A New Golden Age of Mid-Century Roadside Motel

Running an Airbnbs chain in Austin, Texas, gave Kendra Sinclair and Jared Vengrin insight into home remediation. So, when they returned to Bengrin’s hometown of Red Hook during the pandemic, it was only natural for them to embark on repairing their new home.

The sequel was unexpected.

“We noticed a listing for a motel on Nextdoor,” Sinclair said. “Jared said he passed the motel every day on his way to middle and high school, and that it was a fun excuse to get out of the house on a dreary November day.”

When they arrived at the motel on Albany Post Road, they were immediately struck by the beauty of the setting and the promising bones of the structure. The motel was built in 1960 and the most recent owner bought it in 1973, eventually shifting it from most overnight stays to short and long term rentals.

“The mid-century aesthetic appealed to us for a number of reasons,” says Sinclair. “With the way we rethink it, we hope not only to create a beautiful space where people can escape for adventures in the Catskills, but also to show them that not everything has to be bought new. They can be recycled and recycled, and used in new ways. This is also why we named it the Motel recovered. “

The name couldn’t be more apt for the current wave of interest in renovated roadside motels. Once a quick object of fascination that you whisked off on your way to another place, these 50s and 60s must-haves have become destinations in and of themselves.

Part of this is due to convenience – COVID has made it safer and easier for city dwellers to travel to the Catskills by car rather than flying to Cairo – but it’s also due to a trend of buyers before – caretakers to take care of them and to zhuzh.

Now even home improvement shows are capitalizing on fixing. The new Magnolia network ‘(RE) motel’ series presents the transformation of the Graham & Co. Motel in the Catksills and the Starlite Motel.

Two of the area’s pioneering ‘moteliers’ who brought the classic mid-century motel into the 21st century are Alix Umen and Adriana Farmiga, owners of the Starlite in Kerhonkson. The couple spent years in the Catskills while working in New York during the week in visual products and design (Umen) and as artist and associate dean at the Cooper Union School of Art (Farmiga).

Both brought their professional and personal experiences to the refurbished Starlite, which opened in 2019. It was an instant and constant success, until the pandemic forced them to press a hiatus for a few uncertain months. Once things started to reopen, they realized their motel was perfectly suited for social distance travel.

“We created a contactless check-in system, and that saved us,” says Umen. Motels have exterior entrances to rooms, which avoids potentially cramped elevators and hallways for guests, which is likely another reason they spend a while.

Umen spent years traveling to Palm Springs and South Beach to visit her grandparents and fell in love with the aesthetics of Miami motels, while Farmiga grew up on weekends in the Catskills and s’ inspires mid-century Caribbean, Scandinavian and Japanese design movements. Their inspirations came together to create an entirely redesigned, yet oddly familiar, comfortable space.

This juxtaposition is part of the allure of the revamped roadside motel: it has one foothold in the last century, and another firmly rooted in the here and now. But it’s often the past that new owners find compelling.

Victoria Nelson first describes her Terrace Motel, soon to open in Ellenville, as bittersweet “because we fell in love with the mid-century modern design and the beautiful surroundings, but felt overwhelmed by the the idea of ​​buying and renovating an entire hotel.

Once she and her business partners considered the potential of hosting events, they realized that drug rehab would be a safe investment. They plan to open their doors in 2022.

“The bones are beautiful and the space, on eight acres, is incredible,” says Nelson.

Renovated Catskills and Hudson Valley Roadside Motels

Colombia County




Co-owners and partners Jason Seiler and Reid Kendall are revamping The Alander, which opened in late August, but will roll out new rooms, a pool, bar and restaurant over the coming year.

The rooms are tastefully appointed and unique, a sophisticated mix of antique store rugs and Scandinavian furniture, interspersed with local amenities (Irving Farm coffee, Harney & Sons teas).

Until Kendall opened an on-site restaurant – he has extensive experience in hotel and hotel restaurants, including the Bowery Hotel in New York and the Thompson in Seattle – you can opt for delicious options nearby, like the new Zinnia’s Dinette.

7519 NY-22, Copake; currently 3 renovated bedrooms, with 2 more coming in November, $ 165 / night; the 12 rooms will be available in 2022 with a restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool.

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Ulster County

Motel Starlite


Motel Starlite

The Starlite Motel incorporates gorgeous vintage and upcycled decor into their rooms, and a nearly fully booked 2020 allowed them to invest in the motel’s renovation and revitalization.

Owners Alix Umen and Adriana Farmiga also invited Baba Truck, a local black-owned vegan food truck, to serve socially distant dishes. “It’s become a really lovely relationship, and their food and their spirit fits in here perfectly,” Umen said.

When things get completely back to ‘normal’, they plan to host full-fledged events like group film screenings and workshops on woodcarving and essential oils.

5938 US Route 209, Kerhonkson; 16 rooms, prices start at $ 250 / night

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Greene County

Spruceton Inn

Kill the west

Spruceton Inn

Playfully dubbed a Bed & Bar (as opposed to a Bed & Breakfast), this fabulous nine-room motel-bar sits on the former seasonal hunting grounds of the Haudenosaunee and Mohicans, in the middle of Catskills Park. Protected Crown land borders the motel on all sides.

Romantic and business partners Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg have created a relaxing, urban getaway in a bucolic setting, with a hammock, a meandering stream and a meadow to stroll around. A short drive from Spruceton are hiking trails (Hunter Mountain Fire Tower, Diamond Notch Falls and more), farm-to-table restaurants (including the Phenicia Diner and Sylvia), beer (on place and at Westkill Brewery down the road) and antique and farmer’s markets.

Currently they only book weekends. The rest of this year is fully booked, but an email must be placed on the waiting list for cancellations; their 2022 calendar opens later this month.

2080 Spruceton Road, West Kill; 9 rooms, $ 239 / night for a standard and $ 249 / night for rooms with kitchenette

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Dutchess County

Motel recovered

Red hook

Motel recovered

Kendra Sinclair and Jared Vengrin are venturing into new renovation territory by renovating a 1960s motel in the Reclaimed Motel.

“We realized this was an opportunity to stretch ourselves,” says Bengrin. Because the motel is structurally sound, they’re focusing on a room makeover, with an emphasis on vintage and mid-century decor sourced from local antique stores.

7958 Albany Post Road, Red Hook; 8 bedrooms, $ 250 / night; opening spring or summer 2022

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Ulster County

Motel Terrace


Motel Terrace

Along with their husbands, Jemma Allen and Victoria Nelson closed the Terrace Motel in June 2020 and are currently in mid-renovation, with the goal of reopening in the summer of 2022. A pool club and outdoor events are planned for its launch, and by 2023, an event space and a restaurant with a mud roof will be added.

“It’s super green and completely normal in Scandinavia, but you don’t see it much here,” says Nelson.

17 S. Main Street, Ellenville; 22 rooms, prices to come; opening summer 2022

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