Marina and Gene Huneycutt’s 2-acre property “feels like a little piece of countryside,” nestled in a quiet section of northwest Durham, only a 15-minute drive from downtown Durham, Hillsborough, and Chapel Hill.
“I love the idea of having people in my home and caring for them,” says Marina Huneycutt. With such a convenient location, the Huneycutts knew they could offer guests peaceful, natural surroundings and easy access to city exploration.
“We came across geo domes, and we just got very inspired, because the dome structure is really very unique and a very efficient structure,” says Huneycutt.
“We kinda just jumped the gun and said we want to build this in our backyard and bring people here.” Gene spearheaded the construction process, building the deck and assembling the dome itself, which comes as a DIY kit.
“I knew early on I wanted to do Japandi-inspired design. I loved (the style), because it hit on a lot of the things that we love in terms of its ethos and lifestyle,” Huneycutt says.
“It’s really centered around the idea of beautiful but functional spaces, very simple elements, natural elements, clean lines, and above all, being comfortable.”
Huneycutt gathered inspiration from the Scandinavian concept of hygge — “It is essentially a term that is used to represent cozy and good times, usually spent with friends and family, preferably with a cup of coffee in hand and a pastry. Stepping back and enjoying simple things with people that you love. We always want to get to know our loved ones better, but sometimes we aren’t given opportunities,” Huneycutt says.
So, the Japandi Dome was furnished very intentionally to inspire quiet connection — comfortable seating, select board games, a Japanese-style dining space for two, and large windows overlooking a peaceful meadow (with the occasional free roaming chicken).
Amenities include a king sized bed, Scandinavian-style bathroom, small kitchenette with coffee and tea service, and a private fire pit outside. The unique dome structure is transparent on one side, but has retractable curtains for privacy.
“We’ve been trying to create a simple opportunity for people to reconnect, and that’s been really fun.”
To reserve, visit airbnb.com. Search Japandi Dome.
Covered Wagon Glamping at The Cozy Heron
We first introduced you to Lillington’s Cape Fear River Adventures, a river outfitter that hosts float and paddle excursions on the Cape Fear river, in August of 2021.
Since then, owners and outdoor enthusiasts Ilia and Megan Smirnov decided to add additional recreation opportunities to their riverfront campus off Lillington’s Main Street — in the form of covered wagon glamping.
“We love getting people outside. (This has) opened up a new avenue for helping people enjoy the outdoors,” says Megan Smirnov. “It’s not quite camping; people come out who wouldn’t necessarily go camping.”
It’s certainly not camping: Each charming temperature-controlled covered wagon is appointed with a king bed and a set of twin-sized bunk beds and equipped with linens, a mini fridge, coffee maker, and alarm clock.
“The Wi-Fi is really good,” adds Smirnov — a boon to work-from-anywhere travelers.
Bathrooms are in a separate building, with towels and toiletries provided.
Covered wagons may seem like a unique choice, but it was an easy one for Ilia.
“He saw them at an outdoor convention and immediately wanted them on the property,” Smirnov says. “People are skeptical at first, but they’ve been really popular.”
During the summer months, most guests bundle a stay in one of the five covered wagons with a river excursion, but there’s year-round entertainment at the community fire pit and grill, puzzles and games closet, and the newly updated Lillington River Park a short walk away.
“It’s so lovely, and right on the river,” says Cozy Heron guest Tiffany Hayes, who describes the wagons as cute and cozy. During her one-night stay in November, Hayes sidled up to the fire with music and a glass of wine while enjoying the crisp air and peaceful setting.
“It’s magical at night. The wagons almost glow with light,” says Nancy Findley, who works in operations and marketing at The Cozy Heron.
“It’s super simple to make a weekend trip,” says Findley. “A quick getaway that doesn’t feel like you’re in Holly Springs.”
THE COZY HERON GLAMPING
100 S. Main St., Lillington
COFFEE FROM FRONT STREET COFFEE
31 W. Front St., Lillington
HIKE AT RAVEN ROCK STATE PARK
3009 Raven Rock Road, Lillington
PLAY AT LILLINGTON RIVER PARK
51 E Duncan St, Lillington
TUBING OR KAYAKING AT CAPE FEAR RIVER ADVENTURES
100 S. Main St., Lillington
DINNER AT TACOS OAXACA
809 W. Front St., Lillington
OR LOST PADDLE PIZZA
100 S. Main St., Lillington
River & Twine Tiny House Hotel
Why build a tiny house hotel in Rocky Mount, you ask?
“Why not?” answers Evan Covington Chavez, Capitol Broadcasting Company’s director of real estate for Rocky Mount.
“At the time, there were no other tiny homes around. We were North Carolina’s only,” Covington Chavez says.
River & Twine Tiny House Hotel hosts guests in 20 separate tiny homes. Each home has two sleeping options, typically a lofted bed upstairs and a fold-out couch or futon downstairs, plus a bathroom, and small wet bar-style kitchen.
“We wanted (the houses) to be different. There are four different models, all with different finishes. We wanted them to be fun and whimsical, so we have record players and curated record collections, board games and books,” says Covington Chavez.
There are also community fire pits, grills, and outdoor games on the property for guest use.
The tiny homes are grouped in pods of four or six, ideal for multi-group lodging, such as a family reunion. Some are even pet friendly.
“People stay here for holidays or weekends to get away, parties, high school reunions, weddings — people use this as the venue for the bridal party,” she says.
Nestled in the corner of the historic Rocky Mount Mills campus, River & Twine guests can enjoy the breweries, restaurants, and shops on the revitalized property with an easy stroll across the parking lot.
Convenient access to the Tar River and surrounding parks offers plenty of nearby outdoor recreation opportunities, including kayaking, mountain biking, and disc golf. There’s also a Wiffle ball field adjacent to the hotel — “A great way to meet other kids,” says Covington Chavez.
RIVER & TWINE
24 E. Elm St., Rocky Mount
Explore Rocky Mount Mills
The restoration of Rocky Mount Mills transformed a 19th century tobacco twine mill into a campus with apartments, offices, restaurants, breweries, and a vibrant live-work-play ethos.
Rocky Mount Mills and River & Twine Tiny House Hotel are owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company — yes, the same Capitol Broadcasting that owns the Holly Springs Salamanders, the Durham Bulls, Durham’s American Tobacco Campus, and WRAL News.
“We are doing (these historic renovations) because we believe in these communities. They are part of our people; they are our viewing area. This is who cares about WRAL, so we should care about them,” says Covington Chavez. “We are long-term holders. We are looking at what is going to be a catalyst, what is going to be a big changemaker in these communities.”
Tipsy Tomato wood fired pizza
Books & Beans cafe and bookshop
The Prime Smokehouse
Koi Pond Brewing Company
Bright Penny Brewing
The Glass Jug Beer Lab
Crystal Coasting Brewing Company
Goat Island Bottle Shop
Pinspiration arts & crafts studio
Jack’s at the Mills
Mixers cocktail bar