As the world was shutting down this past March, Melinda Martino and Matilda Ekholm quickly got married so they could remain in the country together. Then, the Swedish natives tried to escape the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City.
The Visit Sweden PR manager and Olympic table tennis player drove upstate to rent a cabin away from the surge and quickly fell in love with the Upper Delaware River. Since they were so taken with the lush region and short-term leasing proved costly, the couple decided to purchase a home with the intention of using it as both a pandemic refuge and an Airbnb for extra income.
While the choice to buy was an easy one, actually finding a house was more difficult. “It was a challenge to even look at places in the spring because most agents wouldn’t show and there were restrictions,” Martino explains.
Eventually, the duo closed on a 20-year-old bungalow in Barryville, NY. It was in fairly good shape, but the kitchen dated back to the original construction and needed a complete overhaul. With the help of a handyman, Martino and Ekholm renovated themselves, swapping dated brown cupboards for light blue cabinetry that dazzles guests and makes the place feel like their own.
Though the couple was enamored of the area, they weren’t into the yellow-ish wood stain found in many local builds. So they opted to eliminate this old-fashioned finish by sanding and white-washing the floors, which brightened the space from the ground up. Then, they painted the ceiling beams and window trims in a crisp white to match. “I grew up in a little beach town in Sweden, so I’ve always liked lighter design,” says Martino. “We wanted a coastal cottage vibe even though we’re in the Catskills. It made us feel more at home.”
The oceanic theme continues with Semihandmade SSS Agave Beaded doors on both upper and lower cabinets, which offer the women far more storage than they had before. “Of course, being Swedes, IKEA was our first option,” Martino admits. “I just loved that idea that we could customize and not have it look like an IKEA kitchen. It also helped us to stay within budget.”
They picked up the blonde butcher block countertops and extendable dining table from the Swedish retailer, as well. The simple form and pale hue speak to her Scandinavian aesthetic. Plus, the reasonable price was hard to pass up.
Another cost-saving technique the couple used: terrazzo wallpaper instead of tile for the backsplash. Martino initially searched for the stone composite, but many materials were out of stock due to pandemic-related production delays. She didn’t want to give up on the trendy look, which she knew would draw in guests, so she chose a colorful, speckled peel-and-stick to make it happen.
Pinkish copper hardware, French bistro-style dining chairs, and a DIY reindeer antler hanging light add internet appeal, as well. There are frequent bookings and five-star reviews to prove it. “It’s very rewarding to Airbnb,” Martino admits. “We are grateful to be able to offer guests a tranquil place to regroup during this difficult time. It’s been a win-win for us.”