragrances and clothing to complete the lifestyle. She is also finishing up a book called “The Book of Help,” a combination self-help guide and memoir, sharing the things she has learned during a multi-faceted career that has been anything but linear. “I think my mission is really to tell people, particularly women, that it is precisely when things go sideways that you find the best path. You can have a cool life even if it doesn’t follow your original idea of what that life should be.”

For Griswold, that cool life combines her passion for high design and the outdoors, both important forces. “There is something about being here that is calming to the intellect and allows the brain to relax. It’s a childlike quality that people respond to.” As she states on her website, “Take your dreams seriously. What else is there?”

Photography by Jenny Elia Pfeiffer.

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