This Catskills Cabin Embraces Easy Living

A full-of-potential lakeside retreat in the Catskills goes from fine-enough to fabulous, thanks to a designer’s masterful mix of modern touches, laid-back comfort, and rustic chic.

Interior design pro Kevie Murphy didn’t grow up dreaming of a career that involved paint swatches, wallpaper, and fine furniture. Far from it, in fact. Raised on Long Island, Murphy attended Boston University to study political science, math, and French. Soon after she went on to law school, followed by a stint as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, then a partner position at a prestigious New York City law firm. Amidst her whirlwind career, she got married and became a mom.

lakeside cabin

Though she enjoyed law, Murphy decided to take a break to focus on family. (She and her husband of 17 years, Stephen, now have four children ranging from ages 9 to 15.) They bought a home in Brooklyn Heights that required “really a ton of work,” recalls Murphy with a laugh. Without hesitating, she jumped in with both feet, thinking through plans for an extensive renovation, overseeing construction and designing rooms that were warm and welcoming but also extremely functional. Through that process, she realized her passion for interior design and decided to enroll at Manhattan’s New York School of Interior Design. “Many of the instructors were working designers and they were also wonderful teachers,” says Murphy. “There were tons of classes that were terrific for career changers like me, and I loved it all.” Her first paying client was a referral from a mom friend she made at her son’s and daughter’s preschool. “Her brother had a bought a 2,000-square-foot two-bedroom city apartment that needed to be redone, and she told him about me,” shares Murphy. As time went on and word-of-mouth recommendations resulted in more and more inquiries and booked jobs, she decided to launch her own full-service design firm, k.a. murphy interiors.

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Interestingly, that first client wanted nothing to do with the renovation beyond initial consultations to convey his specific objectives for the space, talk money, and give Murphy a clear sense of his taste. He moved out for the duration and didn’t return (not even once!) until the project was complete. He was so thrilled with the result that when he bought a White Lake house built in 2006 that needed a refresh, he immediately tapped Murphy to do her thing. Again, once goals and budget were established, he vowed to stay out of the home, located in The Chapin Estate (a Sotheby’s enclave). “He told me it makes him nuts when clients try to micromanage him instead of relying on his expertise, and he refused to do that to me,” recalls Murphy.

Operation Catskills cabin interior overhaul quickly got underway, with the aim of creating a second home where the owner could relax with his family and host his siblings and their kids for weekends and holidays. The agenda was a mix of major construction—including gutting the kitchen to create an airy, open space for cooking and casual entertaining—and cosmetic upgrades. Once again, her hands-off client was thrilled with her work—thus proving there’s no arguing with success, even for a former lawyer.


On the Dock

Adirondack chairs? Yes, please—the dock was practically begging for them. Whiling away a summer day swimming, boating, or fishing is hard to beat, but certainly there’s also beauty in just sitting back, breathing in the fresh air, and watching the water. Wine optional but encouraged.

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The Living Is Easy

The stunning stone fireplace, above, commands attention in the living room and then some. It provides a natural focal point in a space where a generously dimensioned sectional, piles of pillows, and a priceless view lure people to settle in for hours. The two magnificent light fixtures overhead, installed by the previous homeowner, complement the rustic feel and lend lovely, diffuse light.

Playing Games

Murphy was more than happy to prioritize the homeowner’s request for a poker table, but obviously a green felt situation was not in the cards. Instead, the same casual elegance that plays through in the rest of the house imbues an ideal space for gathering and gaming.

cabin seating area

Sweet Dreams

The primary bedroom’s pale walls and linens offer striking contrast to the black ceiling. Custom roman shades and drapes combine the room’s two hues in a tribal-inspired pattern that plays up the black frames on the windows and doors, while woven leather on the headboard and footboard add nubby, natural texture. For the finishing touch, Murphy selected the Sierra ceiling flush mount from Troy Lighting. Between the distressed bronze finish and the organic feel of bare branches, it’s the picture of subtle sophistication. The vibe continues seamlessly into the bath, at left, thanks to its thoughtfully curated mix of variegated woods, stone, and tile.

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cabin bedroom

Basement Beauty

The lower level provides an easy walkout to White Lake, the deepest lake in Sullivan County. The sizable cream-colored couch and a big burst of greenery from the property break up the brown of all the wood paneling on the walls and ceiling. A pair of chairs round out a comfy, cozy place to chill out.

cabin basement

What’s Cooking

When you want to be triple sure that your kitchen encourages people to hang out, a 12-foot island is the ultimate design hack. Murphy channeled the overall “rustic but elevated vibe” with granite countertops, a tumbled marble backsplash, brass hardware, and a trio of pendant lights. “Painted cabinets definitely would not have worked here,” she says. “Wood was the way to go.”

cabin kitchen

Related: Escape to Mirror Lake Retreat for Camping in Dutchess County

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