Guest – Sherry Meredith – DIY Scent Studio


DIY Scent Studio is a make-it-yourself perfumery. More accurately, it’s an experience; an experience in smelling and creating. It is scientifically proven that the sense of smell has a high correlation to emotion and memory. DIY Scent Studio allows patrons to create their own custom perfume. Says owner Sherry Meredith, “We help create memories and we are artists. At DIY Scent Studio we encourage everybody to engage in making their own creation.”

Smell image

Before opening the shop in the summer of 2017, Sherry considered herself a perfume hobbyist. She had a strong interest in perfumes and developed her hobby by taking perfumery classes with natural perfumers in Grasse, France. She saw the perfume organs and enjoyed making perfumes so much that she wanted to share experience. Says Sherry, “I thought how nice it would be to have something similar here on the East Coast.” (Incidentally, a perfume organ is a collection of vials containing pure aromas.)

DIY Scent Studio - scent organ

Sherry enjoys the whole process of creating perfumes and her number one goal is having a satisfied client who loves what they made. She shares, “That’s the ultimate. And we guarantee you’ll love what you make. We’re not going to let you leave the shop without something you love.” Once you land on your personalized fragrance, the shop will keep your formula on file for future use. If you want a refill, you can call them and they will mix it for you, or you can return and recreate it using the saved information. And then make something new!

DIY Scent Studio - my perfume

There are so many different materials on the organ. It can present a challenge to some to make choices. Sherry explains, “It’s a process. We just tell clients, this is like making a painting. You’re not going to make a masterpiece the first time you paint.” She encourages everyone to just enjoy the fun of the experience. She adds, “Some people discover themselves through this exercise. They’ll say, ‘Oh I didn’t know I would like this!’” Sherry finds it thrilling to observe her clientele uncovering new favorites and new inspiration through their experimentation. I asked Sherry if she had developed her OWN perfumed masterpiece. She answered, “Yes, I have. It’s called ‘Italian Holiday’. I created it in memory of my trip to Italy and it takes me back.“

DIY Scent Studio - Perfume light

Just as in other mediums of art, inspiration can come from so many different sources; a destination that you want to capture, an outfit that you want to enhance, or an event that you want to mark in time. Sometimes it’s the change of season that you want to capture and reflect. Says Sherry, “Those that are really into perfume, that really love it, will buy scents for the seasons. They might plan to come back and make a new perfume for the spring, but most people are making it based on their personal preference.” In her experience, there might be a few clients who are influenced in their aroma choices based on the seasons, but 100% of the time, the choices are quite personal. They may invoke an emotional response, or bring to mind a fond memory.


Her purest desire is to create happy, satisfied clients that refer DIY Scent Studio to others. That is, infact, how I found the perfumery. A friend of mine, (shout out to Leasa Yi!) and her daughters enjoyed the experience at the studio so much that my friend reached out to me and encouraged me to check them out.

In truth, I have always wanted to go to a perfumery. Nearly 20 years ago, I was traveling abroad to Capri, Italy and spotted a DIY perfumery on the island. I knew I would not have time during my trip to patronize that shop, but I have never forgotten that pull and intrigue that I felt. I LOVE fragrances, so checking out Sherry’s place became molto importante.

DIY Scent Studio - chalkboard

When I reached out to Sherry for this interview and she offered me the chance to come in to create a custom perfume, I was over the moon excited. I couldn’t wait! I admit that I fell into the category of being overwhelmed with all of the choices and possible combinations, but Sherry expertly guided me, explaining the origins of the aromas and how they each behave in terms of layering.

Yes! There is layering involved. When you concoct your perfume, you choose notes that work together based on your preference, but there is a science behind how they evaporate and in what order. It’s amazing. I was totally geeking out.  It’s science that smells good! I cannot WAIT to go back.

chemistry beakers

And speaking of going back, the shop is primarily open on the weekends. The process takes a bit of time, so Sherry finds that most people have more time on the weekends to allow themselves to fully enjoy their time there. DIY Scent Studio also offers opportunities to host parties on sight. Think of it as an alternative to the painting or pottery parties. Says Sherry, “Clients will say, ‘I’ve made 10 paintings. I don’t think I have room for any more paintings.’ This is a wonderful option.” (But let me just clue you in on something here…mom to mom.   The take away from this party is CONSUMABLE! That’s right! Once it’s used, it’s gone. It does not take up any space on your already crowded walls nor on your display shelves. Just sayin’.)

