Date: February 17, 2016 | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Chip Jones |
An edible and ornamental garden, a charming coop with egg-laying chickens, and a multipurpose guesthouse all play pivotal roles in the evolution of a central Arkansas country estate
Inspired by the elegance of centuries-old Tuscan villas with their diverse expansions and enhancements made across successive generations, the owners of this property, whose main house was featured previously in At Home, decided to build a guesthouse, an expansive garden—which keeps their kitchen stocked with fresh produce—and a whimsical coop to house hens. Working with interior designer, Kim Brockinton, and landscape designer Stacey Stafford, they created an addition to their estate that relates as elegantly to the existing structures as it does to the surrounding countryside.
Rather than replicating the design of the main house and using the same construction materials, Brockinton maintained an authentic Renaissance style that is somewhat consistent with the property’s other buildings, but has a uniqueness all its own. “The old European estates typically had multiple structures and were often done over a period of many years,” Brockinton notes. “In fact,” she continues, “the main houses were often added to multiple times as the family expanded. So the same materials were not necessarily available, and that resulted in a mixture of different colors, stones, roofs, and sometimes styles. We wanted to convey that with the guest villa, but not in an extreme way. I think we accomplished that.” The stone exterior of the guesthouse contrasts with the stucco of the primary residence, for instance, and the roof is reclaimed Italian tile, rather than the dappled slate used on the main house. “We used flagstone outside to maintain some level of continuity,” Brockinton adds, referring to the spacious stone patio that surrounds the building. A structural arch motif frames the exterior from all angles, similar to the existing buildings, but a hip roof on the guesthouse adds distinctive height and drama.
In addition to providing private, luxurious accommodations for visitors, the guesthouse also functions as an off-site location for business meetings—with the dining table serving as a conference table—as well as an alternate space for entertaining friends and family, whether the occasion is an intimate dinner on the porch, or a larger gathering indoors. The unique pieces the designer assembled to furnish the dining porch, including the rough-hewn chairs and antique French birdcage, create an atmosphere for these diverse uses that is at once refined and rustic.
In close proximity to the guesthouse sits the property’s spacious and prolific garden, which includes 15 beds. The garden was revamped several years back to make it even more practical for fruit and vegetable production. The fence stood as an existing border, but raised stone beds and gravel walkways were added to enhance the design and offer ease of use. “We grow cool- and warm-season crops here with hybrid varieties being planted next to staples,” says Stacey Stafford, the designer and caretaker of the garden. In the spring and summer months, he notes that you might find heirloom tomatoes, green beans, and a variety of herbs growing alongside beloved seasonal ornamentals, including New Dawn roses that climb the fence and containers filled with a mix of sun-loving colorful blooms. Near one of the entrances to the garden, the designer cleverly uses strawberries as ground cover providing a beautiful green gateway to the beds that also supplies fresh fruit to the kitchen.
In the cooler months, Stafford plants lettuce, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other seasonal varieties in the beds. Following this pattern, many of the plants rotate in and out of the garden; however, a few remain year-round, including horseradish and French sorrel, a bushy green herb that can be added to salads and soups for a citrus flavor. “I try to talk folks into growing more perennial items, like the sorrel and asparagus, in their gardens,” says Stafford, “simply because of the time investment. You don’t have to invest as much in tending these and they will offer you a harvest you can continue to enjoy.”
The Chicken Coop
Similar to the garden, the chicken coop is attractive and useful. Stafford worked with Ben Shy of Shy Custom Carpentry to construct the coop, which houses about 30 chickens. Eastern cedar logs, which were harvested from the property, create the frame, while the roof was constructed from tin that was reclaimed from a nearby shed that was to be torn down. On the interior, delightful chicken-sized houses line the walls to offer colorful nests for the family’s flock. “We decided to give one side a Wild West theme and the other has more of a traditional birdhouse look,” Stafford says. Several different types of hens inhabit the coop, including Barred Rock, Araucana, and Leghorn varieties; together they produce approximately two dozen eggs per day, meaning there’s plenty to share with nearby neighbors and friends.
With numerous spaces to enjoy, it’s easy to see why this property is a relaxing and comfortable place for the owners. Taking its cues from both historical properties and from the native Arkansas land, it’s a rather remarkable addition to the serene, pastoral environment.
Carpentry—chicken coop Ben Shy, Shy Custom Renovations, Little Rock, (501) 681-3026
Carpentry—window boxes Stuart Schild, Little Rock, (501) 766-8066
Contractor—general Fred Lord, Fred Lord Builder Inc, Little Rock, (501) 821-1212
Interior design Kim Brockinton, Kim Brockinton Interiors, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 661-7600
Landscape design and maintenance Stacey Stafford, Stafford Fine Gardening, Little Rock, (501) 350-8039
Accessories—antique Pflugrad’s Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 661-0188
Furnishings Kim Brockinton Interiors, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 661-7600
Roofing Cougill Roofing, North Little Rock, (501) 812-9400, cougillroofing.com
Stone Bennett Brothers Stone, Little Rock, (501) 455-5040, bennettbrosstone.com