Interior designer Laura Hodges works her magic on a rustic and refined family retreat
When Laura Hodges started working on an Oxford, Maryland, compound back in 2019, the pandemic was nowhere in sight. Her clients had purchased the expansive property in 2018 with a vision of building multiple houses for different uses: They liked the idea of tiny homes spread across 300 acres near the Chesapeake Bay waterfront that could be occupied throughout the seasons, as wildflowers came and went.
Working closely with architect Reggie Gibson, Hodges felt it was important that everything in the three-structure compound “felt right in the new environment.” She notes that the designs for both houses are interconnected, with complementary features such as tile selections providing a sense of synergy between the distinct dwellings. (“I wanted to make sure that all the properties had a thread of style that tied them all together,” Hodges explains.)
That focus on detail has been honed to perfection over Hodges’s five years working with these clients on five separate projects. Hodges intuitively understands what they want and, in this case, curated everything, down to the silverware and shampoos.
Notably, sustainable choices were incorporated throughout the design process. Hodges carefully considered how her clients could reduce their carbon footprint and installed cabinetry made out of wood salvaged from the series of small houses that were originally on the property. “They had to sand it all down, pull the nails out, and make it pretty, whenever it was in good enough condition that they could reuse it,” Hodges says. “Eventually, they ran out, so we had to introduce new wood as well. But I thought that was really cool to be able to reuse a lot of the materials.”
Since the clients gravitated toward a rustic feel, the houses are clad in cedar. (The interior walls are whitewashed pinewood.) The key was not overdoing it to the point where the residential homes felt like caricatures of lodges or cabins, which is why Hodges opted for lightening the tone of the wood walls and ceilings. Even the exterior of a former chicken coop was retained and re-clad in all-new cedar with a newly installed waterproof roof. “[The clients] didn’t want it to feel like this super-gorgeous, amazing place that’s on the water and completely out of its element,” she says. “But at the same time, we wanted it to feel refined and beautiful. So, it was a case of making it refined and rustic.”
Though it’s hard to choose a favorite room, the designer is most fond of the art studio, with its lofted ceilings. “What I love so much is that, when I walked into this house, I looked up and you could see the trees through the framing of the ceiling,” she says. “I was like, ‘The light looks amazing in here, I want to keep that.’ So, we ended up putting in skylights for that reason, so that that light would still stream in and you could look up and still see the trees through the ceiling. I really wanted to make sure that this building felt like you were truly in the woods.”
Of all the challenges Hodges faced while working on the project, one of the most notable was the simple issue of weather. “Between rain, snow, frost, and ice, there was just so much happening,” she recalls. Now that there’s some distance from it, Hodges can laugh at the memory of the day when they were finally ready to have all the furniture delivered, but were tripped up by unforeseen rain. (After rushing to the nearest Target to buy boots, the team was then tasked with constructing a makeshift runway out of shipping pallets and planks to carry the pieces into the houses without slipping into the mud pits. “It was like walking across the moat to get to a castle or something,” she says.)
As for the furnishings, Hodges sourced an assortment of vintage pieces from 1stDibs and Chairish. From a leather desk chair to a pair of chartreuse suede chairs from the 1960s, the pieces add character to the interiors and “take the edge off the newness of everything,” as Hodges puts it. “For this property, it felt very appropriate to bring in pieces where the house could feel like it had been there for a while. I wanted it to feel comfortable.” And, as a result of the clients’ interest in architecture and innate sense of practicality, it was imperative to ensure that the property was “livable and felt right for them,” Hodges says. She adds, “They also very much appreciate the idea of creating something that is aesthetically beautiful and different.”
As it currently stands, the property features two cottages, as well as another building designated for hosting events and parties. But Hodges and her clients aren’t finished, thanks to a pool house with a laundry room, gym, yoga studio, sauna, massage room, hot tub, cold plunge, and more that’s on the horizon.
“When they’re out there, they’re not necessarily the type that are just going to sit around,” Hodges notes. “They want to be doing things.”