DIY Scent Studio - Front Desk

Think in terms of bridal parties, birthday parties, or girls day out. (But I think it would be a fun corporate outing or a fun romantic date!) Says Sherry, “I have something for all age groups including roll-ons for the kids.” There are 12 work stations in the shop, so if there is a party booked for 8 or more people, the shop will be closed off to the rest of the public. This guarantees focused assistance for your party guests.

DIY Scent Studio

The shop is still very new, so at this point in it’s life, the main goal is just to have people enjoy the experience. Sherry adds, “If that develops into another store, or more employees, that’s wonderful.”  She reports that, so far, there have been no real surprises good or bad. Although it’s taken a little longer to ramp up than she anticipated, she doesn’t want to rush through the maturation and business is growing all the time, steadily building upon their client base

DIY Scent Studio does sell ready made perfumes and gift certificates. They can make a custom made perfume for someone, or even try to recreate an expired perfume that someone loved. Visitors are encouraged to come in and make their own perfume or have a party.  Sherry shares, “I want people to come in and participate in [the process] and tell their best friends. That’s the best advertising.”

DIY Scent Studio - perfume counter

These experiential venues are excellent formats for bringing people together for some fun. Sherry reminisces, “I had one woman come in to purchase a gift certificate for her daughter and granddaughter and the 3 of them came in and made perfume together.”

Mazzone 3 generations

Sherry is proud to have brought this concept to fruition. This business offers the community a different experiential option. Says Sherry, “We’d love to share all of these wonderful smells with people. If they don’t want to make something, that’s just fine, they can come and smell and just enjoy the experience.”

DIY Scent Studio - window display


DIY Scent Studio is located at:  4007 University Drive, Fairfax, VA. 22030


You can follow DIY Scent Studio on the following social media sites:  Instagram and Facebook

Guest – Ami Dodd – Energie

Energie logo

Ami Dodd is the dynamic and truly lovely owner and creator of Energie. For lack of a better term, Energie is a pop-up boutique of Athleisure wear that opened in late fall of 2016. But Ami would describe Energie as an experience. She wanted to create a boutique that gave Northern Virginia more of a laid back experience and a positive message of promotion of movement, self love, and community. Says Dodd, “Community has always been a really big thing for me. I wanted a store that was a collaboration of a lot of brands together.” Available through Energie is Athleisure and performance brands, for men, women, and kids, that promote and support people in taking time for themselves to get moving in whatever manner that makes them feel good. Says Ami, “I wanted it always to be more than retail, which is why I have my boutiques primarily in studios or fitness locations and gyms.”

The concept of the boutiques being set up in the fitness spaces was meant as a temporary arrangement until Ami could work through how she ultimately wanted to market her business. To her surprise, it was a perfect fit. Putting her product into these spaces did exactly what she had set out to do. Her shop supported the fitness community as well as her brand and the products she was featuring. Dodd adds, “It is definitely a win-win on all sides. For the studios, it’s a great service for their community.   I see retail as a play item. You can touch it. You can feel it. It sparks conversation with people. For example, if you’re sitting in class and you like someone’s leggings or top. It’s a conversation starter that can lead to friendships and connection, and getting people to feel more positive and confident in their own skin that is the foundation of Energie.”  It might just be real retail therapy.

Ami yoga pose

Energie is a collection of carefully selected brands. Each garment is what Dodd calls “Ami tested”. She shares, “I have to teach in it. I have to sweat in it. I have to wash it. I have to dry it. And it’s got to have a different spin.” The majority of the curated collection is made by women owned companies and proudly produced in the United States. But it’s even more than just a collection of great performing garments. Ami explains, “Each brand has a story. That alone intrigues me. Each story represents all of the customers on different levels; personal struggles, moms losing their identity, people thinking they’re not good enough. Everyone has struggles. These brands all started out of some sort of need. I think there’s magic in all of those stories.” Ami is so inspired and moved by what people go through and their fortitude to keep going. These stories and the intention of helping builds momentum that is contagious. Says Ami, “That’s why I named it Energie. You can have good energy or bad and both have momentum. You get to decide where you want to go. That’s a big part of me picking the brands. What is their intension? Is it just to sell things to people or is there a helping aspect to it to?” Ami’s plan for Energie never included manufacturing her own line. It was important to her to support the women who were already doing it really well. It remains an important part of her mission to tell their story and create one spot to showcase their products.

