Davy Newkirk and Robbie Rivers lived happily in Los Angeles for many years, until the pandemic changed everything. “We lived in an area that was becoming extreme with crime,” Mr Newkirk said, “and we just wanted to get out of it.”
At the same time, Mr. Newkirk, who is in his 40s and works as a celebrity hairstylist – his clients include Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba and Robert Downey Jr. – that his work came to a standstill. With Mr. Rivers, a marketing consultant in his thirties, who worked from home, they had little reason to stay in town.
The couple had been toying with the idea of buying a tiny second home in the Northeast for a while after falling in love with the Hamptons. In the early months of the pandemic, however, they came up with a more drastic plan: They would sell their Los Angeles home and move to the East Coast full-time.
However, when they started looking at homes during the 2020 hot market, they realized the Hamptons was out of reach. Not only were the prices extraordinarily high, but even lackluster properties were picked up by eager buyers.
Aware that communities around the Catskill Mountains were seeing a creative resurgence, they decided to look north instead. “We were like, let’s just go to the Hudson Valley for 10 days” to look at houses, Mr. Newkirk said, “even though we’d never been there.”
With the couple touring countless homes every day, it wasn’t long before the real estate market in the state was almost as frenzied as it was in the Hamptons. “I said to Robbie, ‘I don’t want to pay too much to fight a New Yorker over a farm that’s basically worthless and has to do all this work,'” Mr Newkirk said.
Just as they were about to give up, a friend sent them an offer for a 2,800-square-foot brick bungalow built in 1967 on the outskirts of Kingston. It was in dire need of updating and had no finished floors in many rooms, but it did have a barn, a five-acre grassy lot, and a view of the Hudson River. There were also a few original touches that they liked, including punchy cypress wood paneling in some rooms and floral wallpaper in the dining room.
“I walked in and said, ‘This is the house,'” said Mr. Newkirk. They offered the full asking price of $349,000 and closed in November.
Then Mr. Newkirk turned to Kishani Perera, a close friend and interior designer who had worked on the couple’s Los Angeles home. Ms Perera was unwilling to board the plane during the pandemic, so they all made plans to work together remotely: Mr Newkirk would be the eyes and ears on the ground, responsible for directing contractors, and Ms Perera would provide guidance via email, text and daily video calls.
“We wanted it to feel like a mid-century cabin, but with very high pieces laced with high-end designer stuff, for a bit of glamour,” said Ms. Perera.
Or, as Mr. Newkirk put it, “I wanted it to be very classic New York – because I like classic New York, and this is the first New York property I’ve owned – but also very luxurious.”
One of the biggest changes they made was adding four pairs of French doors along the back of the house, opening onto a new 1,000-square-foot deck. “It’s this beautiful view, but the house had these little horizontal windows, so you couldn’t even see it,” said Mr. Newkirk. “Now you look through the doors from every room and it’s like a postcard.”
They gutted and rebuilt the kitchen using simple materials, including Shaker-style cabinetry, a backsplash of square white tile with black grout, and Carrara marble countertops. They refreshed the bathrooms with more white tiles and white marble. And they laid a smoke-grey oak floor where there had been an underlayment or old carpet.
They kept the original doors but blacked them out for contrast against the freshly painted light gray walls. Mr Newkirk and Mr Rivers also spent weeks sanding and refinishing the spicy cypress panels to remove the orange tint. And they informed every contractor who set foot in the house that the dining room wallpaper needed to be protected.
To furnish their new home, they installed a mix of pieces from their Los Angeles home, many of which Mr. Newkirk had found while traveling for work; newly purchased pieces approved by Mrs. Perera, including a coveted vintage Togo sofa and ottoman from Ligne Roset for the sitting room; and gifts from customers of Mr. Newkirk, including a vintage lamp by actress Rebecca Romijn and an artwork by Mr. downey.
The couple moved in as soon as the kitchen was finished, in early 2021, and lived through the rest of the build as supply chain disruptions and price hikes hampered renovation. By the time the project was completed in September, they had exceeded their projected budget of $150,000 and had spent about $400,000 in total.
Now that Mr. Newkirk’s work has resumed in Los Angeles, he and Mr. Rivers recently bought a new home there, but this time a second home. The Kingston home remains their primary home, said Mr. newkirk.
“We love this house. It’s so comfortable, and everyone who comes by is just blown away,” he said. “When you’re from LA, it’s just a breath of fresh air.”
For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on twitter: DailyExpertNews†