Carmel-by-the-Sea, California is home to an entire village of fairytale cottages. Located near the northern tip of Big Sur, on the central California coast, the town is every bit as enchanting as its name. With a population of just under 4,000, a stunning natural setting, and a reputation as a haven for artists, of course Carmel-by-the-Sea is going to have some character… and you only need to talk a walk through town to experience it.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to a handful of absolutely stunning English fairytale cottages, all designed by a man named Hugh Comstock. Hugh was not an architect by any means, but he did have a lot of vision, and the story of how he came to become the town’s most sought-after builder is incredibly sweet.
Hugh first came to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1924. He was intending to visit his sister and her husband, who had settled in the artsy town. But, on his trip, he met a woman named Mayotta Browne. Mayotta was the artist behind Otsy-Totsies, which were cute little felt dolls meant to be collector’s items. The two were married within a year. Mayotta’s business quickly took off, and it wasn’t long before their new home was filled with dolls. She asked her husband if he might build her a showroom for her dolls, and even though he had no practical experience, he decided to give it a whirl. The storybook cottage he built was inspired by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham, and he didn’t worry too much about making things precise or level, adding a whimsical, rustic look. He named it “Hansel”, and it soon became the talk of the town.
Once upon a time…in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Naturally, people began requesting their own fairytale homes, and he was happy to comply. Today, 21 of his buildings still stand, lovingly maintained by the owners. Even though they were incredibly cheap to build (and they’re pretty tiny!) they sell today for $4 million! His style had a huge influence on the town, and it’s become a village of beautiful fairytale-inspired buildings. Make a point to stroll past a few, and then pop into the Tuck Box, a restaurant housed in the only commercial property Hugh made. They serve breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, which makes the perfect end to a day of exploring the magical seaside town’s atmosphere. There’s also the Cottage of Sweets, an English-style candy store with homemade fudge, European treats, a massive licorice selection, and more. Round out your fairytale trip with a stay in one of the adorable cottages or B&Bs, like the Normandy Inn.