Sweet Digs
We Spent $40,000 Renovating Our New York Home — This Is What It Looks Like Now

A couple put their savings — and two years of hard work — into their gorgeous vacation home, which they also rent on Airbnb

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In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial women. In today's episode, Danielle and Ely Franko share what went into their Catskills lodge.
Like most DIY projects, the Hunter Greenhouse started out with a need to create. Danielle and Ely Franko found their day jobs in dermatology and software, respectively, lacking in creativity. So they looked around, found a project, and got to work. Unlike other DIYs, however, their project took two whole years to complete.
"We're big DIY people, so we knew we wanted a gut, a fixer-upper," Danielle says. "The ultimate goal was to find a vacation house, a place to get away from the city, but also to ultimately Airbnb it."
The couple landed on a classic A-frame three-bedroom house in Tannersville, New York for $165,000. "It was the first house we looked at actually with our real estate agent and I remember thinking that it was charming but like just terrible," Danielle says. "The bathroom, the kitchen, all needed a complete gut. The worst thing to me was all of the walls had this horrible water staining on it and it was definitely a huge project. But it was a good price and it was a great area, and we saw what it could be."
Two years worth of weekends schlepping upstate, and the couple finally created the vacation home worthy of almost 25,000 Instagram followers. Tour their space above, then read on for more about the renovation process.
Photo: Courtesy of Danielle & Ely Franko.
The kitchen and loft space prior to renovations
Photo: Courtesy of Danielle & Ely Franko.
Danielle installing the kitchen cabinets
Photo: Courtesy of Danielle & Ely Franko.
Painting the walls and ceiling by hand.
Tell us about how you decided to do the renovations yourself.
Danielle: I mean, Ely's dad is very handy, and he taught Ely and they would both work on their house. So there was a little experience, but for us it was really learn as you go. We spent two years every single weekend pretty much, going to the house, working on it, and doing all the renovations ourselves. It was definitely a learning experience, which is probably why it took us so long.
What were you looking for when looking at properties?
Danielle: I don't think we wanted something huge, I think we were looking for something like three, four bedrooms.
Ely: I think we were really just looking for something that had a little character, something that was a little different not just kind of a standard, you know, two-story house. It sounds silly, but we really didn't know anything and were so naïve. We kind of stumbled upon what we stumbled upon and figured it out as we went along.
What was the renovation process like?
Danielle: The first thing we had to do was sanding, and honestly, you can only sand a few hours at a time. Ely did most of it because it was just so physically demanding, standing on 16-foot ladders with this heavy electric sander over your head. The whole house was just covered in saw dust. But once that was clean and cleared, we painted everything — and I was responsible for most of the painting.To cover those water stains, we thought it was going to take one coat of primer and two coats of paint, but it took the best primer and paint money could buy — and still, five coats. Plus, we had to paint all of it by hand. But once we finished those two big things, we were then really able to focus and go room-by-room.
What's your favorite success story?
Ely: I think the crazy thing was the kitchen. It took us three separate attempts to level the cabinets we bought.
Danielle: Well, we thought they were level the first time, but the problem was the floor was so un-level and it was just a nightmare to get it perfect.
Ely: The first time we were way off level, so we unscrewed everything and figured it out, and then the counter top guy came and said that the counter couldn't go on without cracking. So we had to take the whole thing apart and then redo it. Danielle was losing her mind.
Danielle: My favorite part about the kitchen is the cabinet, though. We bought unfinished cabinet doors, a cabinet, and we completely gutted and re-did the kitchen, and then we couldn't decide what color cabinet doors. So we bought an airbrush and spray-painted them this really cool green.
So what's next?
Ely: When we bought this space, we knew we were going to move from the city eventually but we weren't quite ready to make that jump. This was kind of an intermediary step. Now we have a new home in Westchester that we're moving to, and that's going to be the next big project.

About Sweet Digs

High rent, small spaces, nosy neighbors — we put up with A LOT of things to live where we love. In Sweet Digs, Refinery29 gets a peek inside the homes of the coolest people we know, from tiny studios to sprawling houses, and ask the real questions like, "Wait, HOW much is your rent?"

Tour A New York Catskills Vacation Home VideoReleased on October 7, 2018
Sweet Digs
About
High rent, small spaces, nosy neighbors — we put up with A LOT of things to live where we love. In Sweet Digs, Refinery29 gets a peek inside the homes of the coolest people we know, from tiny studios to sprawling houses, and ask the real questions like, "Wait, HOW much is your rent?"

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