When Arlena Armstrong and Matt Petock found their contemporary cabin adjacent to a local heritage farm in Accord, they were initially skeptical. “It was like a funhouse,” says Armstrong of the 1,400-square-foot home painted bright yellow with green-trimmed windows. “The roof was also green,” remembers Petock. “And then the door was painted bright red.”
The home’s interior was just as splashy. Bright orange cabinetry lined one wall of the open-concept first floor and in the opposite sun-splashed corner, the kitchen counters were colored a variegated orange, brown and black in a mix “that was kind-of tiger like,” says Armstrong. The concrete ground level floors were washed in a peculiar shade of orange-red and up the bright orange staircase, were two blue bedroom doors blue doors. Both upstairs and downstairs bathroom floors were also blue.
“Overall, it was just super bizarre,” says Armstrong of the mishmash color scheme.
No matter. Armstrong, a fashion designer and the founder of Marvin Ruby, a line of reworked one-of-a-kind womenswear made from reclaimed denim and restored vintage quilts, has a gift for seeing the potential in a hodgepodge of scraps—salvaging the good parts, restoring and often, ahem, recoloring them—and then patching everything together again into something entirely new, cozy, and distinctly beautiful. “We saw right through it,” says Armstrong of the home’s plaid-paired-with-stripes first impression. “If we squinted we could see it could be a great house,” adds Petock, a film producer and partner at the studio Flies Collective.
This was 2019. The couple had been looking for a weekend home for about a year and had already missed out on a few houses. “Things were crazy even before they got crazy,” recalls Armstrong. Although it sits on only one acre, the property is surrounded by open grain fields and offers unobstructed views of Mohonk Mountain House and the Shawangunk ridge.
They decided to pounce on the opportunity, color palette be damned, and bought the home with a plan to convert it into a weekend retreat. However, what came next wouldn’t require a mere remodel, but also a major life pivot. Both Armstrong and Petock were going to have to rethink and redesign a whole new trajectory, stitching together blocks from their old lives into an entirely new pattern. The design they’ve pieced together—both for their house and their lives—is just as lovely as any well-crafted quilt.
Fabric UpgradeBefore they could take on the cabin’s cosmetics, Petock and Armstrong had to upgrade some of the home’s essential components. Built in 2008, the house had great bones but lacked many elements crucial to comfortable living. “The water still smelled like sulfur,” says Armstrong. “And the house definitely needed a heating upgrade.”
Meanwhile, the couple had begun to neutralize the exterior color scheme. They stripped all the paint from the walls and doors, then painted the outside walls and roof dark charcoal. A stained wood grain front door gives an element of rustic cabin charm to the home’s front porch.
Inside, they tackled the ground level concrete floors. “We tried for weeks,” says Petock.
The home’s central staircase is now the same charcoal black as the exterior, and they neutralized the downstairs built-in cabinets with a combination of whitewash and charcoal paint. They also covered the kitchen counters with dark paint.
To complement the radiant heat floors, the couple added a wood stove, creating a cozy, sun-filled corner in the downstairs living room. (A mini-split heat and AC unit helps heat and cool the second floor.) To further warm things up, the couple replaced the home’s drafty windows, utilizing the opportunity to swap out the old double hung windows with casement windows throughout the downstairs.
Upstairs, in both the master and guest bedrooms, the couple added oversized picture windows which feature views to their gardens and the neighboring fields. “It seems like there’s no glass there at all,” says Armstrong. They also removed a door from their downstairs den and replaced it with an additional window.
Leap and the Net Will Appear“From the day we closed we were constantly scheming how to spend more time up here,” says Armstrong. “We went from just weekends to three or four days a week whenever we could.” A few months into their home’s renovation, the pandemic hit New York. “We realized right away that the lockdown wasn’t just going to be a few weeks,” says Armstrong. “It was the perfect excuse to make the jump.” By May of 2020 the couple had let go of their Brooklyn apartment and moved to their cabin full-time.
Petock was able to shift his work as a producer to a remote office, set up in their guest room. Armstrong had just gotten her real estate license the year before, with the intention of selling apartments in New York City. However, she’d grown to love the Hudson Valley so much, it was an easy shift to refocus her new business upstate. “I had such a blast looking for homes up here, and even doing all the renovation work,” she says. “I really wanted to share that experience with others. Now, I end up being friends with all my clients. Really, it’s been a great friend-making job.”
Her new fashion line was also a product of her extended hours upstate. “I always wanted to be able to have my own brand and not paying rent in the city opened up some finances to do that,” Armstrong explains. Contemplating how she could complement her real estate career with her creative work, she thought back to her childhood time spent with her grandmother. “She was an avid quilter,” explains Armstrong. “She hand stitched and embroidered everything while I played on the floor around her, so I was surrounded by her work.”
Their pandemic shift also inspired another huge pivot for Armstrong and Petock. “We were already planning to get married, and had put down deposits as well as mailed out 150 invitations,” says Petock. “But we were pretty pessimistic that the pandemic wouldn’t be over by our planned date,” says Armstrong. Their choice was to wait a few years or go ahead with their plans anyway. They decided they didn’t want to wait, and in November of 2020 got hitched at Westwind Orchard. “We had a classic COVID wedding,” says Petock. “It was only our parents and two friends.” Everyone else tuned in on Zoom. Like the pared-down color scheme of their home and their simplified lifestyle, the choice turned out well. “Small weddings are truly great,” says Petock. “We could really focus on ourselves and our families.” “It’s all a labor of love,” adds Armstrong.