There’s a longstanding dream for many a New Yorker, and it goes a little something like this:
Step One: Leave NYC (if applicable)
Step Two: Find a gorgeous old house in the Hudson Valley countryside
Step Three: Open a bed & breakfast
Step Four: Enjoy life
As far as dreams go, it’s a solid one. Yet although it seems feasible in concept, it’s something of a struggle to turn that charming mental picture into a reality. Between hunting for the perfect property, tackling the inevitable renovations, and leaving a 9-to-5 salary behind to pursue an uncertain future, the dream can lead to more detours and headaches than the effort is worth.
But Alana Colucci did it.
A Marist College graduate and former Manhattanite, she waved goodbye to NYC in 2018 in order to open Watergrasshill Bed & Breakfast in New Paltz. She had grown tired of her desk job as a book cover designer and knew it was time to return to her roots in the Hudson Valley. After relocating upstate, she decided to pursue her passion for design and hospitality by opening a B&B. She quickly acquired the 1810 farmhouse where her grandparents once lived, then went to work to transform it into a picturesque retreat on the border of Gardiner and New Paltz.
While the house had good bones from the start, Colucci knew it required a few tweaks to fit her vision. With help from her father, the contractor behind Ultimate Homes in Gardiner, she expanded the kitchen into a studio space for workshops and demonstrations. She also added bathrooms and renovated the existing ones in each room.
Open since June 2018, Watergrasshill is a charming, intimate destination on 15 acres of quiet countryside of Ulster County. With four rooms designed for two guests apiece, it’s an ideal escape for couples looking for a weekend away or friends who crave a fun-filled few days in the Hudson Valley. Regardless of who passes through the B&B’s doors, Colucci gives everyone her warmest welcome and does all she can to make the space feel like a second home.
“I want [guests] to feel like it’s their home away from home,” she says. For Colucci, who resides at the property with her fiancé, that notion of home first called to her during a family trip to Ireland. Throughout the vacation, she fell for the welcoming atmospheres at the bed & breakfasts in which her family stayed. At each retreat, owners would warm them up with tea and stories, fill them with hearty meals, and send them on their way with insider recommendations that only longtime locals would know. Colucci loved every second of it, and she knew she wanted to do the same thing at Watergrasshill.
To start, she named the space after her grandparents’ hometown in Ireland. She called each of the rooms after an Irish wildflower and placed family recipes at the core of her home-cooked breakfasts. While she keeps it straightforward with a continental spread during the week, on the weekends she treats guests to farm-fresh fare with everything from scones and muffins to fruit parfaits, frittatas, and spiced orange French toast. Since Watergrasshill is a short distance from farms like Dressel, Wallkill View, Wright’s, and Tantillo’s, Colucci loves to spotlight the Hudson Valley bounty as it changes from one season to the next.
At Watergrasshill, however, the stays are only part of the story. For guests and locals alike, Colucci offers a regular series of workshops designed to introduce Hudson Valleyites to new crafts and hobbies. It’s something she wanted to do from the start, and she loves how the programming has taken off within the community.
“When I started, I was going into this blindly,” she says. “Now, I have a lot of people [interested in teaching classes] coming to me.”
Working in partnership with local artisans and chefs, Colucci hosts sessions that touch upon topics like floral design, macramé, painting, and sheet pan cooking. Although she was originally the one reaching out to prospective instructors, she now receives a significant number of inquiries and recommendations from within her Watergrasshill community.
Take the cooking classes, for example. After receiving a request for pastry lessons, she connected with Chef Melissa Walnock, the chef behind the Culinary Institute of America’s Apple Pie Bakery Café. Walnock lives just down the road, but it wasn’t until a workshop participant recommended her that the two women met. Now, Walnock stops by regularly to instruct locals on how to decorate cookies and cakes as only a CIA instructor can.
“People use them as a night out with friends,” Colucci observes of the workshops. Because many of the lessons are on weekdays, they attract locals who crave a break from the workweek or a new twist on date night. On weekends, meanwhile, she opens the kitchen to area chefs for demo-style dinners that are just as instructive as they are delicious.
With more than a year under her belt, Colucci can’t wait to expand upon her workshop programming and introduce new crafting sessions and instructors into the mix. She loves the opportunity to meet new people, since it gives her a chance to hear their stories and share memories of her own.
“I love doing something different every day,” she says. “I love that [the Hudson Valley] is such a destination for people. It’s great to be here in such a booming time for this area.”
Watergrasshill Bed & Breakfast
105 Phillies Bridge Rd, New Paltz