Photography by Adnelly Marichal and Ashley Kost
Ashley and Brendan Kost, a Brooklyn couple with an eye for design, set their sights on renovating a getaway rental cabin in Roxbury, New York.
What is the story behind the Poko Lodge? Were you looking specifically for a cabin to renovate? Do you have a house elsewhere?
My husband and I live full time in Brooklyn. We had been living in New York City for a long time and were starting to get run down by it. We talked about making a permanent move but just weren’t ready to pull the trigger. One weekend, we stayed at an adorable Airbnb in upstate New York, and on the drive home, we decided we could do that. The next weekend, we made an appointment with a local real estate agent.
What is the meaning of Poko?
Poko is the first two letters of my maiden name and my married name. We wanted to come up with something personal to us, and it also had a fun ring to it.
What drew you to Roxbury?
My husband and I got married in Roxbury in 2015. We remembered the lack of stylish lodging options for our wedding guests and immediately saw the rental potential. There are actually three wedding venues within five minutes of our cabin!
Did you know right away this cabin was for you? Had you toured many others?
We saw about ten other homes during our search, and we actually made an offer on another cabin about a mile away from ours. Someone else came in with an all-cash offer at the last minute, and we just couldn’t compete with that. Discouraged, I was searching the map later that day to see if there was anything new, and there it was. We wound up loving our cabin even more than the original one.
Had you ever renovated a space before the Poko Lodge?
I had experience making affordable changes to various Brooklyn apartments, but this was my first big project. I was so excited to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted!
Do you have a background in interior design?
I have a background in design but no formal interior design training. I’ve just always had a passion for it. My mom does, too—I definitely get it from her. If a room doesn’t feel right, it bothers me so much.
Can you describe the cabin before you started?
The 1,200-square-foot home was built in the 1990s and has three bedrooms. The previous owners had taken really good care of it, so there wasn’t much to do other than cosmetic changes. We knew immediately that we needed to paint everything. We did a full paint job on the exterior, and we painted all of the interior rooms and the fireplace white. We kept all of the wood natural, so I wanted everything else to feel very bright.
Will you talk about the bold yellow stripe on the side of the cabin?
Yellow is my favorite color. When we were designing the cabin, I could not stop drawing inspiration from the movie Moonrise Kingdom. I wanted the house to feel childlike and colorful like that movie. I also thought it was a great way to get people to notice the house—we have cars slow down all the time to take photos.
What did you envision for your cabin?
The fact that our cabin was going to be a weekend/rental home meant that we could have more fun with the design. I wanted people to see it and think of vacation. We played on that with lots of color and quirky furniture. Our target demographic is people like us—young professionals and families looking for a quick weekend escape from New York City.
What was the most challenging part of the renovation? What were some upgrades that made the biggest difference?
The most challenging part was trying to stay within a reasonable budget. There were, and still are, many things that I would like to renovate, but we also had to furnish the house. We had to decide what was a priority to get the house up and running. Each year, we like to plan a few new projects. In 2020, it was to extend the deck and possibly add a hot tub. Painting and switching out light fixtures made a huge difference. Also, the retro mint-green fridge is usually the first thing people comment on when they walk in.
Did you find the process stressful?
It was a surprisingly smooth process in many ways. One thing that we found stressful was the pace in which projects are completed upstate. We are both really intense and were looking for immediate satisfaction, but that’s just not the way it is in upstate New York. Many projects took much longer to complete than anticipated, and we had to learn to be patient.
When a room wasn’t quite coming together, what tricks did you use?
I am very visual and indecisive, so it was difficult at times. Pinterest helped me a lot during the design process—I would add all of the elements of the room that I was working on (furniture, paint color, rugs, etc.) to a board and print it out. I am designing a nursery right now in our Brooklyn apartment and am still using this method. It’s probably not the fastest method, but it works for me.
What is your favorite room in the house, and why?
The family room is our favorite—it’s the showstopper of the house and the main reason we fell in love with it. There is a floor-to-ceiling window wall, a woodburning fireplace, and a gallery wall. This is the room everyone gathers in, and the views are beautiful.
How did you choose what to put on the gallery wall in the family room? Will you talk about a few gems?
I am a huge antiquing nerd—it’s one of my favorite pastimes, so it was quite fun for me to build this collection. That being said, my favorite piece on the wall actually came from my dad. He is a big saver and has so many things from his childhood in pristine condition. In the ’60s, his family went on a vacation to the Catskill Game Farm, and he still had the park map from that trip. We framed it and then really built around that. We also have a hand-drawn outline of our property on the wall, from when the cabin was first built—I love that.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I look at other people’s homes and antique stores. I’m fascinated by people who collect things, too. I like to see the owner’s personality shine through in their home. You can tell so much about someone’s life by their home and their belongings.
Do people book the cabin all year long? What are the slow months?
They do. The Catskill Mountains are great to visit during every season. In the summer, we have wedding guests, hikers, and outdoorsy types, and in the winter we have a lot of skiers. We’re a five-minute drive from Plattekill Mountain and twenty minutes from Belleayre Mountain. The slow months are usually March and April, but I think that’s because people don’t realize that it’s still very much a winter wonderland during those months. Last April, we had over five feet of snow!
If you have a guest book, what is some of the best feedback you’ve been given?
One guest made a painting of our home and left it in the guest book. We love getting personal thank-you notes like that and now have it hanging on our gallery wall.
Is it stressful to own a rental home?
Sometimes. Because we don’t live in the area full time, it’s hard to not have control with the everyday maintenance. We have a group of awesome local people who help us take care of the house, but we like to check in as much as we can.
What are the most loved amenities?
People are looking to relax, especially families with kids, so they always appreciate our collection of games, records, and movies. We want our guests to have lots to do without ever having to leave the cabin.
What is some advice you would give to others hoping to create a rental cabin?
Don’t follow the latest design trends—people are searching through tons of homes when looking for an Airbnb rental, and you want yours to stand out.
For more info, follow @pokolodge on Instagram