Picket Fence Perfect

Writer: L. Beth Bonifant
Photographer: Vickie Kite Milburn
David and Sheryl Tart wanted the biggest bang  for their buck when they built their house in Hilton Ridge Estates.
Located in a beautiful country setting south of Great Mills Road in Lexington Park, the neighborhood features large, handsome homes on two- to three-acre lots. Once the site of a farm, its pastoral landscape enhances the development.
First-time homeowners, the Tarts were just the third family to move into the new neighborhood, when they arrived on Halloween in 1999.
A Navy couple with three small children, the Tarts’ No. 1 priority was size when they contracted with a builder for the largest house their budget allowed. One year later when David was reassigned, they rented the house to another young military family, and the Tarts moved to Jacksonville, Fla., for the next several years.
Back in Maryland, Sheryl had enjoyed sewing, mostly for her own children in the beginning, until a request to make porch cushions for someone else jump-started other side jobs.

Settling into a career
Soon after relocating to Florida, she was hired to sew slipcovers, and around that time, she purchased her first industrial sewing machine in Orange Park. The professionals from the sewing shop shared valuable trade secrets and offered support, while Sheryl gained confidence with each new consignment.
Upon returning to their home in Maryland, she continued to sew, setting up shop in the garage, staying warm with a kerosene heater. But her business was not the only thing that was growing.
Soon after settling back in, the Tarts started expanding their two-story Colonial.
Bumping out the back of the house on the first floor, they added French doors and increased the size and flow of their living and dining rooms. Happy with those results, next they closed in wasted ceiling space in the open foyer, making it feasible to enlarge upstairs bedrooms.
Meanwhile in 2004, Sheryl was officially launching her home décor sewing business, Slipcover Cottage.A friendship with another military wife and customer Kathe Chimento evolved into an outlet for her sewing business, when the two teamed up to rent space in a Leonardtown antique store.


A new business venture
Sheryl attributes the direction of her progress during this time to all the other women and friends she was fortunate to meet, like Michelle Radez, founder of Vintage Source in Compton. Sheryl and Kathe approached Radez about coming into Vintage Source as independent vendors, thus beginning a new business trend for all three.
The experience was particularly rewarding, as Sheryl was able to help put all three children through college during that time.
She finally ended her involvement following a successful 14-year run to refocus on her home décor sewing business. But she hasn’t had to work in that old, cold garage since a final addition to the Tart house in 2008.


New digs
Now she enjoys her own spacious workroom above the family’s new two-car garage.Its generous size easily accommodates essential tools of her trade, including racks with bolts of fabric, stacks of cushions and furniture pieces waiting for a makeover, not to mention an expansive worktable and sewing machine. She can often be found up there with machine humming away, while the family dog naps on a pillow in the dormer window.

The former garage was enclosed, creating a family room to complement the main floor living areas. That original 2,200-square-foot builder grade house has evolved into 4,200 fabulous feet full of custom design details and decorating dreams.
The Tarts have incorporated modern trends with classic appeal, creating a look that is both fresh and timeless.
Today, warm hardwood floors flow throughout the house, instead of only in the entry foyer and powder room, as before. Traditional mosaic tile was selected for two bathrooms, the only exceptions to wood. Dated, standard maple cabinets are things of the past, since working with Woodburn Cabinets in Leonardtown, to reimagine kitchen space.Versatile white cabinets and marble counters connect seamlessly with a white subway tile backsplash. The clean look helps details stand out, like the pot filler over stainless-steel stove, and contrasting vintage inspired stepback cupboard. Glass fronts and open shelves are mixed with solid doors, and original still life paintings are “fine art” for the cooking area.

Decorating tips

An open concept design eliminates isolation while working in the kitchen, but that does not mean removing every wall in sight. The Tarts retained a room divider between the living and dining room to define spaces, without impeding flow and natural light.
Dramatic use of bold color on the shared back wall further unites the rooms; Sheryl selected Salty Dog by Sherwin Williams, a deep nautical blue that anchors otherwise white walls.
While not everyone can afford the time and money for extensive renovations, there are plenty of easy and inexpensive design and decorating ideas.Sheryl shared a few of her favorite innovative shortcuts for adding architectural interest to boring walls. (See sidebar below.)
She says used furniture, art and decorative items from sources like thrift stores, auctions, yard sales and eBay … offer better quality for less money than many modern stores. Sheryl looks for solid wood construction, and likes to keep an eye out for amateur art, particularly watercolors and old landscapes. Currently she enjoys incorporating chinoiserie and silk panels into her eclectic decorating style for a modern Asian influence.

But when asked to describe her favorite project, Sheryl recalls sewing a slipcover for a rocking chair in a new mother’s nursery.
The chair had belonged to the woman’s grandmother, and she requested a young, hip fabric for her family heirloom. A poignant reminder that “old” doesn’t mean “old-fashioned.”
A tour of Sheryl and David’s house proves that injecting a little fun and color will energize a space and create an inviting, livable home.
And sometimes, if you’re like the Tarts, you get it right … in the first place.

No shiplap? No problem.

Just measure rooms to determine size and use in-stock lauan board from a building supply store to clad walls. Lauan (pronounced loo-ahn) is a tropical plywood product you can paint or stain, most of the stores will cut to your specifications, and even provide suggestions for attaching it to walls. Install boards horizontally to mimic shiplap.
Another look enjoying popularity is “board and batten” style interior paneling or wainscoting. If you have smooth walls, use them as your “boards,” evenly space vertical strips of wood from floor to ceiling across walls, for “batten;” stop at chair rail or three-quarter height for wainscoted look. Another strip or flat trim is needed for a top rail to complete wainscoting.
Paint everything the same semi-gloss color for an expensive custom woodwork look. The Tarts used simple, low-cost lattice strips, but you can find other suggestions online.