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When New York native Michael Bolognino and Texas native Nick Spain first met at a party in New York City on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, they had no idea that a 19th century Berkshires property would completely change their lives.
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Within two years, the Brooklyn couple bought the historic home in West Stockbridge, then spent two years meticulously renovating the property before listing it on Airbnb where it has snagged the attention of national publications such as Conde Nast Traveler, which just named it the coolest Airbnb in Massachusetts. What’s more: The project launched a new career for Spain, provided a meaningful backdrop for their 2018 wedding reception, and inspired a relocation to Massachusetts.
The Filomena, named after Bolognino’s grandmother and also dubbed “the design-iest house in the Berkshires” by Conde Nast Traveler, is a 4,500 square-foot former rectory built in 1850 with 13-foot ceilings, six bedrooms, a chef’s kitchen, and four bathrooms on an acre of land with gardens. It’s walking distance from town.
“In the whole entire state, to be selected as the coolest was an incredible achievement,” said Bolognino, 42, a marketing manager at Google and certified life coach. “It made me proud.”
“I hope it was chosen because of the fact that it maybe redefines what a historic renovation has to look like, specifically within the context of New England,” said Spain, 33, who began an interior design career since the project. “We made a lot of choices that I’m really proud of that are kind of atypical as far as what historic renovations look like.”
Spain said they still honored the property’s structure while making choices that are “different and fun and colorful and vibrant.”
The choices helped to land the house in The New York Times, Berkshire Magazine, and Architectural Digest over the years.
When they bought the house in 2016, the avid HGTV watchers longed for a design project and were drawn to the Berkshires after spending time there visiting an old friend.
“The plan was, let’s make something our own, that’s out of the city, that we can share with the people we love, and that we can share with people we don’t know and make it into a business,” Bolognino said.
They originally imagined buying a small property, but the large home — and quaint town of West Stockbridge — stole their hearts.
“The main street is exactly what you imagine when you think of a New England main street,” Bolognino said.
The couple got to work renovating.
“We did everything we possibly could ourselves that did not require permitting,” Bolognino said.
As they modernized the property, they were mindful of preserving its historic details.
“There’s a lot of beautiful, original window casings, door frames, molding,” Spain said. “The bannister, the original staircase is still all intact. Most of the original floors are intact.”
Conde Nast Traveler lauded the home’s “millennial pink living room.”
“We actually call the room ‘The Ladies Who Lunch Room,’” Bolognino said. “Because we’ve been collecting paintings and portraits of random women at estate sales, and the room has probably eight or nine different portraits.”
The pink living room was Spain’s idea.
“He wanted a contrast,” Bolognino said. “We knew we wanted a dark, masculine, broody, black dining room, which is on one side of the hallway. The hallway itself is a really beautiful neutral light gray. And then opposite that is this feminine, soft, warm, pink room. And so his vision was to sort of counter balance those two sides of the home, and he did that throughout the whole house.”
When asked about the coolest part of the house, Bolognino picked the gardens and the unique hardwood ceilings found in some of the rooms.
“When I think about why I wanted to buy this house, that sealed the deal for me,” he said.
For Spain, it’s the kitchen, which the couple moved from the back of the house to the front of the house.
“I love our kitchen,” Spain said. “It just makes me happy, and it’s a lovely space to begin your day.”
The men had no intention of ever living in the house full-time, but the coronavirus pandemic changed that.
“We had to work from home and we had a tiny studio in Brooklyn and we thought, ‘Why not spend it up here at our big house?” Bolognino said.
They moved in and never moved out. But they still have an apartment in Brooklyn since they often work in the city. The Filomena is now for rent during certain times of the year: long weekends, major holidays, and the entire month of August, Bolognino said. When renters are there, the couple vacates the premises.
Bolognino’s advice to other Airbnb hosts: “Make it an experience.”
“And that can be as simple as leaving out some local cheese and a bottle of wine, or some fresh-cut flowers,” he said. “Make the person feel tied to the house in a way that it’s more than just a house they are staying at and it’s more of an experience of wherever they are. And get a really good cleaning crew. We couldn’t do this without a cleaning crew.”
The Airbnb isn’t far from world-class music venue Tanglewood, which just released its 2022 lineup. Guests can also appreciate the arts at TurnPark Art Space, a former quarry turned sculpture park recommended by Conde Nast Traveler (and where Bolognino and Spain tied the knot before walking back to The Filomena with family and friends to celebrate).
Conde Nast Traveler called the getaway “a superb pick for a stylish family reunion.”
“It’s not your average Airbnb,” Bolognino said. “It’s actually an experience. It’s super unique. There’s 13 rooms, and they’re all incredibly different from each other, yet they’re related. There’s unexpected furniture, unexpected color choices. There’s art in every room. I think you come here because you appreciate design and you appreciate beauty.”
The Airbnb costs $750 per night.
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