How to Be a Cover Girl (without the diet)

by Lisa, May 23, 2017

Ever wonder what it takes to be on a magazine cover? It’s a combination of great clients, great design, lots of patience and a little bit of smoke and mirrors. Take a look behind the scenes of our recent Cottage Journal story.

The Great Client: One of our favorite people on earth is the owner of one of our favorite getaways on earth. A perfect little gem of a cottage tucked into a cove in Westmoreland County, on the Northern Neck of the Potomac River.  The mostly rural area lacks the crowds and traffic of shore destinations on the Delmarva peninsula, yet still provides beaches, boating and fishing aplenty.  The area is also steeped in colonial history, boasting the birthplaces of George Washington and James Monroe.

This house has always been a labor of love — a long time collaboration between Judy and Dusty Rhodes, with design assistance from Melanie Whittington.  Unlike the majority of vacation homes built in recent years, the house is filled with extraordinary “old home” details.  And it’s modest approach is truly unique.  Judy and Dusty were looking for a mortgage-free vacation spot and built their getaway using found objects and thrifty resourcefulness.  All of the doors in the home came from a tear down in Arlington, Virginia where they live.  The living room fireplace came from an old building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  The newel posts on the stairs were claimed from the scrap heap of an old home.  Even most of the furnishings were found at yard sales or collected from friends’ giveaway piles.  Yet you would never know this little jewel on the river was built on a budget, thanks to clever design techniques and lots of great style.

Melanie and Judy are constantly changing things here — they are designers after all.  The most recent updates were focused on adding fresh accent colors to the deliberately neutral and natural backdrop.

As you enter the house, you are immediately drawn to the simple but unique fixtures and furnishings. The staircase newel posts offer vintage detail not usually seen in newer vacation cottages. A five-legged entry table was purchased on the cheap from a colleague.

Entry way with pig fina;

An old hutch in the entry way serves as a closet.

Entry way with dog final

A friend gave the Rhodes two palladium window tops, which Dusty combined with the woodwork from an old bay window at a shuttered shop front to build dramatic, mullioned windows to flank the old fireplace.

Family room window view final

Everything is modestly sized and built on a budget, but still done to perfection. The entire kitchen, with the exception of the countertops and refrigerator, was purchased at Ikea. Crown molding was added to the top of the cabinets to create the look of custom cabinetry without the price tag.  Although the kitchen is small, as Judy says “it is all we wanted, all we could afford at the time, and frankly all we still need.”  A local fisherman delivers bushels of crab every time their family visits and a farm stand run on the honor code provides fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long.

Ikea kitchen final

Old Dining Room final

In preparation for the photo shoot, we brought in a new light fixture from Stray Dog and a colorful rug to freshen up the  dining room, which centers around an old farm table Judy sought as the gathering place for her family after being inspired by a magazine article about Jackie Kennedy’s farm table.

New light fixture with Judy final

A bedroom is inspired by red and black floral art that Judy loves – the rest just flowed.  Horizontal trim was added to the four walls for architectural interest.

Red room bed final

An old basket for carrying tobacco between the fields and the drying barn makes a great statement at the head of the bed in one room and is indigenous to rural Virginia.

Basket bedroom final

One principle remains paramount in this home: less is more. Everything inside and out at the house is affordable and easy to clean — nothing is too precious to prevent people from sitting on it with a wet bathing suit or putting up their sandy feet.  The result is a stylish and comfortable retreat that was built on a dime but provides priceless space to spend time with family and friends.

back dock final

The planning and preparing:  In preparation for the Cottage Journal photo shoot, the Whittington Design Studio team decamped to Westmoreland County.

Planning Meeting final

Styling Supplies with Kate final

And accessories started to pile up.

Styling supplies final

The smoke and mirrors:  This project started in the fall of 2014, but was being planned for a spring or summer issue in the future.

Kate deletes fall final

Kate eliminates all evidence of autumn.

Importing spring

Importing a spring/summer vibe in October.

Add to all of this the great photography of Helen Norman, styling and reporting by Charlotte Safavi, and lots of patience…  Now here we are — cover girls!  Pick up a copy on the newsstands now for more of this fabulous retreat.

Cottage Journal Summer 2017

Take us to the river!

Website Design & Development by