In her previous life, Ami served 4 years in the United States Air Force. After her military service, she began going to college as a pre-med student. It was during this time that her father unexpectedly passed away. As death often does, it shifts you. It can reveal truths in your life that you may never have considered before. It was during this time that Ami would joke and tell people, “I don’t really know why I’m doing this. I really just want to be a yoga teacher. That’s really what speaks to me.” But her head was telling her that wasn’t enough. You can’t just be a yoga teacher. That doesn’t really pay the bills. But she didn’t listen. It was during this pivotal moment in her life that she quit school, with three semesters remaining before graduation, and became a full time yoga instructor. Ami shares, “As ex-military, yoga allowed me to break down the walls in myself and I really wanted to do that for others.”

Energie clothing 1

She and her family moved to Hawaii for a very short time that created another shift in her life. “But a shift”, says Dodd,” that had to happen in order for all of this to fall into place.” It was in Hawaii that Ami was moved by the spirit of community and how all of the stores were collaborations of multiple brands and local artisans. She describes the beautiful spaces that, upon walking in, you immediately felt a weight lifted. There were bright colors and fun products that she felt was needed in Northern Virginia. Says Ami, “We have so much stress here and I think everyone is so tightly wound. I thought we needed some sort of space to walk in and just have that freeing feeling right away. That spirit of, ‘It’s ok.’”

Energie began in a little corner of a bedroom in her apartment. It soon expanded to an online store and then transferred into their first pop-up location in Clifton, VA. It has continued to grow through its momentum.  Says Ami, “Energie resonates with people because it is filling a void that’s different for each person. I think that’s why retail is kind of dying. It’s not that we don’t want to shop and we don’t want tangible items. I think we’re missing the human experience. We’re totally bypassing the human element and people are feeling that because we’ve become so mass produced and technically engaged. These aren’t bad things but we’re so instinctual still and that doesn’t necessarily work comfortably.”

Engerie leopard bra

Ami has always had the entrepreneurial pull. Both of her parents were entrepreneurs and she calls back to high school, when everyone else seemed to know what they wanted to do, but she did not. She opted to go into the military right after high school as opposed to heading straight into college. Early on, she could not clearly define what type of work or business she wanted to build, but being her own boss was the only life she had ever seen for herself. She dabbled with two other businesses prior to Energie, but there was some element of them that just didn’t solidify. It was a particularly frustrating time in her professional life. Says Ami, “Entrepreneurship was always such a loud voice while I was working through my first two businesses. That part I knew was right, but the businesses just weren’t the right things. I couldn’t tangibly grasp what that was. It was so frustrating because I knew I was on the right track, but it was like…you’re almost there. Keep going. Keep going.” She adds, “There never really was a click for me until I entered the fitness world as a yoga instructor. It was this change that was decidedly, 100%, the fit for me. It was nothing I’d ever considered before. It’s like an “on accident” thing. Sometimes you just put the idea out in the universe. When you say, ‘I’m open to whatever that thing is,’ and you don’t hold it tightly, that’s when the magic can happen.“

Ami is a huge fan of art, photography, and design. She says, “I love colors. I love textures. I love piecing weird things together. That’s another thing with Energie that I can do. I’m not obligated to put an outfit together that’s one brand. I can piece together maybe something another person wouldn’t see.” Not limited to apparel, Ami also has an affinity for home fashions. Her long term dream involves Energie expanding into a lifestyle boutique making available, not only Athleisure apparel, but home furnishing and beauty products. Says Dodd, “I think Energie really is a lifestyle. If I were to explain it, it is literally my life. Energie is what I do and I want other people to experience that. Not that my life is a perfect thing to follow; I don’t mean it that way. But I think going through struggles and breaking a lot of boxes for myself and being on the other side of that, I want to help other people do that to. It’s more than just movement and fitness. It’s things that we eat. It’s the way that we create the space for ourselves to come home to and it’s the relationships that we have with each other.”

Energie - Ami laughing

Energie currently has products available on the online store, but its physical presence is limited to the DMV. But like everything, businesses evolve. Part of this evolution is the potential for franchising. Says Dodd, “I think that anyone who loves that same concept could take this and incorporate it in their own neighborhoods or cities. I think it’s a really easy model to replicate if you have that spirit of community and connection. That’s why it’s so doable. It’s my vision and my dream, but it’s not me. Energie is really not about me. It’s about the communities and the people. It can translate anywhere.” But closer on the horizon is the plan to move Energie into the subscription box service arena. Says Ami, “I want it to be an experience. You open it and you feel like you’re in some sort of wanderlust adventure. And who doesn’t like to get mail?!”

