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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

Book Friday: An Elegant Wilderness

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Before Palm Beach, the Hamptons, St. Barts and St. Tropez, the American elite whiled away their summer months in a place a little more rustic: the Adirondacks. Though Upstate New York is no longer the getaway it used to be, there are still remnants of its rich past left in the architecture of its grand lodges. In "An Elegant Wilderness" a new book out from Acanthus Press, author Gladys Montgomery explains the Adirondack architectural style within the context of the time period, from 1855-1935.

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The book is a stunning account of a time gone by, with nearly 300 black and white photographs of the lodges, including the exteriors, interiors and the people who spent time in them. It's really interesting to see how these families decorated their homes to reflect both the wilderness around them and the aesthetics of the early 20th century. The images act as a time-machine back to another era, and the houses are quite inspirational. They would be great for anyone planning to decorate their own second home, or just bring a little more nature into their urban dwelling.

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A great two-tier porch. Knollwood in 1899.
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1 A great two-tier porch. Knollwood in 1899. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

What an eclectic dining room. The bathroom looks a little more peaceful. Interior of Camp Inman, c. 1890. (

2 What an eclectic dining room. The bathroom looks a little more peaceful. Interior of Camp Inman, c. 1890. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

An expansive boathouse. This family must have spent a lot of time on the water. Boathouse at Topridge. (

3 An expansive boathouse. This family must have spent a lot of time on the water. Boathouse at Topridge. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

A very dramatic front gate. Entrance to Litchfield Park. (

4 A very dramatic front gate. Entrance to Litchfield Park. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

I like the simple sophistication of these rooms. Camp Wild Air in 1895. (

5 I like the simple sophistication of these rooms. Camp Wild Air in 1895. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

The layering of many different Native American motifs makes this room a bit busy, but in a good way. Topridge lodge. (

6 The layering of many different Native American motifs makes this room a bit busy, but in a good way. Topridge lodge. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

I'm sure that boathouse patio was a popular entertaining spot. The boathouse at Camp Inman, c. 1923. (

7 I'm sure that boathouse patio was a popular entertaining spot. The boathouse at Camp Inman, c. 1923. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

The incorporation of oriental pieces is very reminiscent of the period. Jesswin Camp on Fourth Lake. (

8 The incorporation of oriental pieces is very reminiscent of the period. Jesswin Camp on Fourth Lake. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

Even the tents look pretty luxurious. Raquette Lake Camp, c. 1910. (

9 Even the tents look pretty luxurious. Raquette Lake Camp, c. 1910. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

There's something great about the simplicity of log cabin design. Camp Bluff Point in 1885. (

10 There's something great about the simplicity of log cabin design. Camp Bluff Point in 1885. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

The front porches of this camp would be perfect to unwind from the stresses of the city. Camp Bluff Point, in 1885. (

11 The front porches of this camp would be perfect to unwind from the stresses of the city. Camp Bluff Point, in 1885. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

I can see why this lake was popular. The stillness is so calming to look at. Boat House at Stokes Camp, c. 1890. (

12 I can see why this lake was popular. The stillness is so calming to look at. Boat House at Stokes Camp, c. 1890. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

The incorporation of tree branches is so whimsical. It's like sleeping outside–without all the bugs. Kamp Kill Kare, c. 1935. (

13 The incorporation of tree branches is so whimsical. It's like sleeping outside–without all the bugs. Kamp Kill Kare, c. 1935. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

Some lodge decorating can go a bit over the top with the use of wood, but I actually like the natural material of this desk. It's very simple and straightforward. Wonundra in 1930. (

14 Some lodge decorating can go a bit over the top with the use of wood, but I actually like the natural material of this desk. It's very simple and straightforward. Wonundra in 1930. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

I love the use of animal furs in decorating (though I prefer faux). It really warms up a room. Kamp Kill Kare, c. 1935. (

15 I love the use of animal furs in decorating (though I prefer faux). It really warms up a room. Kamp Kill Kare, c. 1935. ("An Elegant Wilderness," Gladys Montgomery)

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Comments (1)

  • It was common back then to have a household staff I can't imagine these high society folks roughing it in the woods without The Help.

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