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Tip Top Vintage Style
07/03/2012 - By Michael Berman
Photography by AK Photo / Al Kruper
Patrick and Deborah Murray: A Family Home with History
High on a hilltop overlooking Sandy Hook, the Hudson River and the New York City skyline sits a majestic Carpenter Queen Anne Victorian style home built in the late 1800s. This elegant home became known as Tip Top Cottage and was built by Joseph Edwards of the Edward’s Dredging Company. This magnificent example of Atlantic Highlands’ historic architecture has been in the capable and talented hands of the Murray family for the last 31 years. The home features extensive Carpenter Gothic millwork, wrap-around multi-tiered porches and an enclosed octagonal tower, sometimes referred to as a widow’s watch.
Deborah and Patrick Murray met in high school while living in Jersey City. They married in 1978 and moved to Atlantic Highlands, where Deborah’s family had substantial roots. Her father had served as mayor of Atlantic Highlands in the 1960s. The family had known the owners of Tip Top Cottage and even spent time house-sitting on occasion when the family was away. When it came time to sell this special home, Deborah and Patrick were first in line. The historic home could not have found a better owner to help lovingly restore and renovate this classic bit of Atlantic Highlands’ architecture.
Patrick’s father had been in the commercial real estate business, owning rental buildings and restaurants in Greenwich Village. Patrick learned how to maintain and repair old buildings. He now owns Patrick Murray Construction and is proud to have his two sons working with him in the family business, carrying on a great tradition that has taken generations to cultivate. Atlantic Highlands offers the Murrays many opportunities to help homeowners restore and or add on to some of the most beautifully preserved historic architecture in New Jersey.
The Murrays have great affection for Atlantic Highlands and having raised four children in the town, they strongly believe in giving back whenever possible. The Murrays consider being good neighbors a very important part of being part of the community. Their home was on the lantern tour for six years and they have been instrumental in restoring the town’s baseball field to playing condition.
Tip Top Cottage is very much a family affair, and has been for the last 31 years. The vintage home has undergone major restoration work from the tip of the widow’s watch to the foundation masonry. The meticulous approach and respect for the architectural provenance of this home can only be described as a labor of love. Deborah calls the project “a 99-year project” and according to her, they are right on schedule.
Upon moving into their historic house Patrick began to restore and rehabilitate his family’s home. Most every room was taken down to the studs and renovated from the electrical to the plumbing and insulation to the walls, moldings and interior finishes. Original elements were preserved where possible and/or recreated. The results speak and live for themselves.
From any angle, the Murray home is a magnificent example of a time gone by, but very much part of the cherished architectural heritage of this country. High style curb appeal is an understatement when any passerby takes note of the whimsical and decorative ornamental millwork, lush gardens and striking color scheme.
Patrick has added some square footage to the kitchen area, creating a true eat-in kitchen. The steps leading to the back entrance are made from Ipey, a very dense and bug resistant South American hardwood. The same exotic wood is being used to replace porch decking on the rest of the house to improve on the longevity of the exterior wood surfaces. The Murray crew knows how to create seamless transitions from the old to the new. They match window trims, use matching cedar shingles and incorporate classic design elements to keep the architectural themes fluid and consistent.
The kitchen is a spectacular example of sensitive renovation and practical magic. Custom cabinets were built in the Murray’s shop. The white finish, nickel door pulls and upper cabinet glass windows create a vintage look. The massive stainless restaurant stove and hood as well as the rollaway island make a strong statement that this is not just a great looking kitchen, but the perfect place to create those classic family recipes that can be enjoyed by all.
The Murrays have had a long tradition of asking family and guests to draw an apple and add it to the gallery of apples on their kitchen wall. Each drawing is framed and hung as a reminder of good times and good people.
The front yard of the Murray home has a heritage tree of massive proportions holding court. The twisted arms of the ancient weeping beech tree are as impressive as the architectural lines of the home itself. The tree has weathered many a storm and has become a visually striking part of the overall landscape.
The front entrance to the Murray home is adorned with craftsmanship and ornamental details. The Oak doors and bead board details show the home’s vintage character. The stained glass transom above the front door, as well as all the stained and leaded glass throughout the home, was created by Deborah Murray. She took a class at the New School in Manhattan to hone her considerable skills. Deborah is also responsible for most of the interior painting, though the faux finishes are left up to the Murray’s sons.
The library room is very much a classic. The double shelves and a floor-to-ceiling gilded mirror create the perfect frame for two leather covered oversized chairs.
A group of windows add light and great views from the master bedroom. Many of the windows in the Murray home are original, featuring wavy blown glass, but all have been meticulously rehabilitated to keep the wind and rain outside where it belongs. The elegant bed, custom built by Patrick and company has a hide away flat panel television as part of the foot board design. When not in use, the television can be made to disappear at the touch of a button. The master bath is elegant and vintage looking. Marble tile, custom cabinets and a luxurious sunken tub combine to create an inviting atmosphere.
The iron spiral staircase is not original to the house, but looks right at home as it leads adventuresome guests to the enclosed widows watch. The view from above is truly spectacular and if you look very hard on a particularly clear day, you just might see a late 19th century schooner sailing by into New York Harbor. Or maybe you will take a breath of sea air and thank the winds of time that there are still people like the Murrays, who live in and preserve historic homes, like the Tip Top Cottage.
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