The crafter is Linda Facci, who, at that time, was working in New York City and visiting Woodstock on weekends. The cyclist was Gene Gironda, the founder and former owner of Overlook Mountain Bikes. The stone Dutch cottage they now find themselves in, complete with 14-inch-thick bluestone walls; arched, hobbit-style entry doors; and steeply sloped roof covered (mostly) with the original slate stone tiles, is called Storybook. Sitting at the heart of the former Maverick Art Colony, the three-acre property is equally enchanting. Winding gardens strung with fairy lights lead to a gazebo and pond; worn bluestone steps lead to stone terranes and garden boxes; tucked amongst oak trees, two tiny stone cottages seem like something one would stumble onto in a fairy tale.
These days Gironda has a local construction firm and Facci now runs Facci’s Felted Friends—a specialty needle felting business creating custom lifelike replicas of people’s beloved pets and other woodland creatures. Built sometime in the 1940s, the 1,100-square foot Storybook cottage had been carefully crafted by an unknown artist but had fallen into disrepair until Gironda and Facci came along. “Now it stands proud again,” declares Facci. However, like the winding paths and stone staircases, it wasn’t a straight line from the time Facci first noticed Gironda around town to the charmed home they now find themselves in. “I love that it’s called Storybook,” Facci explains. “It sure feels like we’re in one.”
Once Upon a Time…
Living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and working in the magazine industry while crafting on the side, Facci decided she needed a tranquil refuge that could also serve as a creative outlet. “Crafting is just a way of life for me,” she explains. “My mind is always thinking of things I can make.” She had begun exploring upstate and soon realized that Woodstock sat at the perfect intersection between mountains and quirkiness. “I always wanted a house in the country,” says Facci. “I thought I’d wait for someone to come along and we’d do it together, but he never came along.” So, in 1999, she decided to do it herself, buying a place in the center of town, an area she loved for its proximity to wildlife and the funky village character (and characters). She fixed it up herself and became an official weekender, enjoying the local nightlife and making friends.
A year after buying her place, she first noticed that cyclist from the bar out and about. She didn’t know anything about him, but saw him often on weekends—including that night in the bar. Then one day, a friend suggested she meet “the guy who owns the bike shop,” she remembers. Facci walked in and realized it was the guy she’d been eyeing. “If I’d known he owned the bike shop I would have become a biker,” she says. Gironda was selling the shop and planning to move to Alaska, but a rock climbing accident delayed his plans. Facci nursed him back to health and he decided to stay in town. They two were married in 2004 and lived together in Woodstock—but only on weekends, since Facci kept her city job, returning to Manhattan every Monday for the workweek.
A Path to Somewhere
Even though they weren’t looking for a change, a 2014 listing caught Facci’s eye and eventually blew them in a whole new direction. “We weren’t planning to buy a house but sometimes I’d go online to see what was out there,” she explains. “When I saw Storybook, I was blown away.”
Facci had always been drawn to stone houses and she loved the arched doors and winding pathways—some of them leading to absolutely nowhere. “You could see the love and attention that was put into the house in the 1940s,” says Facci. “But over the years it had been neglected.” She knew that with her and Gironda’s combined skills they could uncover its original beauty. They took a leap and bought the home, and in 2015 began a major rehab.
They began with the living room and kitchen. Painted in bright pink, blue, and green, the open concept space was dominated by a curvy, bluestone fireplace at one end—its shape reminiscent of a potbellied stove. Exposed beams ran along the ceilings and original oak planks ran throughout the first floor. The couple tore out the painted walls in both kitchen and living room, exposing bluestone walls. Facci took a week off to sand and stain over 100 pine boards, which they laid into an interlocking diamond pattern along the fireplace wall. They painted the adjacent walls white and refinished the oak floorboards.
The kitchen required a complete re-do, but their hard work yielded some buried treasure. After gutting the space down to the studded bluestone walls, they uncovered a long forgotten back door. Plastered over by a previous owner, the arched, Dutch door led to a stone staircase and the back gardens. The couple painted the back door and wall blue, adding white trim and black hardware to the design. Facci covered the remaining kitchen walls in white subway tiles and trimmed the walls with wood along the ceilings. “I distressed the wood by hammering holes, banging it with a chain, staining it dark and then using a torch to burn areas,” she explains. Black-and-white penny tiles line the floors. Open wood shelving and wood counters hiding an undercounted refrigerator and cabinets complete the look.
Adjacent to the kitchen, the home’s dining area looks out over the front garden and steps. Here, the couple left an entire wall of exposed bluestone as well as exposed bluestone wainscoting under the windows. They painted the remaining walls and window trim white and added a metal chandelier.
Exposed bluestone walls are also featured throughout the first-floor bedroom suite. They expanded the ensuite bathroom by capturing space from a closet. After finishing the space with white subway tiles in the shower and black and white penny tiles along the floor, they left one stone wall. A trim of rabbit printed wallpaper completes the eclectic mix. A second-floor bedroom and bathroom, with Douglas fir floorboards, is enjoyed by guests.
At Home in the Woods
The pandemic provided another turn in Facci and Gironda’s path. With New York City under quarantine, Facci decided to try living upstate full-time. With both on the premises, they got to work, expanding the property’s gardens and pond and refurbishing a stone terrace together. Facci also turned her eye to a small cottage at the corner of their property. The tiny space included a full stone fireplace and more bluestone walls. “I think whoever built the home lived here while he was building it,” says Facci.
They decided to refurbish the space as a home for Facci’s craft business, Facci’s Felted Friends. Facci learned needle felting during her time living in Manhattan and then begun crafting small woodland creatures with the technique. When a friend asked her to felt two squirrels as a wedding topper, she opened an Etsy shop selling cake designs and individual animals. Then, to challenge herself, she created more lifelike designs. In 2017, a viral video accelerated her needle felting from hobby to business as orders for her creations picked up. Now she runs the business full-time, crafting replicas of pets from her studio. “I just love the joy it brings to my customers,” says Facci. “I enjoy creating the fine details. I try really hard to get all the markings and features right.”
The quarantine didn’t just bring Facci new business opportunities, or the chance to enjoy country life full-time. After living with her husband full-time, for the first time, it brought a happy realization. “We really like each other!” she says.