Her personal experience thus far, owning Energie, has developed into some sage entrepreneurial advice. She shares, “Energie has gained it’s own momentum. Sure, I’m behind that in a sense, but I think a lot of the success has caught on because something sparks with people when you talk about it with them. They get excited about it and that excitement has taken Energie where it has gotten so far. It’s almost evolved on it’s own. My only part in that is being open to let it grow organically instead of forcing things.” She admits that she has moments when things aren’t feeling right, but she then takes a step back to let it breathe. It’s in this exercise in restraint that Ami has found so much clarity. She adds, “There’s always a path that just, maybe in that moment, is really unclear.   Sometimes you have to let things breathe and watch them from an outside perspective.”

Energie - Ami handstand

Ami also believes that there are no rules. Support is great and a village is great, but you have to have the drive inside you. Shares Dodd, “I think instinctually and intuitively, everyone has a strong internal voice and guide. Don’t put rules there. Start small. Just start something. It might not be anything like it started. It might turn into something completely different. It might be a new business, or like me, three businesses down the line. But it has to start somewhere. Energie started 360 degrees from where I am now as far as the idea and the people. There’s no book that says you can or can’t do something, so don’t put that on yourself. You have a calling or you have a spark; if it makes sense or even if it doesn’t make sense, and you want to do it, do it.”

Ami is really proud of her relationships with her customers and vendors. Each so essential to making things run. Whether it’s Energie, or teaching, or even your household, it’s the relationships that play such a huge part of being successful. Like that old saying, ‘it takes a village’.   Says Ami, “I really believe everything we do takes a village. Sometimes we want to control things so tightly, and I’m totally guilty of that, but when you let that go and let things be, and let other people come in and enter with their own ideas it has no choice but to evolve and grow.” Allowing herself to release control at least long enough to allow other people to become a part of the process has been instrumental in her success. “Otherwise,” says Dodd, “it would just be another store.”

Energie - clothing 3


Be sure to Like and Follow Energie on these social media sites:, Facebook, and Instagram


For a list of Energie boutique locations, go to

Guest – Tara Wegdam – Crème de la Crème Imports, Lou Lou Boutique, and Zest Clothing & Co.

Tara Wegdam - in store

Tara and Ben Wegdam have created quite an empire for themselves under the umbrella of the West Federal Retail Family. What started as one home furnishing store in Holland, has grown to 30 plus home furnishing, clothing and accessory stores spanning from Boston to Atlanta. Headquartered in Middleburg, Virginia, the couple has created and managed successful brick and mortars of accessory shops (LouLou Boutique), clothing boutiques (Zest Clothing & Co., formerly also named Lou Lou) and home furnishing stores (Crème de la Crème Imports).



An avid shopper herself, Tara has an affinity for boutique-style shopping. Not one to pick through the discount stores, Tara prefers to shop in beautiful stores that reflect the style of the merchandise sold within, a concept that she has fully embraced and implemented in her own shops.

Originally from Nashville, she participated as a student in the Hollins Study Abroad Program through Hollins College (now Hollins University). It was during her time in Holland that Tara met her Dutch husband, Ben Wegdam.   They moved to Holland after she graduated where Tara opened her first store called The French Shoppe. Tara’s shop featured items all of French origin.

The couple moved to the US with Ben’s job. He worked for Ahold Delhaize, the Dutch company that owns Stop and Shop, and Giant, among others. Their main office was located in Chantilly, but the couple wanted to live in the country, so they settled in Middleburg, Va.

Their move also involved bringing The French Shoppe with them. As Tara’s inventory began to expand to other European regions, she took the opportunity to change the name of the store to Crème de la Crème Imports when they relocated to the US. With this new name, Tara gained more freedom of what type of merchandise she could offer in her store.

Tara Wegdam - stack of scarves

The concept of the store started as home furnishings. It then spilled over to apparel and then on to accessories. The original Virginia store was located on Federal Street in Middleburg. The opportunity to move the shop to the more coveted location of E. Washington Street became available, so they jumped at the chance. The logistics of it all left the couple with two store fronts. It was at this time, that the division of home furnishings from clothing and accessories as born. Again presented with a store front option on E. Washington Street, they opened a third shop. This time they made the separation of accessories from apparel.

