Warm Sophistication in an Alabama Lake

David and Atalie Whitley have changed their lake home into a rustic feel-good getaway, drawing inspiration from the beauty of Alabama’s Smith Lake and the lush organic surroundings. “We wanted to create the spaces look and feel casual and combine with the gorgeous backdrop of the trees and lake,” says Atalie.

The Whitleys live an hour off in Birmingham for most of the year, therefore they wanted to minimize maintenance. They picked natural wood finishes, neutral colours and accents of rope and driftwood.

at a Glance
Who lives here: David and Atalie Whitley along with their puppy, Annie
Location: Smith Lake, Jasper, Alabama
Size: 2,600 square feet; 4 bedrooms, 3 baths
That’s interesting: Smith Lake is the second largest lake in the U.S.

Corynne Pless

The entrance leads straight into the living room, where large windows face the water. The couple painted the window trim to frame the views. Dark stained hardwood flooring helps draw attention to the outside, also.

The Whitleys bought the house supplied, but the preceding homeowners’ design was “the extreme reverse of ours,” Atalie says. They replaced the pieces with a nature-inspired palette and with furniture and accessories mainly by Restoration Hardware.

Wall paint: Sealskin; trim paint Smokestone, both by Martin Senour

Corynne Pless

Large pendants hang over a large trestle table that is able to accommodate the entire family — that the Whitleys have five kids — when everyone arrives to see.

Bowls: Juliska, Table Matters; plates: Target; kayak, furniture and lighting by Restoration Hardware: table: Trestle set; seats: Hudson; pendant lights: Barrel Shade

Corynne Pless

The couple decided the colours of the stones from the new surround to match the furniture’s rustic and honed surfaces while mimicking the natural surroundings.

Stone: Jenkins Brick and Tile; artwork: Ben Carlisle, Richard Tubb Galleries

Corynne Pless

Annie loves napping inside this sunny living area spot.

Chair: Lyon, Restoration Hardware

Corynne Pless

The Whitleys enjoy the living room as much. “We love to sit down in here in the evenings when we’re not out on the lake and watch the sun go down,” Atalie says. “It is such a cozy space to kick back and relax in.”

Sofas, Dutch Industrialcoffee table:Restoration Hardware

Corynne Pless

Corynne Pless

For your first-floor facelift, they saved money in the kitchen by painting instead of replacing the existing black walnut cabinets. “It is amazing what a coat of paint can do to totally alter a room,” says Atalie. The couple also brightened the design with a new granite backsplash and granite countertops.

Countertops: River White granite; tile backsplash: Cararra marble; pendant lights, bar seats: Restoration Hardware; sink: dual stainless 60/40; faucet: Delta; appliances: KitchenAid

Corynne Pless

Wall paint: Sealskin; trim paint: Smokestone, both by Martin Senour; console: Parisian Cornice, Restoration Hardware; lamp: Pottery Barn; mirror: Iron and Rope, Restoration Hardware; small birds: StudioByTheForest, Etsy

Corynne Pless

Richard Tubb, the Whitley’s beloved designer (he designed their house in Birmingham), proposed the neutral wall and trim colors. “He’s an amazing ability to make a house feel and look classy but very warm and inviting,” says Atalie.

Wall paint: Sealskin; trim paint Smokestone, both by Martin Senour

Corynne Pless

The framed sea fan over the headboard is motivated by one Atalie saw at an interior design store. She sourced one on eBay and had it framed at Gallery Services in Birmingham.

Bed, Trumeau mirrors: Restoration Hardware; wall paint: Sealskin; trim paint Smokestone, equally by Martin Senour; chair: Barnett Furniture

Corynne Pless

The couple painted the bathroom walls and changed the hardware out to update the conventional double vanity.

Mirror: Trumeau, Restoration Hardware; wall paint Spiderweb; trim paint Smokestone, both by Martin Senour

Corynne Pless

Corynne Pless

In the cellar the couple replaced the existing carpet with ceramic tile flooring made to seem like hardwood. Since the cellar is the first entrance from the lake, they picked tile because of its easy upkeep and minimal water absorbency.

Both framed artworks are by David’s son.

Corynne Pless

Atalie and David followed directions online to build these bunk beds in one of those cellar guest rooms, including ceiling support beams to affix the weight of the beds. David built the pine wood base in a few hours. The screws and rope are from a local hardware store. The ladder is repurposed from another pair of twin beds in their property.

“We are the most proud of this bunk room, because David and I created those beds and hung ourselves, which was a significant feat,” says Atalie.

Bedding: Ikea

Corynne Pless

A screened-in porch is an intimate location for relaxing and enjoying the view of the lake.

