Story: Interview by Paulette Pearson | Styling: Mandy Keener |
At Home in Arkansas:
In the years since we last featured this 1920s Hillcrest home, it has changed ownership and undergone a dramatic renovation. When did the current homeowners contact you about a design overhaul?
We met when they were still in their previous home and had just purchased this house. They loved the architecture and the scale of the rooms, but we also knew that with their two children and the way they like to entertain, some things would need to be changed.
AHIA: Like what?
GM: It was important to fully integrate the kitchen with the dining room. We tore down the wall in between them and reconfigured the entire kitchen to be more open, adding a large island as a gathering place and a refreshment counter with a wine bar, built-in Miele coffee system and cubby holes underneath where the kids can store their backpacks. The previous owners had used what is now the dining area as a family room, which meant the living room at the front of the house became a dual living/family room.
AHIA: Kudos for making it elegant yet livable. Any major changes to that space?
GM: Since it will be lived in every day, we painted the molding and wainscoting to freshen it up and keep it from feeling like a dark cave. We reworked and painted the bookcases. All the woodwork is original, and when you’re working with something that old the key is to make it pristine before you begin painting, which involved weeks of sanding, filling and priming.
AHIA: That fresh coat of paint contributed to the home’s newfound light and airy feel. Was that an overall goal?
GM: The homeowners wanted to keep it light, airy, sort of Old World, with some contemporary details. They also love wood and things that are a little bit earthier.
AHIA: Does that explain the mix of wood with a light color palette and streamlined furnishings?
GM: The main thing for us was the mix of the Old World and the contemporary. In the kitchen, the luminescence of the mosaic glass tile pops against the wood counter. We had the wood credenza and bookshelves in the office custom-made, and the soft beach colors on the walls, like robin’s egg blue, were inspired by the family’s love of the beach. Lighting was also very important. We didn’t do heavy draperies and blinds. The house has wonderful western light, which is shaded by trees.
AHIA: Was the house structurally sound to begin with, or was that a point of concern as well?
GM: Early on we realized there was a sag in the foundation in the living area, so we braced up the support beams. We focused on the structure to make sure the house was solid. You can do a lot of pretty things cosmetically, but you also have to do the mechanical stuff first.
AHIA: What are your tips for a successful renovation?
GM: When I first sat down with the homeowners to talk about the project, I asked them to tear out pages and flag things they like in magazines. It might be a look that is monochromatic, or has texture, or lots of color, and you might not know why you like it, but going through the process will help you focus. We used that as a springboard to figure out what the homeowners really wanted. It’s much easier to make changes on paper.
Interior design Garry Mertins Design, Little Rock
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, locations statewide
Art Boswell Mourot Fine Art, Little Rock
Cabinetry, custom furniture Keith Newton, Little Rock
Countertops Bedrock International, Little Rock
Countertop installation All Natural Stone, Little Rock
Draperies Mary’s Hang Up, Little Rock
Furnishings Mertinsdyke Home, Little Rock
Rugs Hadidi Oriental Rug Company, Little Rock
Side table Massimo, Little Rock
Tile-kitchen backsplash, hearth Acme Brick, Little Rock