Many would look at the Hearthstone Motel in Upper Red Hook and see a disaster: a building filled with moldy tile, antiquated electrical systems, and smelly carpets. Jared Vengrin and Kendra Sinclair see possibility.
So much opportunity, in fact, that the young couple closed three weeks ago on their $985,000 purchase of the motel and hope to have it open within the year as a stylish getaway.
“This place can be a little bit of magic,” says Kendra, 35, who still works full-time at her day job in social impact fundraising. “It’s kind of beyond our skill set. But what’s holding us back? Nothing needs to hold us back. We can make it work.”
Husband Jared, 34, a software engineer recruiter, concurs. “Kendra and I have always been open to change. We operate well as a team.”
Ideas abound. Kristina Dousharm Architecture, known for creative work with heritage properties such as Hutton Brickyards, will be working on the project, determining which walls can go and how to create more family-friendly utility for two large rooms at the property. “I’m incredibly excited to work with Kendra and Jared to bring the motel back to life,” Dousharm said. “Red Hook desperately needs lodging, and this property is currently the only operating motel within the town.”
Like Kendra, Dousharm is earnest about sensitive planning and design. “We plan to give the motel an overall refresh, with a focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, while respecting the classic 1960s architecture,” Dousharm said. To that end, Kendra is already scouting decorating remnants she can repurpose from Facebook Marketplace, most recently 400 running feet of unused carpet from the Orpheum Theater facelift in Saugerties.
The couple has already endured their share of challenges with the property, which was built in 1960 and has most recently been operating as a bay of eight $800-a-month, long-term rental rooms owned by Wayne Williams. His son, Paul, lives in the two-story building behind the property.
They first saw the motel last fall, several months after they had said farewell to their Williamsburg, Brooklyn condo and moved to Red Hook to buy a home, which they also are renovating, on Spring Lake Road. The motel was on the market for $879,000, and the couple wanted to buy it.
“We weren’t looking to purchase a motel,” Kendra said. “But it was an interesting enough idea. It had been on the market for years and it needed some love.”
But before they could sneeze, a corporate buyer had swooped in and moved to contract. The couple were more than disappointed. Still, they kept after a deal – reaching out to everyone they know in Red Hook, including the girlfriend of the Hearthstone’s owner. And in the end, at a 12 percent higher price – the market has gone up about 30 percent year-over-year — they nabbed the Hearthstone.
The pair imagine sinking about $500,000 into the renovation, which is due to start in October. They’d love to have the place open for Bard Graduation weekend next May 26.
For Jared, the project is a coming-home event. The son of George Vengrin of Silver Mountain Tree Service and Jana Vengrin, a psychiatric nurse, Jared grew up in Red Hook. After graduating from the high school in 2005, he went to Concordia University in Montreal.
There, he met Kendra, the British-born, Canada-raised daughter of a Dupont executive, Robert Sinclair, and a mother, Judy Sinclair, who worked in public relations; she had traveled frequently much of her childhood and was attending McGill University, studying communications.
They have been together for 15 years and married five of those. Their relationship has been a national sojourn of real estate projects, most involving renovations to prep buildings for Airbnb, usually while they lived through the mess. First in Austin, Texas, which they call the bachelorette party capital of the world, where they renovated a condo and then put it up for short-term rental. Then in East Palo Alto, where they renovated a small house. Then in Brooklyn, where they lived and ultimately donated use of the property during the pandemic to a traveling nurse.
And now, Red Hook: “We thought, ‘Hey, we really enjoy design and building things and hospitality,’ ” says Kendra. “Instead of looking at another Airbnb, what if we stretched ourselves and did something a bit more scaled? We saw potential right away.”
As for the Hearthstone, says Kendra, “The bones are great. The view is incredible. The rooms are big. And, there’s nowhere to put people when they come to visit Bard.”
A few things become obvious upon meeting Kendra and Jared. First, they are very tall. Kendra stands 5-feet-10 and Jared, 6-feet-6. If she stood on his shoulders, they could reach the roof of the Hearthstone, a not-insignificant convenience. Second, they are handy and enjoy, as Jared calls it, “demystifying renovation.” They are fans of all shows on HGTV.
“Obviously,” says Kendra, “we will bring in experts for plumbing and electrical.” But replacing light fixtures? Sockets? Hanging drywall? Painting? They can do all that. And Kendra also has learned how to insulate. They’ve built decks, too.
Third, they exude creativity. The chase for the 400 feet of unused theater carpet is but one example; Kendra imagines using some of it as retro paneling on the back wall of the honeymoon suite. She talks also of locating mix-and-match tiles from renovators who have extra product, and she sources vintage alarm clocks wherever she can find them.
“The plan is not to do a rinse-and-repeat of every single room,” says Kendra. “The concept is the reclaimed motel.” The couple plan to furnish the rooms with second-hand materials: Vintage or bought in surplus. “We don’t want things to go to waste.”
They also keenly seek others’ ideas, on everything from decorating schemes to the challenges of parenting; they’re still undecided on whether to start a family.
And, they are curious. As they pace the rear of the Hearthstone property, they can’t wait to show off a manmade cave, now sealed, that they are certain was a liquor storage spot during Prohibition.
It’s clear they can’t wait to get started on the renovation. Clutching myriad sets of keys as she shows off the rooms, Kendra spots a water spot on one room’s fireplace surround. “Another thing to put on the list,” she says, taking note. “We’ll get it done.”
Follow the renovation at The Hearthstone on Instagram: @reclaimedmotel
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