Beach-style Chic

Story: Interview by Diane Carroll  |   Styling: Diane Carroll  |  

At Home in Arkansas: This place looks as if it could be at the beach—one part classic Cape Cod and one part casual Seaside, Florida. But it also feels right at home on this hillside near Heber Springs.


Kevin Walsh of Bear-Hill Interiors: The homeowners, Jeff and Melanie Fox, told us they wanted this house to feel different than their home in Little Rock. That house has darker colors, and from the beginning they talked about this house being light and bright, traditional but casual. Melanie showed the architect, Ellen Yeary, and me some images of houses she liked, and they had a Southern style we interpreted as the kind of place you’d find at the beach or on a lake.


AHIA: How did the Foxes envision using the house?


KW: As a getaway for their family of four—they have a 10-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, and a dog that loves to come to the lake too. Plus they wanted it to be a place where friends and family could hang out comfortably.


AHIA: From the moment you enter, the emphasis of each of the main rooms is clearly the view.


KW: Our goal was for people to walk in and say “look at those views!” not “look at this furniture!” Ellen designed the floor plan so that all the main rooms are at the rear of the house and face the lake, and the front of the house is for service areas—hallways, laundry and powder rooms.


We used beautiful, big windows and French doors, and then kept the fabrics and draperies low-key so that your attention is continually drawn outside. That was a conscious part of our decision-making, and in some rooms we added elements that contributed to drawing your eye up and out, like adding paneling three-quarters of the way up the foyer wall. It creates a sight line that carries out into the room.


We even used chandeliers that you can easily see through, instead of something solid and expansive. The blue light fixture over the dining table does capture your attention a bit, but it’s the one special piece, the jewelry in the room.


AHIA: You chose a cool color palette throughout, all sorts of blues and creams and khakis.


KW: The colors were one of Melanie’s original directives. She wanted light and bright, and she was interested in using blue, which sounded ideal to me and a very fitting palette for this kind of home. I’m a proponent of using neutral fabrics for your main elements and then adding color on top, with pillows and accessories. It’s easier and much more affordable to buy new pillows and lamps when you tire of a color than to re-do upholstery and draperies.


AHIA: Dark colors are often the standard for hiding dirt and creating easy living spaces in a casual family house. How did you make this crisp space still function well for a family of four and their friends?


KW: That’s a critical element for any kind of vacation home. You have to be able to go there for rest and enjoyment, not to clean.


We used fabrics that are commercial grade or very durable and stain resistant. In a few indoor areas, we used outdoor fabrics, like Sunbrella fabric on the dining chairs. They can literally be wiped clean with a damp sponge. We also brought in some textural fabrics and linen that look best if they’re casual and loose.


Aged floors that wouldn’t spotlight dirt and are easy to clean were one of our first picks for the house. They’re reclaimed wood in mixed widths, so they’re super casual, and their light color matches the Foxes’ dog’s hair. 


AHIA: The kitchen looks like an ideal command center, situated with a view of the lake.


KW: It’s a logical kitchen for entertaining, since it’s open to the living and dining rooms, and the screened porch is just steps away. You’re never removed from your family or guests when you’re in it. We kept the counter area open so it doesn’t feel closed off. Melanie is a great cook, and she knew exactly which appliances she needed.


AHIA: The screened porch seems to be the place where you’d find a crowd.


KW: There are four club chairs, a sofa and 10 dining chairs, plus a hearth along the fireplace where people can sit, so it’s definitely designed for entertaining. With the fireplace, grill and sink, it can accommodate outdoor dining a good part of the year. We made sure it was ultra easy-care too, with stone flooring and teak furniture that will naturally weather and match the soft palette of the house. When the family leaves, they cover it all, and when they come back, they take the covers off and are ready to host a party. Isn’t that what makes a vacation home so fun?


Design Resources

Design, furnishings Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock

Architect Yeary Lindsey Architects, Little Rock

Contractor Wayne Moore Construction, Little Rock

Appliances Metro Builders Supply, North Little Rock
Cabinet hardware PC Hardware, Little Rock

Draperies Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale

Flooring Abbey Carpet & Floor, Little Rock

Lighting Bear-Hill Interiors, Light Innovations, Little Rock

Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide

Plumbing fixtures Falk Plumbing Supply, North Little Rock

Stone flooring Bennett Brothers Stone, Little Rock

Tile Elder Distributing, North Little Rock

Windows, French doors Pella, retailers statewide

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