MILK BARN: A Chic Getaway Hitting All the Right Notes in Hankins, NY
There is a lot to love about MILK BARN, a Red Cottage rental property set on 15 acres with access to a private swimming pond, tree house, and two fairytale guest houses. For starters, it is magnificent. The main house, which sleeps seven comfortably, is huge and airy with dark wood beams, pearly white walls, a chef’s kitchen, and a curved staircase you can’t help but sashay down when, you hope, everyone is watching. Originally built in 1873, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the dairy barn slowly began its conversion to an idyllic Catskills retreat. Much of the property’s charm can still be seen today due to the anomalous craftsmanship of an Italian-American fashion photographer, a former owner who spent twenty-five years traveling up from the city to work on the barn nearly every weekend — from the installation of etched and stained glass windows, to a 9-foot-long Italian-tiled soak tub made with stones recovered from the old Archdiocese of New York, to a nude Bas relief he took a cast of from a building in Chelsea for the sole purpose of recreating it in the master bath.
This is the setting you muse on with friends from your city stoop or studio apartment, wondering if such a place truly exists, if there is a luxuriously outfitted barn somewhere upstate where you all can gather to cook elaborate meals, make cozy fires, and play records loud. Such is MILK BARN, a secluded getaway in the mountains surrounded by open meadow, wild forest and the habitual browsing deer; a place that has been described by renters on more than one occasion as “pure magic.”
“It is one a kind and I realized that from the second I saw the pictures,” says owner Gabe Adiv, a former software company owner who purchased the property last fall with his brother Avi, a real estate broker in Brooklyn. When it came time to renovate the barn, Gabe was able to harmonize his passion for music and design to create a space that instantaneously spoke to guests and their desire to unplug. “I jokingly said when we got the barn that I wanted it to be Levon Helm meets Ian Schrager — it should feel luxurious on some level, but also raw. I feel like the region has such a rich history in music, too, and that lends to it,” says Gabe, who affixed guitars to the wall for those who like to play. “The original thought when we first saw the property was that it would be perfect for small events. Anything from fashion shoots and lookbook type stuff to small weddings, family reunions, and yoga retreats, that sort of thing. We had an idea that if it manifested the way I thought it would, then weekend renters and week-long renters wouldn’t be a problem.”
- Location: Hankins, NY
Property Sleeps 11
Vintage Stereo System
Swimming Pond with Dock
Two Guest Houses
“I think guests enjoy the drum kit, although probably much to the chagrin of their friends I’m sure,” says Gabe. “Playing the drums is always more fun than listening to someone else play the drums.”
The entire kitchen was completely redone, save the marble tile flooring put in by the artist. “We definitely wanted it super bright and functional. Being up there and having that big kitchen to cook in is really all part of the experience,” says Gabe, who had his friend Jacob Ruch of Reason Modern in Brooklyn, custom design a dining table and benches for those long and lingering meals. “That’s definitely something I really enjoy, my friends enjoy, and thought would be key for other people as well.”
A 30-foot high ceiling and open layout allows for large and small groups to relax as they see fit. Furnishings and fixtures are a trim mix of vintage and modern finds procured by Gabe — from plush leather couches picked up in the city, to a pair of Argentinian cowhide rugs found online, to Danish Modern-style speaker cabinets specially made by Reason Modern. “Being able to play records up there is really wonderful, and to have that warm sound with the old speakers, it really lends to the space and creates a vibe that I wanted and thought other people would be attracted to as well,” he says.
Gabe, a self-described “minimalist who does not like clutter,” whitewashed the barn’s walls and outfitted each bedroom with milk crate nightstands and Queen beds that feature headboards from Nest in Narrowsburg. “I’ll admit the Hudson Bay blankets are a bit played at this point, but there’s something about them that’s classic and inviting and cozy,” he says. “I like the color aesthetic.”
“The artist who did all this work — he was a visionary,” says Gabe of the expressive details that can be found all throughout the house, from the basement up. “There would be no way to build this way today at a reasonable cost.”
“I want people to feel welcome and provided for when they stay,” says Gabe, who leaves guests with extra sun hats, baja blankets, and bug repellent for when mosquito season hits.
Up the hill from the barn is the Tiny Guest House, a dreamy studio for two featuring wraparound windows, a fireplace, and a ladder leading up to a loft space. Closer to the barn is the newly renovated Milk Shed, which also sleeps two, but comes equipped with a shower and sink.
The all-natural swimming pond and newly built dock has been one of the highlights of summer. ”I felt like a chemist working with good bacterias and enzymes to treat the water without affecting the wildlife,” says Gabe. His next project involves building three 8×8 sheds that will serve as pond cabanas, complete with luxe bedding, decks, electricity, space heaters, and air conditioning.
Gabe and Avi took a real liking to the quieter pockets of western Sullivan County and the Delaware River Valley after buying a cabin together in Parksville a few years back, one of the many hamlets in the town of Liberty. “It’s a bit more wild west than the other side of the Catskills,” says Gabe. “There’s something about this area that’s more raw, and as such, a bit more private and less untouched.”
An ideal weekend at the barn, for Gabe, involves stocking up on groceries at Main Street Farm, swimming in the pond, listening to records, cooking big dinners, watching movies, making fires, and sleeping. When it’s cold, he says, it’s all those things except swimming in the pond, “but hike the nearby trails, come back to the house, crank the sauna and soak tub, warm back up and make a big fire inside. Repeat.”
Like Gabe, most guests will be happy staying put on the property to soak up that MILK BARN life, but for those looking for a field trip, there are a bevy of fast-growing river towns to explore by way of winding back roads. In Callicoon, browse the handmade products of local craft and unique gifts at Callicoon Trading, or gaze the work of talented local artists at Gallery Eva. Grab lunch from Ba & Me, a casual takeout spot featuring simple Vietnamese dishes, or indulge in fries and a thick milkshake from Callicoon Creamery. See a movie at Callicoon Theater, the oldest continuously operated movie theater in Sullivan County. If you’re up on a Sunday, don’t miss the Callicoon Farmers’ Market in Callicoon Creek Park. In Narrowsburg, dinner at the Heron is a must, but make sure you leave enough time to browse Maison Bergogne, a beautiful antique shop housed in a former bus garage. At night, get yourself to the Arnold House in Livingston Manor to hear some great live music, or to North Branch Inn, just fifteen minutes down the road from the barn, to bowl strikes on a two-lane vintage wooden bowling alley.