A version of this story appears in the Winter 2018 One Kings Lane catalog.
On set for our catalog cover shoot, Carolyn Murphy sipped her tea and laughed with her styling team in a way that suggested they’d all been friends for years. A supermodel in every sense of the word, Carolyn is perhaps best known as the face of Estée Lauder. She has also done campaigns for Prada, Versace, and Oscar de la Renta and served as a creative consultant at Shinola since 2014.
Yet it’s the world of interiors, not fashion, that gives her visceral satisfaction. Carolyn’s most recent renovation project, a farmhouse in Sag Harbor, NY, will be her 12th—and by no means her last. “I tend to change addresses quite a bit,” she admits, “and once I’ve rehabilitated whatever I’m working on, I’ll sell it.” It’s a cyclical process, but also an evolutionary one. “I’m not at an age or place in my life where I feel the need to express myself through physical appearance,” says Carolyn. “My homes are much more fun than my fashion sense, and they’ve always been more personal—they’re the environments that I’m able to share with whoever I want to join in.”
Those environments have taken many forms over the years: In 1997, at around the time that she became the face of Gucci, Carolyn left her all-white Manhattan loft for a “tree house” in Costa Rica filled with earthy teak furnishings. She calls it her “Jane Goodall moment,” a time to step back from her hectic career and spend barefoot days surfing and riding horses. “It was a cleansing time, because I needed things to be next to nothing. Just the basics.”
But then came motherhood, a change in perspective, and another, more calculated move. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, Carolyn traded the tree house for an 18th-century farmhouse in the hills of upstate New York. It was here where she gave birth to her daughter, Dylan, and here that her personal aesthetic entered a new phase. In an effort to create a soothing environment in which to enjoy being a mom, Carolyn furnished the architecturally Dutch home with “very Scando” pieces.
“My interior design style has had so many incarnations, but gradually it’s become more about comfort over everything else,” she says. A pair of striped poufs for her Labradors, Emerson and Rupert; relaxed table linens for family dinners and get-togethers with friends: These are the pieces that catch her eye these days. Knowing when to let go of what no longer serves her needs—and having the wherewithal to find what does—is perhaps the best summation of how Carolyn lives her style. If the place doesn’t work, move. If the sofa can’t withstand kids and dogs, replace it. If you love it, keep it, and if you don’t, let it go.
For Murphy, style is about a way of being—and with respect to interiors, it’s not so much about decoration as it is about expression. In speaking of the homes she’s lived in and what she’s filled them with, it’s clear just how much each piece has meant to her. If any hold bad memories, you wouldn’t know it, because in the end, all is beautiful and well.