Murphy outside her trailer in Ditch Plains. Photo by Eric Striffler
Murphy outside her trailer in Ditch Plains. Photo by Eric Striffler

Murphy outside her trailer in Ditch Plains. Photo: Eric Striffler

This is not your momma’s trailer park. Pulling-in to the front gates at Montauk Shores, the ocean splays out before you, and since its inception as a campsite about sixty-five years ago, the ocean has been what it’s all about. But these days, as young adventurers with a strong design sensibility find their way in to the trailer park beside Ditch Plains, there’s a lot more attention on the homes themselves.

“Twenty years ago, you only knew about Montauk Shores if you knew about it,” said Greg Burns, a Compass real estate agent who grew up in East Hampton. “But because of the popularity of Montauk as a whole, and with Ditch Plains being the most famous beach on the East End, the trailer park has blown up too.”

They’re still trailers – but you might forget that when you step in and feel the bright clean light spilling in through abundant windows. For Alicia Murphy, 30-year-old interior designer who lives in Brooklyn, Amagansett, and now Montauk, making the interior space livable was crucial in moving to Montauk Shores.

“When we first started and we looked at the other trailers, it was very dark,” said Murphy. “The thought of coming to the beach and being inside and it being dark seemed depressing to me. It seemed constraining.”

Of course, the counterpoint is that you’re not supposed to be inside at all at Montauk Shores. With 1,000 feet of oceanfront, a pool and playground, and quiet little streets for biking or playing, life happens out of doors.

Trailer Front

Deck of Murphy’s trailer | Photo: Sam Hillman

Burns, whose parents bought a trailer seven years ago, has happily crashed in the two-bedroom, one-bath unit with all four of his brothers and sisters, as well as his parents and friends.

“Everything is focused outside,” he said. “You’re hanging at the beach all day, back to the trailer to barbecue. If you own a trailer, it’s a place to sleep.”

But Murphy can’t forget that sometimes, it rains. Sometimes, you just want to lay in bed. And for those times, she doesn’t want to feel like she’s trapped in 800 square feet, even though she is.

“We said if this is going to be a home for us, we need to feel comfortable in it,” said Murphy. “The high ceiling and the clerestory windows and the skylights: We wanted it to feel as airy and bright and happy as it could inside.”

Master Bedroom

The master bedroom | Photo: Sam Hillman

There are around two hundred units at the trailer park at Montauk Shores. About fifty of them are leased and the rest are owned. Thirty are oceanfront, and the rest are a stone’s throw away. In other words, the location can’t be beat. But when you buy into the trailer park at Montauk Shores, you’re signing up for some limitations. You can’t come in and build whatever you want on a property. You have to work within the constraints of the community. What Murphy created within these constraints is remarkable. It took a lot of work, and what some might call crazy attention to detail.

“To expand, you have to purchase a new mobile home from one of five manufacturers,” explained Murphy. “It has to have certain siding, a certain number of egresses. We also knew we needed two bedrooms and two baths.”

Master Bath

Master Bath | Photo: Sam Hillman

But with all the constraints, you can pick out Murphy’s trailer from a mile away. It is obviously not the same as the ones around it. It’s a pair of brand spankin’ new Diesel jeans in a weathered heap of Levi’s.

To get this kind of design, they hired Southampton based architect Anthony Hobson and came up with a whole new concept: the one-and-a-half wide L shaped trailer. Murphy and Hobson chose one of the models specified by the community, which is manufactured in Indiana. Hobson worked remotely with the company, sending materials like white thassos tile and white oak wood floors from Southampton to Indiana to be installed.

“A big thing for me is sourcing locally,” said Murphy. “Since I’m an East End design firm, I think it’s important to support local businesses.”

Kids Bedroom

The Kids Bedroom | Photo: Sam Hillman

This is easier said than done when the actual construction of the home had to happen in Indiana, but she went the extra few thousand miles to purchase locally. The kitchen, complete with Caesar stone countertops, was designed at Ikea, and Murphy sent all the specifications to Indiana to be installed. Once everything was in place, the trailer needed to be shipped back.

“When it ships on a flatbed, it has to have a flat ceiling,” said Murphy. She then motioned to the cathedral ceilings that give a sense of spaciousness to the wide-open kitchen and living room.

“We had the ceiling ripped off and rebuilt on-site to the specifications we see today.”

Beyond the building materials, she counts on local stores like Homenature in Southampton for upholstery and Serena & Lily in Wainscott for family friendly bedding and accessories.

Murphy in her kitchen, custom designed by Ikea. Photo by Eric Striffler

The designer in her kitchen, custom designed by Ikea | Photo: Eric Striffler

Appliances are from GE Monogram, because she likes the glass fronts.

“I’m a neat freak,” she said, “and I want everything organized. The dishwasher has drawers so we can do half-loads.”

This is particularly beneficial for the way she and her boyfriend live with their two boys in Montauk, because they’re mostly washing cups and cereal bowls.

“I love the idea of how you want to live in the summer versus your real life,” said Murphy. “You get to choose what you want your secondary life to be.”

Deck Detail

Deck Detail | Photo: Sam Hillman

For everybody at Montauk Shores, the goal is to be outside as much as possible. And as lovely as the interior of their trailer is, this goal is no different for Murphy and her family. The deck, made of a hard Brazilian Ipe wood, has a dining area, a fire pit and a dozen steps down to a public lawn.

“We call it the stadium,” said Murphy. “When you have people here, they just sit at all different levels and hang out. It’s a lot of fun.”

Contributing to the fun, under the deck is a kegerator that pumps fresh cold beer throughout the summer.

And then there’s the exterior. Standing in the middle of a trailer park and looking at a trailer that meets the specifications of the association, it’s still hard to believe you’re looking at a trailer. The L-shape changes its whole orientation on the property. And the siding is nothing like the rusty aluminum of trailer parks past. The trailer was coated in black plastic, and then strips of cedar were placed over it to create a cedar screen.

Kids Bath

Second bath | Photo: Sam Hillman

“It creates a three-dimensional siding,” said Murphy, “and gives the wood room to breathe.”

Many of these choices were made because of the harsh weather that homes undergo oceanfront.

“This isn’t California,” said Murphy. “The weather isn’t easy on materials.”

Murphy and Burns, and probably everyone else in the community, share the same basic principle that the beach life is about the beach.

“It’s Montauk,” said Burns, “and you’re gonna be outside for 90% of the day and into the night. This is a beach shack.”

It’s the concept of “shack” that’s up for interpretation.

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