They quickly realized that the customer was really ok buying clothes and accessories at different locations. Says Wegdam, “When the customers responded favorably to shopping for accessories separately I was excited. I like it too! Sometimes it’s a relief not to have to look through clothes just to buy a super cute accessory item or a gift.”

Tara Wegdam - wallets

But look for changes with regards to their clothing stores. I was so flattered that I was one of the first know that The Wegdams were working to rebrand their apparel shops. In the Carytown section of Richmond, VA, their clothing store is called Zest Clothing & Co. This store has a slightly different concept having a limited, specialized selection of accessories to accompany their outstanding clothing lines. Going forward, there will be a clear separation from the Lou Lou accessories boutiques and the apparel shops. The clothing stores will be completely rebranded and styled continuing on with the name Zest. They will have a more modern vibe with sleeker shelving units that will enable the customers to see the merchandise more efficiently. Fear not. The clothing style offering that you have come to know and love will stay the same. Says Wegdam, “The whole idea behind it is to help the customer shop.”

A self-described picky person, Tara truly feels that it is her job to sort through all of the products that are out there in the world so she can provide the very best for her customers. That is what she strives to do. She adds, “It’s our job to edit the good from the bad for the stores so the customers don’t have to look at everything. I want the customer to come in to a whole store of good stuff and be able to pick what they like out of the collection.” On a personal note, this is exactly why I shop at Lou Lou/Zest. I know, without fail, that I can go into the store and find something that will work for me and in a price range that won’t pulverize a paycheck.

Tara Wegdam - Styled outfit 2

Tara has equal love for each of her stores. She shares, “It’s like choosing a favorite child. You just can’t. I love it all. But what I really love are the customers. The customers are the most important people.”

Tara is inspired by her customers. She observes what they are wearing and how they style themselves and takes inspiration from that. Tara shares, “I listen to the customers all the time. That’s why I love to work in the stores because they’re the best buyers in the world.” Admittedly, we live in a time of fast fashion that moves and changes constantly. Customers want to buy it now and want to wear it now, be happy with it, and then move on to the next thing.

But her dream was always to own a store. To this day, Tara’s real joy comes from being around the customers. So for her, when asked how her reality differs from her dream, she answered, “I’m sitting in an office, behind a computer and I don’t like computers. I always thought that I would just work in a store. That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what I still want to do. But it’s ok. It evolved into something else that’s been great. But sometimes I’ll just disappear out of here and go to one of the stores. That makes me happy. It’s what I love to do.”

Tara Wegdam - with customer

As my loyal followers know, I’m always interested in an entrepreneur’s underlying drive for taking the leap. Some have very calculated and focused paths. When Tara started to explain her motivation, she asked, “Have you ever read the definition of the word entrepreneur? The definition in the dictionary is a person who takes great financial risk. I had no idea! It’s so funny! That’s probably why we did it…because I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was just a person with an idea who was going to make it work. Which is the positive, dreamy version of a person who takes risks.”  Having grown up with two entrepreneurial parents, Tara might just have a unique perspective. She never really thought about the risk. She never considered that it wouldn’t work. In her mind, if it’s not working, you just fix it and keep going.

Tara’s advice?  “Everybody should try what they want to do. I always tell people, ‘Just do it.  Just do it. See what happens. It’s never ever going to be how you think it’s going to be. If it’s going to work, it’s not what you think it’s going to be. It could be worse, but it could be better.’ I think so many people have such great ideas, they just don’t start.” She stresses the thought that so many people expect to be an overnight success. Even those that we perceive as overnight successes were not overnight successes. Tara adds, “People get caught up in the plan. Is it going to work? Well, it might not. It really might not.” She shared that people would tell her and her husband all of the time that their business wasn’t going to work. That was 20 years ago. Tara adds, “I didn’t even think about them. How can it not work? It’s going to work because I‘m going to make it work.”

Tara Wegdam - clothing rack

With a family, multiple stores and store concepts, and the social media that accompanies each, how does Tara manage to keep it all together? She shares, “Honestly, it’s a lot. There are things that we don’t do well. And sometimes you just have to take those things and not do well at them because you can’t. My husband and I both say, sometimes you just have to do things 80% and it just has to be good enough.”

