This Arkansas Cabin Rental Was So Groovy, a Guest Bought It for Himself
“I felt like the home was designed just for me the minute I walked in.”
Published Nov 16, 2023 1:35 AM
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When interior designer Whitney Romanoff, her husband, Stephen, and their 2-year-old daughter, Sofia, moved from California to Arkansas in late 2020, they never mentally checked out of the Golden State. So when they chanced upon a circa-1972 cottage in Beaver Lake, nestled in a cliffside grove, they were immediately charmed by its Laurel Canyon–like vibe. “We were looking for a little holiday oasis where we could do things at our own pace,” says Romanoff, the founder and principal of Meet West Studio.
Though the cabin had seen its fair share of remodels, enough of its original character still shone through, and the couple, whose primary residence is in Fayetteville, saw plenty of potential. So much so that they made an offer, got the keys, and swiftly renamed their new cottage Canyon Grove. They imagined it as a little rock-and-roll hideout—a spot where musicians and creatives of the 1970s might have escaped to blow off steam, jam, and maybe create something new, and where present-day Mom and Dad could listen to records and drink a cup of coffee while it was still hot.
Because it hadn’t been updated in a while, Romanoff had her work cut out for her (not that she minded). The walls had turned a drab gray, the windows were inefficient, and the only exit was through the front door. The collective solution, it seemed, was to blur the line between indoors and outdoors, which she did by adding floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and sliding doors in each of the bedrooms to provide access to the new wraparound porch.
Even with all the updates, she sensed she was happily reversing time. “It was fun meeting neighbors who had known the original owners in the ’70s and hearing how they loved that we were bringing back the cabin’s charm and character. It made us feel like we were doing right by the home and leaving it a happier, more authentic space than when we found it,” says Romanoff.
As far as finishes went, she took the laid-back luxury route with handmade zellige tile; honed marble; and rugs and upholstered benches in deep, earthy colors. While the main room was painted a warm white with Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, she dialed up the moody cabin vibe in the primary bedroom with rustic tongue-and-groove wall paneling painted a rich burgundy. As for the guest bedroom, she brought back the 1970s with a custom headboard wrapped in Beata Heuman’s Marbleized Velvet and walls painted a forest green shade.
Of course, she didn’t paint over everything. Romanoff kept the original vaulted cedar-wood ceiling in the living area, along with the stone fireplace and spiral staircase, and focused instead on sourcing statement pieces, like a concrete-top table by Athena Calderone for Crate & Barrel and a pedestal dining table made of reclaimed wood. No detail was too small, not even in the guest bathroom, where Romanoff opted for terracotta tile from the Cristina Celestino collection by Clé and Fornace Brioni. “It was so unique and surprising, because [even] though red clay is a common soil in Arkansas, the pattern made an interesting contrast out there in the middle of the dark woods,” she reflects.
The couple had always intended to list the place as a short-term rental when they were out of town, but they never imagined that any of their guests would be so taken with it that they’d offer to buy it. Patrick Lathrop threw them for a loop. “We seemed to share the same musical inspiration and appreciation for vintage furniture and art,” recounts Romanoff.
During his stay, Lathrop, a sales and business consultant from northwest Arkansas, had noticed a custom vinyl art piece by John O’Hara hanging over the record console. It had a large encaustic painting of his favorite song, “This Must Be the Place,” by Talking Heads. “It must have really tugged at his heartstrings as a sign that this place was for him,” muses Romanoff.
For Lathrop, it was an easy decision. “I felt like the home was designed just for me the minute I walked in,” he recalls. To make the deal even sweeter, it was 30 minutes from his office, had plenty of outdoor privacy, and featured a perfectly sized living space that made it seem much larger than its square footage would suggest.
Then there was the natural light. “After spending time at Canyon Grove, I realized what a dark cave I previously inhabited,” he says with a laugh. Romanoff, for her part, considers it all a stroke of serendipity. “It was almost like I had been designing the space for Pat to enjoy all along,” she says.