Catskills Bungalow Meets New England Saltbox in Narrowsburg, NY
Amid the dense forest trails, serene streams, and secret waterfalls of Narrowsburg, NY, a hidden jewel of a home can be found in this charming upstate town. Welcome to Smokey Belles: A queer-friendly multimedia artists’ homestead planted in one of the strongest arts and cultural communities in the Catskills. Listed on Airbnb under Catskills/Delaware River Vacations, Anie Stanley, a home and restoration designer/antique dealer with origins in the upper Catskills, built this private and sequestered haven entirely from scratch. Her partner Juliette Bergogne, a French interior designer, painter, and photographer gifted her impeccable eye to the overall aesthetic, color scheme, and decor of the house. “Much of the motivation to list Smokey Belles on Airbnb was to subsidize some of the cost and to generate funds that could help pay for artist retreat programs here,” explains Anie. “By staying here, renters are supporting artists, and when rentals aren’t happening, artists are usually staying here.” While the residence attracts all types of occupants, the majority come from a creative background, be it design or filmmaking, in addition to those looking for a bit of seclusion and a chance to reconnect with nature.
- Location: Narrowsburg, NY
Two outdoor showers
The homestead was inspired by 1940s cottage kit plans that Anie found at an old lumber yard in the Catskills and the old saltbox buildings of New England, a type of American colonial architecture characterized by a long, pitched roof sloping down the rear of the house, creating one story in the back and two stories up front. A network of Anie’s artist friends came up with the name Smokey Belles, a nod to the property’s popular campfires and the beautiful women who gather ‘round them. “It’s camp-style, created to invite openness with a focus on function and comfort,” she says. “The house is very communal, great for groups, and the best way to calm down from city life.”
With gorgeous bed linens sourced from France, the house sleeps up to ten people comfortably with its three private bedrooms and an open loft that’s perfect for kids. In the summertime, the one bathroom becomes “one-and-a-half” because the property also boasts two lovely outdoor showers. Much of the wood is rough cut, locally-sourced hemlock reminiscent of that old bungalow beadboard. “It kind of looks like wainscoting. Nowadays, people use it for the ceilings, but back in the day it was used everywhere,” says Anie. “It was like the poor man’s decorative treatment.”
“We’re currently working on turning a part of the loft into a ‘Captain’s Corner’ with a writer’s desk and its own private clawfoot bathtub. I have a bit of a nautical fetish because I grew up on Cape Cod, and this room has a real maritime feel to it,” says Anie.
The house has all the comforts of a modern home, but really speaks to another time. “Eighty percent of the time, the first question that gets asked when people walk through the door is ‘How long did it take to fix this place up?’”
Maison Bergogne is the name of the antique store in town that Juliette owns. “We’re constantly rotating inventory at the shop and at the house, so guests can potentially buy anything they see here,” says Anie. “Or people get inspired by the decor, and then come to the store to browse around. We’re focusing on having the house link to the shop.”
Anie and Juliette provide an array of amenities besides what the house already provides. “I offer to make campfires for guests; I offer to take them on river trips and antique shopping tours, and we always invite them to visit the shop,” says Anie. “I keep the spice cabinet stocked for cooking and a steady supply of teas and coffee. If artists come, I’ll put out a spread for them.”
Between the 1930s Monitor-Top refrigerator, the 1920s Chambers stove, and the rare 7-foot-long butler’s pantry farmhouse sink salvaged from a home in the Hamptons, Smokey Belles tailors a rustic experience for its guests. “I used to worry, ‘Oh, I don’t have a dishwasher,’ but really I don’t want them to have a dishwasher,” admits Anie. “I want them to feel like they’re stepping back in time. I think the aesthetic has a lot to do with inspiring people to want to take the time to wash that beautiful dish.”
Peculiar oddities are tastefully placed throughout the house, such as a taxidermied alligator and baby duckling, a letter opener, an old dial-up telephone, and a rare wood-carved owl cuckoo clock. Guests are also welcome to browse the robust collection of books that have been donated by the many writers that have stayed at the house.
“Juliette did a feng shui adjustment to the house so that it’s energetically balanced as much as possible,” says Anie. “If a room needs a mirror, or a red ribbon tied around a chair leg, we do it, and it has worked.”