April Brown & Sarah Sklash: Modern Moteliers

Back in 2016, besties-turned-business partners, April Brown and Sarah Sklash, quit their day jobs and started chasing the millennial dream by following their combined passion for travel, wine and design — all of which eventually led them to flipping motels.

The art of flipping homes is a time-consuming venture and requires lots of TLC. Few people are able to bring out their true potential and gain a return on their investment.

Luckily, when best friends April Brown and Sarah Sklash serendipitously fell into flipping their first motel together, The June Motel, their work paid off. Fast-forward a few years, and Brown and Sklash are now the subjects of their own hit Netflix series, Motel Makeover. In the six-episode series, they bring their design magic to their second project, The June Motel in Sauble Beach, Ont.

The key to their success? Knowing how to spot a diamond in the rough and polishing it into an über-Instagrammable space and infusing it with a millennial twist on hospitality. “From offering a glass of rosé upon check-in to focusing on tiny details, we want our guests to feel cared for,” share Sklash and Brown.

“Staying Somewhere That Has A Personal, Handcrafted Touch Really Makes A Big Difference In How Connected To The Destination You Feel”

Q: What does the process of renovating a motel look like? What are some of the challenges and rewards?
A: Motel Makeover is a true representation of what this is like. You can see the ups and downs of our experience. One huge challenge that we faced was just renovating during COVID-19. It was really hard to get the furniture we wanted and the materials we needed in time. The scariest was when we were days before opening and had a half-built pool deck and just couldn’t get any more lumber. There were moments when we doubted if we’d be able to pull it all off, but we’re so happy it all came together. The biggest reward was enjoying the success of both properties and getting to share The June with so many people via our show.

Q: What makes Motel Makeover different from other renovation shows?
A: Motel Makeover stands out to us because of the uniqueness of flipping a motel, and the challenges we faced during COVID-19. We loved how authentic we were able to make it, to show everyone what it really felt like.

Q: You have two locations (Prince Edward County, Ont., and Sauble Beach). If you wanted to expand your motel empire, where would be your next location?
A: We’re not sure yet. We’re always on the lookout for those diamond-in-the rough properties and up-and-coming locations for travel.

Q: What are the main differences between motels and hotels for those who don’t know?
We know millennials are looking for one-of-a-kind, unique travel experiences. Motels really embody this throwback to the “good old days,” which is what our brand is all about. Motels play into this nicely, especially with the outdoor room entrances and smaller number of rooms.

Q: What is the secret to making a space “Instagrammable”?
A: We like to pull a lot of inspiration from the surrounding nature, the town we’re in and the motel itself. For us, that meant leaning into that 1970s beach-town vibe and embracing a colour palette inspired by the Sauble Beach sunset — sun-faded yellows, terracotta, soft blue and a warm blush.

Q: What advice would you give people who are scared to take the leap into a totally different job or life experience?
A: We would encourage everyone to trust themselves to take this leap and lean on their network. We wouldn’t have been able to create The June without the support of our friends and family, and leaned heavily on them when things got tough. We used to joke that we’d invite people to come visit and then offer them a paintbrush.

Q: What does an ideal vacation look like?
A: It always starts with, “What hotels do we want to stay at or check out?” and then we build the vacation around that. Staying somewhere that has a personal, handcrafted touch really makes a big difference in how connected to the destination you feel.

Q: What does hospitality mean to you?
A: To us, hospitality is making our guest feel like an old friend. From offering a glass of rosé upon check-in, to focusing on tiny details, we want our guests to feel cared for when they’re at The June.

Q: How do you stay grounded?
A: We work hard to prioritize time for ourselves and enjoy being on this journey together, so that we can share all the ups and downs with each other.

Q: What are both of your definitions of happiness?
A: For both of us, happiness is about doing more of the things we love and building a business that has purpose and is meaningful to us. It’s also about balancing the work we do with travel, friends, family and, of course, good food and wine.


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Estelle Zentil

Estelle Zentil