by Molly Harrison
Cathy Seymour has designed 15 homes and counting in the little beach enclave.
Self-taught interior designer and planner Cathy Seymour has turned her hobby of creating beautiful spaces into a solid career in Sandbridge. In the past 13 years, she has designed 15 major home remodels in the tony beach community, and she has two more in the pipeline for this year, each an example of her signature breezy, beachy, Boho style.
Seymour fell in love with Virginia’s southernmost beach community as a child. Her grandparents had a simple, unairconditioned beach house on the north end that the family dubbed Euphoria, where Seymour had some of her fondest childhood experiences.
In 2000, the newly divorced Seymour moved to Sandbridge with her son. She remarried in 2005 and with her new husband, Ian Seymour, started Clearwater Pools, a company that primarily serves their community.
Adding a daughter in 2007, the Seymours fully immersed themselves in Sandbridge life. “I love that we have that small-town feel,” she says. “Coming in on that two-lane road, you feel like you’ve entered a different world.”
Seymour’s talent for interior design surfaced when she and Ian began buying and fixing-up homes to rent or flip.
“People expect more from a vacation home now,” she says. “They used to be fine with a galley kitchen and a few pots and pans. Now they want modern conveniences and expect a design aesthetic that those older houses don’t have – open floor plans, new kitchens, high-end appliances.”
Seymour’s approach is to keep the character of the house while bringing it up to date. Mostly, she says, people want to feel relaxed. Her formula for instant relaxation? White shiplap walls, airy and loose design, natural fibers, slipcovered sofas, soft blues, cozy beds. “In each I house I do something different, but the overall feel is peaceful, calm, comfortable and beachy.”
It did not take long before people took notice of her work. Jude Williams of Sandbridge Realty says Seymour can take a house that seems hopeless and create something magical. “She has vision. She can move walls and windows and do unexpected things, and it transforms the whole space,” Williams says.
In 2014, the Seymours set out to renovate a home of their own. They had acquired Euphoria – their old family house – in 2009 after Cathy’s grandmother passed away, but didn’t get around to remodeling it for several years. Ultimately, the couple made the hard decision to tear down the 1950s house and start over.
They completed the new Euphoria in 2015, and it’s where they live most of year. During the summer, they rent out the property and move to The Treehouse, a 1,400-square-foot home built in 1979 that they remodeled.
Encouraged by friends and associates after completing seven home renovations, Seymour started Salt Design Co. in 2015 and has been busy ever since. She didn’t build a website or hand out business cards at networking events because locals pass her number around for her.
For the past two years, Seymour has worked exclusively with builder Mark Torchia of Bluebill Custom Homes. “He builds the beautiful backdrop, and I do the decorating,” she says. But over time, Seymour has discovered a passion for planning layouts as well as decorating.
Doris and Bobby Richardson hired Seymour as the interior designer on their remodel and ended up bringing her in as part of the planning and development team. “She understands what the rooms would feel like and is intuitive about the scope of a house,” Bobby Richardson says. Ultimately, he gave her a budget to take over everything from the floors and lighting to the dishtowels and silverware.
“Her design aesthetic captures the north end of Sandbridge,” Richardson says. “We wanted coastal country casual, not beachy or overly decorated, with plenty of light, and that’s exactly what we got. As a rental, once it hit the internet, it booked out. The house does its job and Cathy is a large part of that.”
While layout planning is a challenge she enjoys, Seymour says the most fun part of her job is sourcing, whether it’s at furniture market in High Point, North Carolina, lighting boutiques in Charleston or scavenging fixer-uppers from the side of the road. Collecting this way has always been her hobby, and helping others with their Sandbridge homes gives her purpose.
“I am always on the lookout and collecting things, and I’m always thinking about someone’s home,” Seymour says. “I keep a warehouse of full of stuff that I love and I always seem to find a home for everything. When it comes time, I always have just the piece.”
Torchia describes Seymour’s style as aligning with the trend of “elevated beachcomber” with her own distinct twists and says clients love it. He says one of the best things about working with her is the way she puts clients at ease.
Williams attributes that to Seymour’s regular yoga practice. Seymour, part owner of Bliss Yoga in Virginia Beach, says that could be true. She says the practice helps her feel happy and peaceful and hopes that helps her clients feel that way, too.
Good thing, too, because Seymour is not going anywhere.
“I’ve been here 20 years and they’ll never get rid of me.”