Home Away From Home

Martha Stewart Living - - Contents -

Model and style icon Carolyn Mur­phy ren­o­vates a place in the coun­try.

When you’re blessed with good bones, beauty comes nat­u­rally. We could be talk­ing about model Carolyn Mur­phy, who ar­guably won the ge­netic lottery in the looks cat­e­gory, but we’re talk­ing about her 18th-cen­tury home on Long Is­land. Af­ter a re­cent ren­o­va­tion, its orig­i­nal tim­ber frame has be­come a spare yet strik­ing space with wide­plank pine floors and creamy plas­ter walls. And within sight of meet­ing Mur­phy, we know ex­actly where it got its style. Far from a fash­ion show or photo shoot, she stands bare­foot and bare-faced, wear­ing old Levi’s and a T-shirt, look­ing ra­di­ant. Mur­phy first saw the house in the sum­mer of 2016 and in­stantly fell in love with it. “My mind went cre­atively wild,” she re­calls. “I was al­ready paint­ing and re­ar­rang­ing it.” The el­derly owner shared the spe­cial qual­i­ties of the place and that it had been in her fam­ily for nearly 50 years. The only prob­lem: Mur­phy wasn’t in the po­si­tion to buy it and re­luc­tantly had to walk away. The fol­low­ing spring, when she and her daugh­ter Dy­lan, now 17, were in the area again, Dy­lan saw that the home was still on the mar­ket, and the owner re­mem­bered them when they drove up: “She had tears in her eyes and said, ‘I knew you’d come back!’ It was like a love story.”

At the same time, the home, which ac­tu­ally com­prises two 18th-cen­tury houses joined in 1987, needed work. The op­po­site of Mur­phy’s il­lu­mi­nated and pared-down aes­thetic, “it was done in chintz and toile and painted in ‘Amer­i­cana’ col­ors— dark red, blue, mus­tard, and olive,” she ex­plains. The win­dows, stairs, and floors were sten­ciled in deep shades, and the mas­ter bath had an ’80s Jacuzzi–style tub. What the place needed, she re­al­ized, was a ma­jor make- un­der— the do­mes­tic equiv­a­lent of good jeans and a T-shirt.

By na­ture, Mur­phy was up for the task: A lover of home de­sign since she was a kid, she used to get in trou­ble for re­dec­o­rat­ing while her par­ents were out. “Some peo­ple like shop­ping for clothes; I like shop­ping for lamps,” she says. Her eye for style also caught the at­ten­tion of Shi­nola, which named her women’s de­sign direc­tor in 2014. She soon hired a contractor and over­saw the ren­o­va­tion. Step one was si­lenc­ing the ca­coph­ony of wall col­ors: “There is noth­ing white paint can’t cure.” Next came a dump­ster, which got filled with plas­tic shower stalls, dated van­i­ties, and lowhang­ing cab­i­nets from a guest room. “When friends stayed over, they’d wake up and im­me­di­ately hit their heads,” she says.

She also took pains to pre­serve many his­toric el­e­ments, from an­tique door­knobs and light fix­tures to orig­i­nal wood­work—and en­joyed every minute of it. “This stage of my life is about con­tin­u­ing to do what I love: be­ing a mother, mod­el­ing, ex­plor­ing the world, and find­ing ways to be creative,” says Mur­phy. “This bal­ance is some­thing I was long­ing for.”

The home sits on a quiet half- acre over­look­ing the wa­ter, and farms are a 10-minute drive away. “I’m en­chanted by the idea of farm­land and beaches in one place,” she says. A SWE E T S P O T

Daugh­ter Dy­lan de­scends the stairs from the guest bed­room. When Mur­phy bought the house, they were painted deep red and sten­ciled with black and red di­a­monds. SIM­PLE STEPS

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