Modern pastoral: Inside a Calvin Klein Home exec's cabin

Story highlights

  • A rustic retreat got a modern makeover from a Calvin Klein exec
  • Amy Mellen recharges her creative batteries in her upstate New York cabin
  • Mellen incorporated trees from her property into the home's walls and furniture
  • "Everyone has heirlooms or meaningful pieces with journeys and stories behind them"
When Amy Mellen set out in search of a weekend house 15 years ago, what she wanted was a place to see and be seen—by crickets, sparrows, coyotes, and frogs, as well as by a few dear friends.
To Mellen, already a rising star in the design world at the time, weekends were a chance to recharge her creative batteries. And for that, nothing worked as powerfully as time spent outdoors, which meant that a quiet corner of Dutchess County, in upstate New York, was a better setting for her downtime than, say, the über-social Hamptons.
"I love, love, love being outside," she says. "I take inspiration constantly from things I see in nature."
Today Mellen is the creative director for Calvin Klein Home; as such, she oversees nine different product categories encompassing everything from teacups to sofas. Yet she still trades in her leather pumps for Blundstone work boots every Friday evening before heading north to the cottage that captured her heart.
She remembers the first time she saw it: "The Realtor and I drove up the driveway—it's really long and goes over a stream, and all the trees were weighed down with snow. It was so tucked back; we were like, 'This has to be a mistake.' Inside, the owners had left a fire going in the fireplace. I fell in love with the place immediately."
She also fell for the sellers themselves, an older couple who had lived in the house since it was first built as a fishing cabin in the 1960s, and had painstakingly cared for it ever since. "They had records for everything: how much they'd paid, every repair, every warranty. And all the tools in the shed were meticulously labeled: 'potato hoe,' 'garden hoe.'" When they moved out, they left her a canoe, a lawn mower, and a sense of reverence for the spirit of the place.
"I told them, 'I'll never touch anything,'" says Mellen. And for a long time, she kept her word. But Mellen