Rockers: Cracker Barrel

Corynne Pless

A conventional exterior with low-maintenance landscaping wraps the house. The connecting patios and extra parking lead to the rear lake view.

The rear of the house looks out over the lake and boasts several windows, covered patios and porches. Stone steps lead from the home to the dock amid shrubbery, lights and pine straw.

Corynne Pless

“We love spending time with our kids here,” Atalie says. “There’s so much to do about the lake, and we’ve made so many enjoyable memories just in the past three decades.”

See more pictures of the dwelling | please reveal your cottage!

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Landscape Design: A Secret Garden

All of us could use a distinctive place in a backyard where we can unwind, read a novel, like a cup of java or listen to the birds. It can be a escape we discuss with others or use for personal contemplation. No matter the size, place or purpose, the key feature stays the same — it needs to be partially hidden from the external world: a garden.

Among my design mantras is that a garden ought to be experienced, not just detected, and integrating a secluded nook is one approach to attain this. Create a sense of anticipation by winding paths around billowing shrubs to obscure the last destination. Or split a winding path in this manner that people unexpectedly discover a clearing in the forest where a weathered wooden bench or 2 invites them to linger. Smaller gardens can still have this sense of surprise; just tuck a simple chair below a statuesque tree or maybe behind wispy ferns and tall grasses.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Many of these projects are possible to complete in a weekend or not.

Thuilot Associates

1. The Hidden Clearing

there’s something exciting about abruptly coming across an open space in an otherwise densely planted backyard. It is possible to attain this effect no matter how big or small your garden is. Even clearing just a little spot behind a stand of tall grasses can make that sense of intrigue.

While larger spaces can serve as gathering places for toasting marshmallows over a fire, smaller nooks can be a place for sitting and viewing dragonflies dance.

Le jardinet

The clearing has to be discovered, instead of fully visible. Use layers of trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses to wrap your secret garden with living walls.

This hidden oasis might be a destination point at the end of a path or a midpoint to be appreciated as part of a longer garden journey.

Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architecture

The clearing can be a large entertaining space or a secluded spot for 2. Think about the planned function before you tackle any significant construction. Main entertaining areas are best sited near the kitchen, whereas the secret garden is likely to be tucked further away.

Le jardinet

Eliminate a few plants from the interior portion of a heavily planted edge and add a layer of bark mulch or gravel to make an instant nook.

Use repurposed objects to create your own seating. Here the designer put an off cut of ornamental acrylic over sections of pipe. Logs would be another ideal seating choice for a setting.

NatureWorks Landscape Services, Inc..

2. The Secluded Nook

Not all backyard seating areas need to be formal decks, patios or balconies. A secret garden can be nestled into the edge of a border right one of the plants, providing you a front-row seat for viewing butterflies and smelling the roses. Add a lot of plants behind and to each side to make a leafy enclosure. Fragrant plants in such an intimate space could be a beautiful bonus.


Limb up an existing tree (prune the branches) to make a little space beneath its dappled canopy. The tree can be alongside a path or within a backyard border.

Search garage sales and thrift stores for enchanting chairs which can be spruced up with paint.

Le jardinet

3. The Arbor Refuge

An arbor might seem to be an unlikely option for a secret garden, however you can allow it to be even more secluded by shrouding the structure with appealing vines and from planting shrubs and grasses into the side.

Camouflage furniture by selecting finishes and colors that blend in with the surroundings, such as timber tones and soft greens.

MCM Design

Hang a hammock or swing chair from an existing overhead construction. Raised decks frequently have an area underneath that goes rancid.

Island Gardens Company

4. The Hillside Retreat

Substantial changes in altitude are frequently considered a design challenge in gardens, nevertheless they can be used to advantage when you’re designing a secret escape. Tuck a bench against the face of the hillside so it’s going to be seen only when someone is exploring the winding path. The hillside and plantings will conceal the bench when it is seen from above.

Put the bench so that it hugs the hillside safely while allowing sufficient room to pass by easily. A view of a decrease garden or an open vista increases the adventure of discovery.

Dig Your Garden Landscape Design

Save the price of furniture by just adding vibrant weatherproof cushions to the top of a retaining wall.

More: Unwind in Your Own Private Garden Escape

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Make Money From Your House While You're Away

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to actually make money whilst off visiting relatives for a week? It was expected that only someone with a second house could rent out a room, but this is changing. New services have helped streamline the process, which means you are able to set up a rental profile for your house with a couple clicks of the mouse.