Tara reminds us, “We’re still a small company. We run our headquarters with about 20 people. It’s kind of amazing. Everybody wears many hats, and everybody does the best they can and they work really hard. We all do a lot, but you know, it is just clothes. When it comes down to it, we’re not curing cancer here.” The total employee count for West Federal Retail Family is roughly 240 employees, so managing all of the people is formidable. I asked Tara if she ever thought her one shop would grow to such proportions. Her response?  “NO! I still don’t even think about it.”

Tara Wegdam - styled outfit 3

The couple’s multi-store mini empire continues to thrive, but the looming concern of the consumer shift to online shopping extinguishing the brick and mortar is real. Says Tara, “I think the next couple years are going to be really telling about the customers shopping habits and the Internet. We’re going to have to reevaluate our online presence.”

Traffic is down in the stores. We’ve all seen the mall stores closing. Unfortunately, it’s likely to trickle down, particularly on days when the weather is less than awesome. People prefer to sit behind their computer and shop online. Tara warns, “It’s really going to be a problem. I don’t know if people believe that the shops are going to go away if the customers don’t start shopping in them.”  Although, a town like Middleburg, as well as their other locations, are unique and might weather the storm better than most, the Wegdams are concerned about the other retailers as well. Says Tara, “We all need each other. We can’t have one store on one street. Everybody needs to bond together and make sure people are still touching things.”

Tara Wegdam - hanging shawl vests

I think we can all agree, that for a lot of us, “retail therapy” is a real thing. Tara takes her role in the community very seriously. When discussing her customers she shares, “You don’t know. Maybe those people haven’t spoken to anybody all day long. That is why we all, as a society and a community, have to be aware that store fronts serve different purposes on many levels. People are lonely. And if you are sitting behind your computer ordering things…what if all the stores were closed? We need to get out and have human contact. I realized that is what we do all day long. We have human contact with people, whether they buy anything or not. I think it’s something bigger than retail. I hope that we make a difference by being nice to people. We are family owned and we try to keep it like that. We want you to have that feel when you’re shopping and connecting with us. We are a part of your community.” Tara adds, “And I really do just LOVE the customers. That’s why we opened our shop.”


You can get some insight on Tara Wegdam’s personal style in my Tastemaker Profile feature in the Spring issue of NVSL Magazine.

NVSL Magazine logo FB


Be sure to follow each of the stores on these social media sites:

Crème de la Crème Imports: and Instagram

Lou Lou Boutique:, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest

Zest Clothing & Co.: and Instagram


Guest – Elizabeth Goeke – Inn at Westwood Farm

inn at westwood farm sign

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a high end running and cross training apparel manufacturer called Moving Comfort. One of the co-owners of Moving Comfort was Elizabeth Goeke; one of the most high energy and dynamic women that I have ever known.

After running a successful apparel business for over 25 years, Elizabeth decided it was time to pursue another passion. Her next path had been building for decades. Elizabeth loves to throw parties and has had a lifelong affinity for architecture, design, and gardening. It had long been a dream for Elizabeth to open a bed and breakfast. Having spent much of her time on travel for work and pleasure, she had come to know the essentials in comfort when staying away from home and aimed to bring that to her guests at the 5-star rated B&B Inn at Westwood Farm located in Orange, VA.


Elizabeth and her husband and business partner, Jay Billie, are innkeepers of their beautiful bed and breakfast. The house is super comfortable and not one bit stuffy or formal. But expect to find the finest finishes and furnishing throughout.

The couple met at their 25th high school reunion, and began dating 5 years later. Jay’s background is in market research, but he always wanted to renovate old houses. It was a match made in heaven. (Or should I say, INN heaven. LOL. I couldn’t resist.) They bought Westwood in 2004 always with the intent of making it a bed and breakfast, and opened for business on September 14, 2007. Says Elizabeth, “We finished the 18 month renovation, we hung the last paintings at 12:30 pm, and the first guests were to come at 4.”

inn at westwood farm - EG and Jay

I am fascinated by why or how people going down an entrepreneurial path are able to make the leap of faith to pursue their dream. Elizabeth has had the great fortune of not only going after one dream, but two! I asked her what she thinks allows her to put herself out there and go for it. Her answer, “Each time the opportunity presented itself, my passion for the experience outweighed the guarantee of a secure future. Not a decision one would necessarily make if they were raising a family or taking care of a dependent parent.”

