Back in the early 20th century, co-operative Catskills bungalows and resort communities were the destination for Brooklyn families looking to pack up and spend the summer upstate, commuting back to the city for work during the week.
During its heyday, more than a million people would participate in this fun communal summer tradition. Owners and renters of closely spaced bungalows returned every year to share meals, entertainment and childcare — it was summer camp for families.
Brooklyn residents Jeremy Floto and Josh Farley, who are partners in the design firm WRK, became obsessed with the idea of reviving this upstate colony spirit. As their own families were growing, they were also finding it more complicated to find the right summer vacation setting.
According to Floto, they wanted to “create a place where families, couples and groups could come and enjoy a communal retreat experience.”
They started visiting abandoned Catskill colonies in search of a property they could renovate. In that spirit, a little over a year ago, Farley and Floto purchased a rundown bungalow colony on 11 acres of land in Mountaindale, N.Y., that they renamed The Glen Wilde.
The previous owners bought the colony in the 1950s, and sold it as they were getting older and their families no longer made the trip upstate. Although the property had been vandalized when it was closed, the bungalows were eerily preserved in time. The dishes were still in the cupboards, tea kettles on the stoves, ruffled curtains at the kitchen windows, and the beds made.
The duo designed all sorts of interesting alterations to update and modernize the small houses while also preserving the vintage feel. They reimagined layouts and weren’t afraid to replace walls with windows to bring in the light.
They gutted the bungalows, but saved a lot of the original vintage fixtures — including the bathtubs, toilets, sinks and the original 1950s stoves, as well as many glasses, teapots and mugs that were left behind.
The team shopped numerous local antique stores, particularly Wurtsboro Antiques, for lamps, artwork and rugs to adorn the interiors. The furnishings are an eclectic mix of personal objects and vintage items, including antique oak folding chairs and vintage Adirondack chairs from other bungalow colonies in the area and items WRK had in storage left over from other projects.
(The duo’s design-build firm WRK has handled store design for fashion-industry darlings such as Filson; Floto and his wife, Cassandra Warner, also renovated their Crown Heights home.)
In the Catskills, Farley and Floto did some of the construction themselves but also brought in professional help.
The pair moved and rethought all the interior walls and layout, as the original plan had beds placed everywhere, leaving little to no privacy. (One house slept eight.) Every unit got a new roof, plumbing and electric.
Bringing the light in was a priority, so they cut out a side of one building and put in glass, which allows for a gorgeous view of nature.
Underneath the cracked linoleum and carpet, the original heart-pine wood floors were just waiting to be exposed and sanded. The designers added sleeping lofts, with handmade steel ladders fashioned out of fire escapes repurposed from another colony that was facing demolition.
Using molds, they handmade their own cement tiles for the bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes.
Plaster and beadboard replaced flowered wallpaper; sloped ceilings are clad in wood.
Though the renovated bungalows are all beautifully redone, the design objective was to keep the focus on the outdoors and the beautiful Catskills land.
Guests can roam the extensive grounds or, with the bungalows no more than 40 feet apart, easily socialize with each other. There will be a stage for events and screening outdoor movies, hosted by Farley and Floto.
While the resort isn’t communal in the old sense of families sharing expenses, it has a camp-like feel. Six of the 11 cabins are finished and available to rent.
Later this summer, the large stone house on the property will become a clubhouse with a bar — handy for rainy days. A general store will open on the ground floor, which will be stocked with local provisions and produce from nearby farms, including heritage pork from Majestic Farms, located down the street. If you’re looking for marshmallows or olive oil, they’ll have you covered.
For Phase Two of the renovation, WRK will complete the remaining cabins as well as finish and fill the pool. They also plan to add a sauna and hot tub.
[Photos by Jeremy Floto]
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