When David Murphy started remodeling houses more than a decade ago, he had no way of knowing just how far – or how high – the job would take him. After moving back to his hometown of Hot Springs in 2012, Murphy continued to grow a reputation and customer base, but he held on to his job as a creative director for an advertising firm. Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a boom in the construction industry.

“My phone was ringing off the hook, and I thought, ‘If this is what I really want to do, I have to be able to give 100 percent,” he said. Murphy knew he couldn’t continue to pursue his construction dream while also working full-time in advertising, so he made the decision to leave the advertising industry and focus solely on growing his own business, David Murphy Construction.


David Murphy Construction serves a number of clients in and around Hot Springs by performing new commercial and residential construction as well as remodels. Murphy’s partnership with real estate entrepreneurs Sarah and Lee Medley has proven especially successful; a local realtor referred Murphy to the couple in 2020, and the Medley’s hired Murphy to remodel two homes in historic downtown Hot Springs. Those projects were successful, and Murphy subsequently completed six more projects for the Medley’s which led the couple to hire Murphy for their most significant project to date.


In the Trees resort, a collection of cabins and treehouses nestled in the picturesque mountains around the Spa City, is the most impressive of Murphy’s recent projects with the Medleys. While a number of the structures are still in different phases of construction, the units that opened in May of this year have already garnered much positive attention, thanks in no small part to Murphy’s masterful work on the aerial getaway.

“It was 2021 when they took me to the top of the mountain and told me their vision for the property,” Murphy said. “We spent several hours on the mountain discussing their vision for the future resort.”


Other than a few reference photos and the general idea pitched by the couple, Murphy was able to let his creative juices flow in regards to the design. “They gave me the creative freedom to design a project that was outside the boundaries of typical construction, which makes this a unique project for all of us,” he said.


The project also has special meaning to Murphy because it gave the builder, who comes from a family of engineers, an opportunity to work alongside his father in a professional capacity for the first time.


“I’ve been around building design work my whole life, but having the opportunity to work alongside my father on the engineering aspects of this project has made In The Trees special on a personal level.”

Murphy’s idea for the units focused on a minimalistic profile that would not only avoid sticking out but would actively complement the natural surroundings.


“Aesthetically, I wanted the structures to be in proportion with its surroundings. I didn’t want them to overwhelm the location. It was also important to me for them to blend in. We used concrete and steel, letting the steel patina and then treating it so it would achieve a look that would blend with nature,” Murphy said. “The way the tree houses are designed, the support structures take on a tree-like appearance.”


Murphy was also careful to give the entire space a feeling of openness. Rather than having their eyes drawn to the foundations, utility lines, and other potential eyesores, guests can see underneath the elevated structures and straight through to the view that lies beyond. That idea is carried over on the inside as well, with an emphasis on glass and big windows to invite natural light and let the outside in.


“It’s a unique project, probably a project that most builders won’t ever see in their lifetime,” Murphy said. “It has a dramatic look to it when you first see it, and the outdoor space is what really provides the guest with the treehouse experience. Each cabin and treehouse has its own deck, and each treehouse contains a separate elevated platform with a private hot tub, connected to the house by a 12-foot steel bridge.”


The cabins and treehouses at In the Trees are meant to strike the perfect balance between a luxurious stay and a natural escape, all while sitting high in the air to allow for unobstructed views of the Ouachita Mountains.

david murphy

“It’s really hard to get a sense of the scale until you see it in person,” Murphy said. “They’re not small units. They’re nice cabins and treehouses, and guests have all the amenities they need.”


Of course, bringing the Medleys dream to life took more than just great designs. The builder had a number of challenges to contend with, not least of all the demands of the site itself.


“The whole property is 540 acres of old forestry land,” Murphy said. “There was zero utilities and zero infrastructure other than a few four-wheeler trails and an overgrown road.”

On top of getting utilities in place, all the other amenities that take In the Trees from primitive camping to luxury resort had to be hauled up the mountain and lifted up into the sky-high units. Getting a hot tub platform built 31 feet off the ground is one thing. Pulling everything together in a way that is as functional as it is stunning, on the other hand, is a testament to Murphy’s skill.


“The slope of the mountainside is a challenge, trying to leave as many trees as possible while working around them without damaging the natural surroundings takes time,” he said. “A majority of the work is done using lift equipment, scaffolding, and ladders. You’re in the air, for sure.”


There was a definite learning curve, he added, but he has relished tackling the project’s peculiarities head-on. With Murphy at the helm, each new unit is bound to be as appealing as the last, offering guests an exciting new way to revel in the beauty of the Natural State.


“This has been a rewarding project,” Murphy said. “I feel really blessed to be able to do it.” 

READ ALSO: Luxe Above The Tree Line: In The Trees Provides Natural Retreat In The Heart Of Spa City