HRM Home & Garden - Suburban Style and creative choices in a Virginia Beach Home

Suburban Style

Judy Cowling makes striking and creative choices for her Virginia Beach home.


Judy Cowling’s business card reads “Artist, Designer, Creative Genius.” Though that claim is tongue andcheek, this engaging woman—tall, elegant and hip, even in cowboy boots—is nothing if not ingeniously creative, not to mention resourceful. With interior design, faux finishing and color consultation clients throughout the area, her genius is surely displayed nowhere as strikingly as in her own home.

With what she describes as “one of the smallest houses in one of the nicest zip codes,” the Woodhurst neighborhood where she has lived for four years appealed to Cowling because the homes “already have some architecture ... and so many don’t.” The particular architectural style is unique within Virginia Beach and is perhaps best described as “California mid-century modern.”

Fittingly, her approach to the design of the interior is unique in its quasi-retro “graphic modern” and gender-neutral flare, but defies an easy label. Though “eclectic” is an oft-overused term, a distinctly eclectic vibe permeates the home in that unexpected touches delight around every corner. Nods to classical elegance, shabby-chicness and industrial design coexist stylishly with biker-mod (like the black leather and chrome barstools in the kitchen and the glass skull hand soap dispenser in an otherwise traditional-with-a-twist bathroom).

In the main living space just inside the front entry, a fresh, crisp and sophisticated color palette of cheerful citron, graphite gray, black and white in bold silhouettes and graphic patterns sets the tone for the rest of the home. Throughout, an appealing blend of the “mustardy-green” colors Cowling favors coupled with warm neutrals creates a sense of flow.

Further linking the rooms together— including two guest bedrooms converted into a stylish exercise/meditation room and a funky dressing room, respectively— are the original parquet floors and crisp white trim and vaulted exposed-beam ceilings. The latter are the result of an entire weekend of caulking and painting by the homeowner. Accent wall colors of terracotta in Cowling’s den and even a pop of appealing aqua in the mini-foyer just outside her master bedroom enliven the space with additional elements of the unexpected, as do the mock-crock flooring in her den and the original vintage black and white tiles in the hall bath.

Not even a little challenge-averse, Cowling created a sleek and dramatic focal point in the living room by applying a stunning Venetian plaster veneer in a rich graphite tone over the entire brick fireplace wall. Here, as in every room of her home, Cowling’s furnishings and decorative objects are an appealing blend of wood, chrome and upholstery, with both modern and classic lines. Lamps are current and clean-lined, and rugs sport great texture or graphic patterns. Her mix of repainted family heirlooms, new purchases, old purchases, trades with friends and clients, and cleverly salvaged and repurposed cast-offs could, in the hands of someone less skilled, look like an illconceived hodge-podge. Instead, every piece—alone and in combination—looks exactly right.

A master of the vignette—both outdoors and in—Cowling acknowledges that she loves objects “whether it’s an acorn or a pencil” and “putting interesting shapes together.” For example, a large window in her studio frames a view of a small kidney-shaped gravel pool accented by a tree and an Asian-modern bench she made nestled within her intentionally minimalist landscape.

Inside, this mixologist hung a vertical arrangement of large, metal industrial disks to the left of the fireplace. She repeats that circle motif in ways that are so integrated into her overall interiorscape, that they are almost felt rather than seen, beginning at the front entrance. There, Cowling painted an understated pattern of large pale gray circles against a “platinum” background on the concrete porch. The motif continues in a handsome tone-on-tone application on the tailored wooden gate that leads to the side yard where a circular patio and fire pit may be seen from the living room through a set of sliding glass doors.

Cowling’s home is an embodiment of the tagline on her business card: “Live Fabulous!”

Add your comment: