Photograph by Jeff Herr
Rhoda Vickers knows firsthand how much everyone appreciates a hard-luck story with a happy ending. The longtime Atlantan, a graduate of Sprayberry High School, worked here for thirty years as an executive assistant. In 2005 she remarried and moved to Birmingham, where she retired from the corporate world and started blogging about home decorating. Her posts took an unexpected dramatic turn when her day-trading husband squandered all of her and other clients’ money, fled the country, and was eventually convicted of fraud. “It was a horrible thing to go through, but then it forced me to make a fresh start,” she says now. In 2011 the fifty-something Rhoda divorced, moved back into her parents’ Marietta home—the same one she’d grown up in—and turned her blog, Southern Hospitality, into a full-time profession.
None of this is a secret, because Rhoda shares all at southernhospitalityblog.com, which is mostly a haven for remodeling tales, DIY projects, and her own decorating adventures. But Rhoda’s personal story has helped her mobilize a devoted following. Every month, 230,000 visitors explore her site, which has 15,000 subscribers and a dozen or so weekly sponsors—including Lowe’s, for whom Rhoda is a “brand ambassador.”
A few months after returning to Marietta, Rhoda scraped together enough to buy a 1979 split-level foreclosure in Kennesaw for $70,000. With its old carpet, roach-infested kitchen cabinets, and “hideous” wallpaper, the house gave her plenty of repair challenges to blog about. Nonetheless, Rhoda felt it had potential for a cottagey look, and she loved the screened-in porch.
With the help of her eighty-five-year-old father, Albert Vickers, Rhoda tackled one room at a time—the two of them tearing out old cabinets and assembling new Ikea models, applying backsplash tile, mounting board-and-batten molding in the dining room, and painting bathroom cabinets, to list just a few projects. The Vickers have always been a DIY family, Rhoda notes. And they’re not finished yet, with a screened-porch makeover and several key basement upgrades on the drawing board.
The self-taught renovator’s most popular blog posts are recipes and tutorials, such as instructions for adding frames to mirrors or for applying an antique-black finish to dated furniture—both techniques she’s tested in her own home. Budget ideas like hanging beadboard wallpaper are popular too.
“There’s really an overload of decorating information on the Internet these days,” says Rhoda. “I’m fortunate to have gotten started on the whole blogging thing before it took off. My readers have been cheering me on during this journey.”
This article originally appeared in our May 2013 issue.