So instead of leaving your home sitting empty the next time you go away, consider listing it as a holiday rental — your house may be able to assist you earn a little extra cash for that new couch you have had your eye on, or even finance your next holiday. Those who lease or who have a co-op should consult the landlord or co-op board to see if subletting is permitted before leasing the space. If you have your house, rent off!

Below you will find answers to some typical questions about renting out your house, plus the nuts and bolts of working with a holiday rental support.

Angela Flournoy

FAQs About Occasionally Renting Out Your House

Who’d want to rent my home? Even if you don’t reside in a holiday mecca or large town, you might still have great luck renting out your house sometimes. Folks traveling to your city for business or to visit family or friends may be on the lookout for a comfy, nonhotel location to stay, and your house might meet that need. Those in college towns can snag visiting professors or kids traveling together with their parents to check out the local schools. And needless to say, if you’re lucky enough to live in a beach town, vibrant town or popular holiday spot, your house listing is likely to create interest.

Arcanum Architecture

How can I protect my possessions? This is a clear concern, and there are a few frequent sense things you can do to put your mind at ease. For starters, talk with your insurance agent and assess everything, if anything, would be covered if a tenant damaged your property or your possessions.

When you are deciding what service to use to let out your location, pay attention to the security deposit needed and also inquire any other security measures which are going to be required to protect you. When it comes time to lease your location, eliminate or lock up anything you would be heartbroken to lose.

Cary Bernstein Architect

How is this different from home swapping? When you swap houses, you stay in your guests’ house and they stay in yours — normally in the exact same time, even though it can work otherwise. In a housing swap, typically no money is exchanged — you are simply trading a stay in your home for a stay in their house. When you lease your house as a vacation rental, you consent to vacate your house during the time that the guests have payed to lease it; it’s up to you where to stay while your home is being used!

More about home swapping

Megan Buchanan

Selecting a Service

Property management businesses. If you don’t need to deal with managing bookings, communicating with guests and managing problems as they arise, you may want to allow a property management firm do the legwork for you. Look for one locally with a good reputation and reasonable prices.

Managing an occasionally leased, owner-occupied home may not be something that your property managers are used to doing, however if you can work out an agreement, it might be worth it. Property managers can handle listing your house, communicating with and screening tenants, collecting deposits and payments, and cleaning.

Cary Bernstein Architect

Online solutions. There are many sites today offering semi-DIY rental services — two well-known businesses are profiled below, though a very simple search will turn up others. If you pick an online listing service, you will be ultimately responsible for communicating with tenants, drawing up a leasing agreement, letting tenants into your location, and locating and paying for your home cleaning service involving guests if needed.

Lauren Gries

Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) is among the original sites for homeowners looking to rent out their homes, and it can do the job for your occasional tenant too. There is an annual fee for owners to list a home on the website, but it is refunded if you do not get a booking in a year. You have the choice to require tenants to buy property damage coverage, which can pay damages up to $5,000. The website also has rental arrangements, pet policies and other forms accessible to use.

Airbnb. This relative newcomer to the online holiday rental market is designed with the typical homeowner in mind — listing a property is free, and each booking automatically includes a “Host Guarantee” that covers property damage. Airbnb takes its fee when you get a booking, and both guest and host have to pay.


Getting Ready to Rent

Create a home reference binder. Make things simpler on guests and on yourself by compiling everything tenants will need to learn about your house into one neat binder. Besides info about your house (explained in detail below), you can include maps; instructions to favorite local restaurants, markets and stores; and contact numbers. Create a note if you would prefer contact by text or email for nonemergency questions.

Set home rules. If some spaces are off-limits for visitors, or if you have any home rules (such as a no-shoes coverage), include them into your house reference binder and do everything you can round the home to ensure it is clear what is okay (or not) — a boot tray and a basket of lace with a sign that reads “Help yourself!” Would be a nice way to encourage visitors to remove shoes. For a room you want to keep guests out of, a lock on the door is most likely best.

Zinc Art + Interiors

Label or record where items are. For kitchen items, labeling your cabinets or shelves isn’t a bad idea, especially if you would prefer items be returned to the location you left them. For larger items your guests could be searching for (the vacuum, bikes etc.) a notice in the house reference binder should do just fine.

Explain how things operate. Leave clear directions for working the TV and entertainment systems, dishwasher, laundry, Internet link (such as access codes), house security system, and also heating and ac systems. Either include all of the directions together in the house binder or tape up notes around the home.

Zinc Art + Interiors

Maintain another thing for you. Create a list of those things you want to eliminate or lock up before leasing, and you also won’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. It’s also smart to keep a household stock — then do a walk-through with it each time you lease your house, both before and afterwards.

Tell us Perhaps you have rented out your property? Would you like to attempt it?

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