When further discussing her “no guts, no glory” approach to life, Elizabeth shares, “Both dreams have been a lot of work, but were great. I’m a lucky woman. I feel very fortunate that I’ve lived the dream. It really is hard work, but I guess it’s just like anything else.  It’s what you put into it.” But Goeke adds, “It’s a gamble. There is no sure thing. And there were times when it was scary. Having your own business is not an easy thing to do. It’s not easy, but I always wanted to do this.”

inn at westwood farm - Jay and EG behind bars

Built in 1910, Westwood is a fabulous house on a picturesque lot of 15 acres. It’s got a north facing front door and wonderful windows that brighten the space even on the darkest day. The house has four guest rooms with private baths and guests can enjoy a library and sitting room on the guest floor as well as a shared living and dining room on the main level. Outside there are several porches that provide wonderful views and an excellent environment for a nap.  There are plenty of seating areas scattered around the property for guests to take in a sunset and enjoy a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate. Best known for their attention to detail, great food, and wonderful concierge service, the innkeepers will give you as much attention as they sense you would like and all the space in the world if they sense that.

Elizabeth and Jay are fortunate to know a good bit of the history of Westwood. The original owner, Robert Dabney Browning, grew up on a neighboring property called Oakley. One of four sons, Robert was the only one of the Browning children interested in farming. Since 1910, the property has been known as Westwood deriving its name because it was the woods WEST of Oakley. Browning farmed the property until the late 50s when he passed away. The farm remained in the family until the 1980’s, last owned by the original owner’s grandson. Elizabeth and Jay have come to know Browning’s grandson who stays at the Inn at least once or twice a year.


inn at westwood farm - history

It was a couple that purchased the property in the late 90s who renovated the original part of the house and created an addition on the side of the home. When Elizabeth and Jay bought Westwood, the addition consisted of a two car garage with a second story under roof, but never built out. A huge part of their vision for the house included renovating the unfinished addition. Jay and Elizabeth spent 18 months building out that section of the house. It was imperative to them to make sure that there was no discernible difference in style or aesthetic, as you climb the steps from the original downstairs space to the newly renovated upper level. I can tell you first hand, there is not. It is seamless and lovely.

It was only in the late 1920s that Westwood was ever used as anything other than a private residence. Says Elizabeth, “The original owner would rent rooms to city folk from Richmond who would come to the mountains for the summer and the family would move to the attic. When we moved in, we discovered ghosts of partial walls up in the attic.”

inn at westwood farm - back yard

Goeke and her husband spent two years of weekends to turn Westwood into the spectacular bed and breakfast that it is today. Says Elizabeth, “We were doing the Northern Virginia commute and we’d work on the property on the weekends. The only thing here was the picket fence but no gardens.” The couple added 12 raised garden beds to grow their own vegetables and flowers, and have taken over one of their two paddocks with the addition of a chicken coup, more vegetable gardens and a small hoop house.

Because Westwood only has four guest rooms, the couple’s plan was to also provide venue space for events and weddings. Wedding season can start as early as March and continue throughout the fall.  As site coordinators for all events, Elizabeth and Jay manage the process on the property. They work closely with the wedding coordinators and vendors especially if they have never worked an event on their property previously. They can also be hired to provide the flowers for the tables and aisles. Says Elizabeth, “I actually think I enjoy the planning part of it more than the party. We hold our breath until everybody is in the tent, or the barn, eating dinner. After that, we can exhale.” For Elizabeth, the joy is in the details. She ensures that everything around the family and guests is perfect.


inn at westwood farm - wedding

In her previous career at the apparel company, every product that they made had to look good and have a purpose with their foundational principles of people, product and presentation, dictating choices and performance. That philosophy translates perfectly to the inn. Says Elizabeth, “It’s all about the people, without them we’re nothing, the product that you serve them and the presentation there of.”

To her, setting a table is an art and color is important.   She says, “Most people really don’t understand why they feel good in a certain environment, they just know that they like it. Do they have the appreciation for how much time went into selecting the color of the wall so it doesn’t fight the environment or their senses, or the rug on the floor or the furniture in the room? Probably not. But they step in and they can feel it.” The spectacular rugs came first and were the inspiration of the color throughout the house.

inn at westwood farm - breakfast table

Each of the guest rooms are appointed with soft white robes, down comforters and pristine, white, French bed linens, which Elizabeth has been collecting for some time. The bathrooms contain large soaking tubs, hand milled soaps and comfy towels that will make you feel perfectly pampered. Although the couple’s personal taste is way more contemporary, they have an eclectic blend of furnishings that appeal to them as homeowners, but also honor the era of the house.

