Text and styling by Charlotte Safavi
The expansive pastoral beauty and coastal living charm surrounding a colleague’s river cottage in northern Virginia so impressed designer Melanie Whittington that she bought a place nearby. “My friend and colleague Judy Rhodes invited me to the river cottage one weekend back in 2001,” recalls Melanie of her first visit to the Northern Neck peninsula near the Chesapeake Bay. “I had no idea how beautiful the area was. As you turn off the interstate, it’s all wide open pastoral fields, lots of agriculture and history, and, of course, water.”
Paying tribute to the area, Judy’s farmhouse-meets-nautical theme found its way into the latest incarnation of her house, noting vintage rattan chairs, a rope-based standing lamp, and a life-size carved wooden farm cat share space in the living room. Judy and her husband, Dusty, built the cottage as a vacation home on a wide stretch of the Potomac River back in 1983. “We’d wanted a really simple house, with no mortgage, and built it on a shoestring [budget],” Judy says of the 2,400-square-foot home, with two bedrooms on the second floor and two bedrooms in the basement.
Judy says much of the cottage is constructed with architectural salvage, like the living room fireplace mantel or the staircase’s newel post, both of which came from teardowns. “We call it the ‘house of found pieces,’” she says. On the main floor, whitewashed siding, instead of drywall, and exposed floor joists in the ceiling add further character to the cottage.
As a frequently-used second home, the Rhodes cottage’s interiors are white-on-white for easy maintenance and a coastal vibe. “The views are spectacular,” says Melanie, “so we wanted to keep things focused on the outdoors and also clutter free. The layering of textures, whether the shiplap-style finish on the walls or the durable sisal and coir rugs, are perfect for carefree living.”