A Star Reborn: Borscht Belt-era Starlite Motel in Kerhonkson, NY Gets New Life | Lodging | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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A Star Reborn: Borscht Belt-era Starlite Motel in Kerhonkson, NY Gets New Life 

click to enlarge STARLITE MOTEL
  • Starlite Motel

Despite being called “a gorgeous hamlet” by the New York Post and immortalized as “Kerhampton,” in the New York Times, Kerhonkson, NY still remains a pretty sleepy lil’ town. Most development dollars have been spent building private weekend homes with little to no capital invested in retail, restaurants, or ritzy accommodations. Aside from Airbnbs, there weren’t many lodging options in town until recently, when the vintage Starlite Motel reopened, refurbished for a new century.

The motel’s retro neon sign stands alongside Route 209 in Kerhonkson, just as it has since the lodge’s inception in the ’60s. But today, as you drive toward the property you’ll be greeted by a billowing flag that reads in colorful letters, “All are welcome”—an art piece designed by famed Native American artist Jeffrey Gibson and a symbol that proudly proclaims the lodge's progressive stance.

click to enlarge STARLITE MOTEL
  • Starlite Motel

“We like to describe the Starlite as a lovingly renovated ’60s-era boutique motel,” says co-owner Alix Umen, who purchased the motel with Adriana Farmiga in December 2018. “It’s been beloved by the community and visitors for decades. People come up to us and say, ‘It’s such a special place, don’t change too much!’”

But while most of its retro motor-lodge aesthetic was undeniably cool, some things had to go. For instance, the floral bedspreads and identically matching wallpaper were out, but the pink-and-black tiled bathrooms remain. They repainted the building and opted for classic blue and pink branding throughout, evocative of Miami art deco. “It’s almost like Caribbean-meets-Miami-meets-Kerhonkson,” laughs Farmiga, an artist whose work centers around water and relationships to the color blue.

click to enlarge STARLITE MOTEL
  • Starlite Motel

The six single-queen guest rooms are humble yet well-appointed with luxe linens, organic bath products, and locally made art adorning the walls, such as decorative arrows by Murphy Munday and paintings by Farmiga. Guests will find complimentary Bjorn Corn popcorn as well as artisanal soaps. There are no TVs, but WiFi is available. Additional rooms, including an adjoining suite and an ADA-compliant accommodation, are in the works. Rates as of publication are $200 per weekend night, $150 midweek. Psst! They're offering 30% off for Valentine's Day weekend. 

Guests can pull up a seat at the Starlite Canteen, a lounge area and coffee bar where breakfast is offered weekend mornings. Be sure to view the wall of postcards at the entryway—they’ve been collected from various Starlite Motels around the country; no relation, it’s just a common name. Purchase Starlite merch here, too, like shirts, totes, or the organic bath products found in each room, whose scents were custom created for the motel by an essential oils specialist.

click to enlarge STARLITE MOTEL
  • Starlite Motel

The Canteen opens to an outdoor patio overlooking a renovated saltwater swimming pool and a grilling area. “We want our guests to have a stay that feels like an experience in itself,” Farmiga says. “If they want to hang out and grill, they can go to nearby Applestone Meat Co., bring back food and grill it up. We can give suggestions for family activities in the area, help pack a picnic, provide day passes to Minnewaska—we want to offer a personal touch.”

Tucked between the Shawangunk Ridge and the Catskills, halfway between Kingston and Ellenville, Kerhonkson is an ideal home base for Upstate adventuring. It’s just a short drive from Accord’s agritourism attractions like Kelder’s Farm (all things farmy from U-Pick to hayrides to mini golf), Westwind Orchard (a rustic-chic destination with authentic Italian food, wood-fired pizzas, and farm-fresh hard cider), Arrowood Farm Brewery (a pastoral brewery with corn hole, food trucks, and animals). Plus, being just over the mountain from New Paltz’s countless bars, restaurants, and shops, you won’t get bored here.

click to enlarge STARLITE MOTEL
  • Starlite Motel

“We’ve been embedded in the community for 15 years, so we love giving guests ideas on where to go and what to do,” adds Umen, who worked in the fashion industry for 30 years. She and Farmiga saw the Starlite as an opportunity to collaborate—where their overlapping creative skill sets could combine with their mutual love of the region in a way that would help travelers enjoy it just as much.

“Sure, there’s Mohonk or Airbnb, but laid-back, personalized accommodations have been missing,” Umen says. “I think it’s important to protect the idea of motels as places that are cozy, reasonably priced, and welcoming to all.”


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