If you had to describe your dream winter lodge, what would it look like? Perhaps it would have soaring exposed beams and cozy sheepskin rugs, or maybe it would be perched atop a mountain with sprawling views of the snow-covered landscape beneath. For interior designer Kathy Kuo's clients, a couple in their 30s and early 40s with three children, this became a reality when they discovered a plot of land in one of the most idyllic spots in upstate New York.
"When the opportunity came along to purchase the lot that was at the top of the mountain (no houses are allowed to be higher than theirs), they jumped at the opportunity," says Kuo. "Being that their house is perched at the peak of the mountain, it is a true ski-in and ski-out house. The ski lift drops off right at their side entrance, and the views are breathtaking, to say the least."
Starting with only a plot of land, Kuo worked closely with the builder on this ground-up construction to create a warm and welcoming winter home for the family of five. The result? Let's just say if this was our lodge, we'd never want to leave.
"The clients were looking for a modern, rustic ski lodge look that was chic and beautiful while being family-friendly and a great vacation home for the holidays and ski trips," says Kuo of the winter home in Windham, a town in the Catskill Mountains of New York state. "Our goal was to create something family-friendly that had all the nostalgic warmth and hallmarks of a mountain house, while still being modern, sophisticated, and functional as a true ski-in and ski-out house."
Dubbed the "great room," this central living area is the heart of the home and certainly the showstopper. "The great room was our focus, as we needed it to clear all views into the valley," she says. While the views take center stage, Kuo also drew attention to the hearth by installing a glass-back fireplace, which allows guests to see through to the master bedroom. "[It's] the anchoring architectural element for the room," she says. "The décor is rustic and nature-inspired, lots of leather, wood, bone elements, etc., but it's tied together will sleek, modern elements like the blue velvet armchair."
The majority of furniture in the home was sourced from Kuo's eponymous décor website, Kathy Kuo Home. "As you may know from our site, we're big on neutrals and blues at KKH, but we didn't have a color scheme as much as we had a textural theme," she explains. "We placed in our Bradford coffee table that is made from hundreds of individually cut branches molded into a stainless steel base. We used wood tones to guide the eye, which was a combination of ghost wood, reclaimed wood, walnut, and unfinished pine."
Each room exudes warmth and coziness, which was Kuo's design goal. "The loft and guest bedroom were all about comfort and providing guests a winter retreat experience," she says. "We went with fuzzy pillows and fur throws mixed with wood and other natural elements. As a palette, everything was kept white and neutral." A textural sheepskin rug and Matouk bedding make the master bedroom even more inviting.
While the living room and bedrooms epitomize rustic charm, the bathrooms take on a different character. "Our client loved a mix of rustic and industrial," she says. Given it was a ground-up construction, there was freedom to create the bathroom of her clients' dreams. "We worked with the builder after all the framing was up to conceptualize each room's design concept. This started with flooring, kitchen, and bathroom materials that pulled together modern yet rustic Adirondack elements."
Kuo admits that if she had to choose a favorite part of the home, it would be something her team had no control over: the view. "[It's something that we had no hand in designing and is the single most spectacular element to this house," she says.
While the mountaintop location is certainly a feature, it also proved to be one of the biggest challenges of the project. "In the winter months during site visits, traversing the icy switchbacks proved to be nearly impossible. We almost couldn't get our SUV up the final stretch, but our delivery team was excellent (honestly, they're superheroes)," she says. "They hauled sofas, tables, and other furniture over piles of snow and ice. It was definitely one of the hardest installs we have had."
While the home adheres to a natural, neutral color palette, bursts of blue punctuate the space and nod to the icy surrounds. "The combination of raw iron and rustic reclaimed wood tones made for an organic, textural base. Then, we layered navy on top with the two Gracie Wing Chairs. We love the contemporary blue velvet upholstery on a traditional wingback silhouette."
The home's enviable location means the family can open the door and ski out. "One practical requirement was the side entrance to the garage where you could ski directly out of. A ramp was built so that you could clip into your bindings and ski out the door," says Kuo. "We outfitted a boot drying rack, custom millwork in the mudroom, and a washer and dryer right into the mudroom so that it could be a functional ski-in and ski-out house."
There's no doubt that a great deal of thought, planning, and attention to detail has gone into this project, which Kuo speaks of with great affection. The loft, she says, was the most satisfying room to see completed. "We drew out all the sketches and plans for the custom millwork. It's all done in custom fabrics, custom cushions, reclaimed wood drawers, and shelving that all came together. It was worth every single design minute."
Inspired to make your house winter-ready? Here's how to get the cozy upstate New York look at home.