The SpaceBuilt in the mid-1850's, this eccentric cottage was cobbled together from two little old houses of entirely different vernacular. Its layout and character owe little to the traditional village home; there's no central reception or staircase, no dedicated living room. Rooms turn up where they're not expected, combine and stumble into one another. It's a little maze of doors and corridors, with its own whimsical narrative; a paean to living creatively.
Tenderly renovated by The Lovely Brothers, whose Bell End in Brooklyn and Il Buco della Suora in Venice are also available for holiday rentals.
The heart of the house is a vaulted room consisting of a rustic, open-plan kitchen which rolls down a gentle slope into a cosy living room with antique wood-burning stove, old leather couch and 1970's high-fidelity turntable, amp and floor speakers. It's a vinyl house. An iPhone will play just fine, but we hide the jack round the back of the old Pioneer, in the hope you'll lose heart and put on a record. We have records. And in lieu of television, we have a secret wall-sized screen that deploys at the press of a button, turning the living room into a cosy fireside movie theatre. Plug your computer into the projector and use your Netflix or Apple accounts to watch Withnail & I.
The front door opens directly into the kitchen, which has the semblance of a workshop. Counters are steel-edges remilled hardwoods from Table on Ten. Surfaces are repurposed bowling alley lanes, floating shelves are antique heart-pine from a decommissioned factory in New Jersey. The sink was stolen from our friends Kai and John. The farmhouse table has been with us for 20 years and is etched with the names of friends and a few strangers. The stove is a powerful, 4 burner Viking, the fridge a SMEG from Italy. The floors are old pine. If you drop anything spherical you'll find it a few minutes later in the southwest corner of the living room. There are no cupboards, just shelves; everything is visible, to hand and ready to be used. By you as well as us.
Which is emblematic of being here. It's a home, not a self-conscious Airbnb rental. We move out, the house is cleaned, you move in. Everything that was ours is now yours. Shelves and mason jars are full of supplies, spices, condiments. The porch has pots of fresh herbs. There are copper saucepans, steel frying pans, iron skillets, dutch ovens and every tool and implement you'd expect in a well-used kitchen. Appliances include a stand-mixer, food processor, Vitamix, rice-cooker, toaster, several Bialetti stovetop espresso makers, Italian ice-cream maker, coffee grinder. Plates, bowls, cups, glasses, flatware have been gathered along the way and woven into their own storyline. Plentiful PG Tips teabags from England, antique WWII teapots to brew them in and directions to Byebrook Farm for 'straight-from-the-cow' raw milk. Coffee from Table on Ten. If you're looking for a sterile, neutral rental with six IKEA bowls and a corkscrew, this isn't it.
High speed Fios wireless internet throughout.
We even have a fat and very lazy cat - Jack - who either comes with the house or not. He's indifferent. If you want him he's great company, loves to sleep on the beds and idly follow you round the garden. All for a teacup of kibble and a firm head-stroke. Or not.
The kitchen has a door onto it's own covered porch which winds out to an open deck, then down the hill to the stream and fields. There's a 9-foot hand-made picnic table by the water, as well as bonfire pit and rustic stone BBQ grill. The only visible structures are the barns and roofs of the old creamery in the distance.
The gable wall of the kitchen constitutes the end of one little house and the beginning of another. The attached building is a full floor higher. At ground-level there is an open office/library, with windows facing north and east, an old steel work-bench, typewriter and Apple thunderbolt display (which you're welcome to plug your laptop into). There's a wall of books, old, new, rare, odd. The library has its own second front door and it adjoins:
Winnie's bedroom - cosy, fabricated like a ship's cabin, with full-size elevated bed, cubbies and it's own little built-in desk area looking down the fields to the stream. It also has its own turntable and powered speakers.
In all cases mattresses are great, bedding is from Brooklinen.
The library adjoins the spacious bathroom, with antique claw-foot tub and shower, an old pedestal sink and new Toto 'washlet' toilet - a unique sensory experience in its own right. There are plentiful towels and a window that looks south to the mountains.
The basement is rough and unfinished, but has a new washer, dryer and chest freezer, all of which are yours to use.
Between the kitchen and the library is a narrow, steep set of stairs to two upstairs bedrooms:
Dusty's bedroom is open-plan, with a full-size antique iron bed, its own desk (with iMac for after-hours movie-watching), built in rustic shelves and closet. Pass through this to:
The big bedroom with windows to the south, the stream, fields, hills and beyond. The sound of running water at night (and birdsong in the morning) are abiding characteristics of sleeping in this room. It has a king-size bed with salvaged redwood headboard, zinc shelves and cupboard. it also also has its own free-standing clawfoot tub, for languid bathing privacy and an element of romance. The tub, full of hot water, goes well with a spritz al bitter.
There's loads of dry, seasoned firewood stacked in front of the house for use in the Jotul wood stove. And off-road parking for 3 cars, as well as an old wooden garage which we use for storage.
The village of Bovina seems to have become the choice destination in the northwestern Catskills. It's a beautiful, tiny, no-stoplight hamlet. The only businesses are the classic village store - Russell's - with its legendary breakfast sandwiches, and Brushland Eating House, with a locally sourced dinner menu, wine and beer. Both places are a quiet, relaxing meander down Main Street. Bovina has trails, streams, hills, a tiny library, a museum that opens once a year and a playground. And that's it.
This is spectacular biking country. Whatever you're looking for, it's here. Undulating, quiet roads with good climbs. Dirt roads into the hills. Old, rough fire trails for the truly manly.
We have a close relationship with the well-known restaurant Table on Ten in Bloomville. Come on over during your stay and we'll greet you with giddy enthusiasm and wood-fired sourdough pizza.
But aside from activities beyond the auspices of the house, the main reason to stay here is to kick back, hang out, cook, belong, wander down to the stream and treat the house as your home. We're not trying to propel you out. Quite the opposite; we think you should stay home and listen to Serge Gainsbourg, Sandinista or I Pagliacci, flipping the record every 24 minutes whilst slow-braising local pork shoulder and perfecting your absinthe-tinged Manhattan. With a trunkful of groceries, wine and beer, there's not a lot of reasons to roam.