And then there is the food. Each day starts with coffee and tea service at 7 am on the guest floor. Because she did so much business travel in her past career, Elizabeth shares, “A great stay, for me, was always better with great coffee and if I was in a hotel that had room service, it was coffee at my door, a newspaper and never seeing a soul. So here, we do early morning coffee and tea. Nobody ever sees us. Whenever they awake, I don’t care what time it is, it will be there.”

inn at westwood farm - eggs

Breakfast is served in the main dining room, or on one of the porches if weather permits, from 8 am to 9:30 am. There are several breakfast entrees to choose from, but none more famous with their guests then their signature Eggs Westwood (a unique and tasty twist on Eggs Benedict) featuring Westwood Farm fresh eggs and Jay’s own recipe for his killer hollandaise sauce. They honor their farm-to-table concept by taking advantage of the local farms, as well as their own, for fresh products.

There is so much to do around Westwood. Guest can visit cute little towns like Orange and Gordonsville. There are over 250 wineries in the Commonwealth and some really great ones just a short drive from the Inn; Barboursville Winery, Keswick Winery and Early Mountain Winery, to name a few. Be sure to set aside some time in the afternoon for a wine tasting.

virginia winery map

There are fantastic you-pick-it farms, stores and markets, and kayaking in the Rappahannock River two miles away with a highly recommended and knowledgeable guide. And then you have the most popular historic attraction in the area; James Madison’s Montpelier. It’s a one mile walk from the front door of Westwood to the main gate at Montpelier which sits on 2600 acres.

If that was not enough, Inn at Westwood Farm is only 22 miles from Charlottesville, VA, that hosts a large assortment of great restaurants and shopping. Need more? Have the concierge (aka Elizabeth and Jay!) book spa treatments at a nearby salon. Or how about a sunrise or sunset hot air balloon ride? The balloon picks you up right on the Inn’s lawn!

inn at westwood farm - hot air balloon

Or never leave the property. Stay and walk the grounds. Soak up some sun or shade and sit for a long read. Says Goeke, “Often times people walk out and say, ‘Next time, I’m not going to spend all Saturday out and about. I’m going bring my book, read and take a nap.’”

Elizabeth and Jay take great pride in their impeccable concierge service. From providing some bubbly and berries for couple celebrating an anniversary to supplying some late arriving guests with a tray of great cheeses, the giver benefits equally as the receivers. Elizabeth enjoys surprising and delighting their guests. She calls on how she would want to be treated and sets their standards very high to ensure an amazing experience. The couples’ mantra is that it isn’t luxury unless you get to experience it and doesn’t have to be fussy; it just has to be wonderful.

inn-at-westwood-farm (1)

Westwood houses an impressive lending library where guests can check out a book. And don’t be afraid of not completing the book before you leave. Thinking of every detail, the innkeepers will provide you with a mailing envelope to take home with you and use when you have finished your read.

But my favorite service provided by the concierge at Westwood is their picnic basket delivery to Montpelier. If their guests want to walk to the mansion, the concierge will drop a picnic basket off at the visitor’s center for guests to pick up and enjoy. When done, they can return the basket to the visitor’s center to be retrieved, freeing the guests of the burden of carrying it back should they decide to walk back to the inn.


Elizabeth shares, “We have the most wonderful guests. They get it. They don’t want a place that puts rose petals on their bed at night. (Never on my French linens! There are so many chemicals in those things! LOL!)” Elizabeth and Jay have discovered that their guests share a respect for the environment and love the outdoors. Guests come to hike, kayak, walk the trails, and take in Montpelier. They return time and again to be pampered in the simple, but luxurious accommodations. Elizabeth and Jay have created a wonderful, peaceful existence that they want to share. Says Elizabeth, “We just think it’s a little bit of paradise and so do people who visit.”

inn at westwood farm - sunset


Inn at Westwood Farm: 12256 Montford Road, Orange, Virginia 22960

You can find the Inn on TripAdvisor, and   Or follow on social media on Instagram @inn_at_westwood_farm and Facebook @innatwestwoodfarm.

1 Photo cirque 1915

2 Photography by Karen Seifert