This Highlands, North Carolina home has an updated take on cabin decor

City style, country charm
Highlands, North Carolina cabin
“A log cabin wasn’t necessarily our target, but the authentic materials and features like the stone fireplace and hardwood floors helped seal the deal,” says homeowner David Spirt. A newly painted turquoise door lets visitors know immediately that this isn’t a typical log cabin.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Highlands, North Carolina cabin
Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Like many Atlantans, Scott Murphy and David Spirt were smitten with the charms of Highlands, North Carolina. “It’s a rare opportunity when a two-hour car trip can transport you to a magical place offering both solitude in the forest and sophisticated amenities,” says David. Last year he and Scott decided the town was perfect for a weekend escape from their demanding jobs—David’s as owner of a jewelry business, and Scott’s as a C-level human resources executive.

The couple didn’t necessarily set out to find a log cabin, notes Scott. Priorities like location, size, and privacy topped the list, but the house’s rustic character did have its charms. “We love the authentic lumber and chinking craftsmanship used to build our place,” says Scott. “Even though the cabin is relatively new—built in 2005—the construction is very similar to log cabins built many years ago.”

Highlands, North Carolina cabin
Comfortable seating for entertaining was a priority. In the living room, a sectional from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and a gray wingback chair welcome guests. Far right, there’s also a pair of sofas on the porch.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Giving the retreat a modern twist was always the plan. “We didn’t want a mountain place decorated with antlers, plaids, twigs, and berries,” says Scott. “The idea was to respect the cabin but give it some interest.” Also on their wish list: a glass-front refrigerator and unexpected use of color.

They immediately called Niki Papadopoulos of Mark Williams Design Associates, as she had already proven her skill at creating fresh, contemporary decor by remodeling their condo at the historic Plaza Towers, Atlanta’s first residential high-rise. But this time the guys challenged her not only with an out-of-town location, but also with a tight deadline—allowing only eight weeks for renovating and furnishing the three-bedroom house so it would be ready for them to host a Labor Day bash.

Painting the kitchen cabinets and upgrading the countertops had an immediate impact, says Niki, who chose a subdued taupe finish but added turquoise knobs and pulls. Blue accents became a motif throughout the house, appearing on the front door and in the dining area window treatments. The draperies’ bold stripe includes a palette of happy colors that instantly brighten the brown log walls. “We wanted a fabric where you’d get a lot of impact,” she notes.

To meet the tight deadline, Niki shopped online and at local retail stores, choosing generously sized seating such as the sectionals for the living room and small sofas for the porch so that each room could seat up to six people. Rooms in the mountains need to accommodate a group since, as she notes, “life in Highlands is all about entertaining.”

Scott likes that the cabin is relaxing, yet its style is energizing. “The cabin is my happy place,” he says. “When I enter it, my blood pressure drops and my spirits rise.”

Interior design
Niki Papadopoulos, ASID, NCIDQ; Mark Williams Design Associates; Living room Sofa: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Dining room Table: Blu Dot, Light fixture: Grey Furniture, Foyer Console: Noir, Master bedroom Nightstands: West Elm, Chair: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Porch Fiberglass rocking chairs: Modernica,

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2015 issue of
Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.