Welcome to a little horse farm, on a dirt road, with the requisite outbuildings, a couple beautiful horses, a view across open fields and a renovated house that includes crystal door knobs and chandeliers. Lipstick red is the accent color among two-tone gray walls and white trim. The living room, dining area and hall rugs are matching contemporary, swirl-patterned, floor coverings in gray, black and red, while the large stone fireplace commanding attention in the living room hearkens to natural materials expected in a rural setting. The outdoor patio off the kitchen looks like something you’d see in a national homes and lifestyles magazine with multiple seating clusters and colorful cushions. The firepit down in the yard is as country as things come.
Ralph and Shelia Collins purchased this 4-acre property just over two years ago, and set about clearing land for pastures and renovating the 1900-or-so-square-foot house. Constructed by Leon Akers in the 1960s, the home has a full basement, lovely hardwood floors, the stone fireplace in the living room and a wood-burning stove in the lower level fireplace.
“We painted the walls everywhere and completely gutted the kitchen prior to moving in,” Shelia states. The couple did most all the work themselves, and Shelia is responsible for the colors, style and décor. At the time, long-time New River Valley resident Pete Gotkiewicz worked at Lowe’s. “I’d never met him, but when I explained what we were doing, what I liked, how I wanted things to turn out, he stepped right in with advice in all the places I needed help. He suggested the darker gray accent walls in the living room and kitchen and helped me choose the white kitchen cabinets.” The hardware is vertical, modern, brushed nickel.
The old oak cupboards were moved to the downstairs kitchen. “We tore out a partial L counter, opening up the kitchen for this beautiful dining area,” she explains. “I found the marble top island at overstock.com and placed it in the center parallel to the walls and counters.” The new counters are quartz, and the appliances all stainless steel. Flooring is the quite popular and easy-to-maintain wood grain look and texture in a vinyl product.
Her favorite color is bright red, so expect red highlights everywhere, yet not overdone. The living room curtains, for example, have a red panel on each side of the picture window in among sheer white drapes. In her kitchen, there are red cannisters, utensils, towels, the stand-up mixer, outsides of skillets. A red ribbon like grosgrain runs along the bottom of the white curtains.
What is especially fascinating here is that what Shelia refers to as her “bling bling” – the crystal door knobs on the bedroom doors, crystal accents on a couple light fixtures, napkin rings and goblet candle holders – look and feel incredibly comfortable among the horse and country decor. It works. It works like magic. There’s an atmosphere of wonder throughout the house that delivers the casual country vibe with an exquisite surprise where you least expect it.
A horse lover extraordinaire, the entire home is tastefully decorated with horse art, photos of her with Navajo, her 15-year-old mare, statues and accent pillows. In the lower level stands a Christmas tree with white lights on it and all horse ornaments. You would be correct to surmise that this is lit and stays decorated year round. There is a huge comfy living room, bedroom, full bath, full kitchen and laundry area down here. And a gorgeous western saddle on a stand.
All three small bedrooms look like the ones you see in those upscale designer magazines. [I read a lot of magazines.] They are attractive, immaculate, well-appointed and very pretty, yet not fluffy. You’d think perhaps this 50-something couple would consider Airbnb in this lovely home in a country setting. No. No. Not at all. Most recently they fostered four small children for six months! Despite what you see in these photos, this home is one to be enjoyed, to be lived in, played in, dined in and have fun in. Maddi, 9, has her dog beds and toys right in front of the fireplaces on both levels.
I don’t normally write in first person, but Shelia and I bonded – not just over horses, though that’s always a great place to start – but over life and home and comfort and country. And horses. And a little bling bling. When I visit her next, it won’t be summer, and already I’m planning my outfit. Normal stuff – jeans, boots, flannel shirt. But, hold on, I’m going to string a diamond pendant around my neck. Maybe stuff a bright red bandanna in my back pocket. Then, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’ll fit right in, having tea at her kitchen table with crystal buttons on the chair upholstery and country café curtains on the windows.

Text by Joanne M. Anderson | Photos by Kristie Lea Photography