Lindsey Kurowski can still remember her 13th birthday dinner at the Springs Restaurant in New Ashford. The tin cups, the bright carpeting and the wallpaper bring one word to her mind: “funky.”
Almost two decades later, Kurowski says walking through the Springs Motel as the new owner is like “walking through a time capsule.”
“I loved it,” she said of the property at 94 New Ashford Road. “The visual shape of the building is amazing, nothing has changed since it was built in 1950. I love the exterior … the interior I did not love, but luckily that’s the work I do. I’m in love with it.”
Kurowski, a Cheshire native, is the owner and CEO of Knotty Pine, an activation, design and build studio in Los Angeles. Her company creates installations for pop-up events for brands such as Nike, White Claw, Burton, Live Nation, Spotify, Adidas and more.
Her purchase of the Springs Motel in July 2021 is her second commercial acquisition, with the first being Oak Knoll Lodge in Big Bear Lake, Calif. Both renovation projects have been documented and can be seen on Kurowski’s show, “Inn the Making,” now streaming on the Magnolia Network and Discovery+. The second season of the show premiered Oct. 29, 2021, and has eight episodes.
Magnolia Network is a collection of original series curated by Chip and Joanna Gaines, who fans may remember from HGTV’s Fixer Upper.
The Eagle recently spoke with Kurowski about her show and her inspiration for renovating the motel.
FROM THE EAST COAST TO THE WEST COAST
After high school, Kurowski worked as a bartender in Boston for a few years and lived in Rhode Island. The house she was renting in Newport was repossessed by the bank, which meant she had 60 days to find a new place to live. As a consolation, she was given a check for $4,000, which she used to help fund a cross-country road trip to California in her ‘89 Jeep Cherokee Laredo, named Loretta.
Fast forward 10 years, Kurowski is the owner and CEO of Knotty Pine.
“I ended up having a decent eye for build,” she said. “I never did restoration or interior project design before. But Knotty grew fast.” In about three years, she said the company was bringing in a few million dollars, meaning Kurowski and her team were doing well and keeping busy.
“I was on a plane almost five times a month,” Kurowski said. “I get flown by brands to do takeovers and open venues. But I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to come up with something else. I want kids and a husband in the long-term plan. What can I do that combines skills of design, build, interacting with people,’ and I had the crazy idea to buy an old, rundown hotel and host events there.”
Enter the Oak Knoll Lodge in Big Bear Lake.
Looking back on the beginning of the project in 2019, Kurowski confidently says she didn’t know what she was doing when she bought the Oak Knoll Lodge, but she learned by doing. The property was originally built in 1919 and features 12 cabins. “I went in with a gang of builders from Knotty Pine,” she says. “It was a knock out reno on a shoestring budget.”
The restoration journey is the focus of season one of “Inn the Works,” but the project was almost a year underway before the Magnolia Network found Kurowski.
And it was all because of one adamant friend who insisted Kurowski needed to share her story with others.
“My friend is a TV developer and he wanted to make a reel about me,” she said. “I was a chick driving a forklift in an airplane hanger. He said, ‘that’s so cool!’” She recalled at the time, she was working with some large brands and had just made the decision to purchase the Oak Knoll Lodge, and her friend felt that as a young, successful woman, her story needed to be shared to inspire others.
“I said, ‘Fine, I’ll give you 30 minutes and you make one reel.’ It was funny, that friend followed me with an iPhone and my first weekend working there. [Those clips] are the opening scenes in the intro. Where it shows me taking all of my money out of the bank, that’s real.”
RESTORING THE SPRINGS INN
From the archives: A look at the history of the Springs Inn up until 2007.
The original Springs Restaurant and the Springs Motel were built in 1930 and 1959, respectively. Since then, the buildings on Route 7 have changed hands several times, but ultimately kept the original midcentury modern design.
The Springs Inn, also referred to as The Springs Motel, features 20 motel rooms, four cabins and 24 rooms on the back of the property. There is also a pool and a newly constructed outdoor beer garden and lounge area. The rooms on the backside of the motel are next on the renovation list, as those rooms sustained more damage because the roof caved in. As of this summer, guests are officially welcome to stay at the motel.
When Kurowski thinks back to her first walk through when she acquired the property in 2021, she remembers the bright, neon colors, and the cold, cement block walls. The carpet and furniture looked like it hadn’t changed in about 20 years. The bathrooms still had the original tile, which she felt was beautiful enough to leave it as is.
The 1950s, she said, happened to be her favorite design era.
For the colors, lighting and appliances, she said she leaned into the look and feel of the ’50s and ’60s. “I wanted there to be fun wallpapers. The appliances are all vintage inspired. I wanted to remind you of the past but have the comforts of modern times. I’m a huge believer, as a designer, that you don’t tear down and start over; you lean in and work with what’s there. They had it right in 1950.”
Although she was still finishing work on her first property, she was confident in her decision to purchase the second, even if it was during a pandemic.
“COVID changed travel for everybody,” she said, noting that she believes motels and individual units have become more preferred as fewer people want to vacation in a shared space.
“I believe that will be the case for a while. Domestic travel is on, the old American road trip is back!”
BEHIND THE SCENES
On average, each episode of the show is a span of about five days, during which Kurowski says her team must actually complete that mission in the time frame and make corrections or fixes at a later time. The network provides a film crew to document the work, but the rest of the team is assembled by Kurowski.
For this season, she employed the help of her family, who currently reside in Cheshire, California and Texas. She says she’s grateful to have the support of her family.
“They don’t sign up for these projects, I do,” she says. “The filming is hard and the work is tough, but it’s been mostly fun.”
ADVICE FOR POTENTIAL RENOVATORS
If you’re a couple, Kurowski recommends having a couples counselor on retainer. But in all seriousness, expect that most do-it-yourself projects are going to cost more and are likely to take longer than you think. For larger projects, consider if you should live elsewhere while the project is under construction.
“It will be worth it in the end because it’s yours,” she says. But don’t worry about imperfection and to just have fun.
“You’re the only one who’s going to see that tiny tile is crooked. It’s going to be worth the ride to see the vision come to life in the end. Don’t be super serious. Have fun and watch YouTube. You’re not hired as a contractor, so it’s going to come out like you’re not a contractor. But you’ll do better every time. And again, I’m serious about that couples counselor.”
All episodes of “Inn the Works” are now streaming on the Magnolia Network, the Magnolia app, Discovery+, and on TV through your cable or satellite provider.