A 4.5-hour drive north from New York City stand the highest peaks on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada. The Adirondacks, a protected park and stunning mountain range, are the perfect antidote to city life. The region rose to popularity thanks to William H. H. Murray’s book Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, published in 1869, which unleashed a flood of tourists to the area. The region is home to a large concentration of “great camps,” Craftsman-style country retreats built in the latter half of the 19th century for some of the biggest family fortunes of the American Industrial Revolution—the Kahns, Lehmans, and Guggenheims among them. These cabin compounds used local timber and rustic materials but had no shortage of creature comforts, from massive porches to movie theaters and bowling alleys.
Tourists still frequent the area today. Skiing, skating, sledding, or après-ing are still de rigueur in the winter months, while swimming, paddling, hiking, or bathing in nature’s bounty are on the summer docket. But like most exclusive escapes, the region is best navigated by clued-in locals.
Enter Kathleen Whitaker, a ceramicist, jeweler and longtime ADK seasonal dweller, though she calls Los Angeles home. KW (as she’s affectionately known to friends) has become a household name among the unassumingly fashionable. Her elegant pieces have crept onto the lobes, fingers, necks, lapels, and hats of editors, artists, and bon vivants alike; they can be found everywhere from glass cases at the chicest boutiques in Australia, to, well, the Adirondacks. Her sculptural pieces attract graceful women who appreciate classic design and restraint, much like the pioneering, wilderness-frolicking females who escaped the city for the “modest” country life of the Adirondacks throughout the gilded era. “In the Adirondacks, the rugged wilderness is crossed with comfort and a few of life’s indulgences,” says Whitaker.
Much of KW’s collection is influenced by her wayfaring. “Quiet moments of reflection happen while traveling, which often leads to my biggest breakthroughs or best ideas,” she says. It’s easy to draw a connection between her designs and natural objects, inspired by the wild of the Adirondack mountains where her family has summered and weekended for years. “My family has had a house in the Adirondacks mountains for six generations. Before my father died, he put it in a trust that assures it will stay in the family for another four at least!,” she says. “It’s a grounding, historical home with serenity, serenity, serenity.”