Date: December 5, 2018 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek |
Jeremy Carter uses fresh holiday décor to highlight the traditional, collected aspects of a family home
When Amanda and Trey Groce moved into their current home in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, it was a one-story, 1,940-square foot cottage. That suited them just fine for the first several years. However, when they found out they were expecting their second child, they started to think more long-term. The family had grown attached to their street, so rather than look for the right-sized house somewhere else, they decided to renovate.
Amanda had two requirements for her new home: “I wanted it to be very traditional, like a home that had been in the Heights for years,” she says. “And I didn’t want to change the footprint. I feel like we already had a happy-sized yard for our kids to play in, and I didn’t want to lose any of it.” To gain the space the Groces craved without losing any front yard or backyard, there was only one option—build up. By adding a second story and enclosing the carport, they were able to add a bedroom and two and a half bathrooms, plus several more living spaces. They also took the ceilings from 8 feet to 10 feet, which created the illusion of even more space.
To help the family bring this vision to life, Amanda called on her friend Jeremy Carter, designer at The Shade Above Lighting Collection, who also designed and coordinated Amanda and Trey’s wedding. “Not only did we know each other, but I have a construction background, so she was really comfortable working with me on a project like this,” Jeremy says. Amanda chose Chris Milligan with Dwellings as the architect and builder, and, after receiving initial plans, the homeowner, designer, and builder began to meet often to tweak plans, adding hints of historic character to help the house look like it’d always been there.
Jeremy says he drew inspiration for the millwork, including the extensive paneling, barreling, and arches, from East Coast homes, while some details were inspired a little closer to home: Amanda fell in love with the millwork of a nearby house she visited during an estate sale and brought photos to the team’s next meeting for inspiration. “All those details, those are classic,” Jeremy says. “I didn’t want this house to ever have to be renovated again.”
The result is a home that is elegant and well-designed, but, most importantly, well-loved and lived in. “I like a home to look like it’s grown and evolved over time,” Jeremy says. “It’s the same with Christmas—that’s why Amanda and I get along so well. Her home is decorated by a decorator, but I still allow her to have her family moments. I want my clients’ homes to reflect them, not just me.”
The front door opens to a foyer offering a grand first impression of the home. Traditional elements, such as detailed millwork and collected antiques, mean the house feels at home in one of Little Rock’s more historic neighborhoods. Jeremy complemented the Groces’ everyday design with boughs of evergreen punctuated with red berries, striped ribbons, and pinecones. Look closely and you’ll also see one of Amanda’s “critters,” a whimsical woodland creature that greets guests at the foot of the stairs. “Her kids love them, and we still want it to feel Christmas-y for the kids,” Jeremy notes.
“When you walk in her doorway, you have the huge, tall-scale ceilings, you have all the wainscoting, and then you see the big paneled arches. I wanted the arches to draw you through her home.” —Jeremy Carter, designer
A hidden door built into the hallway’s paneling discreetly hides a coat closet under the stairs. For the holidays, Amanda and Trey replace some of their everyday art with framed portraits of their children with Santa.
The formal living room showcases the Groces’ love of collecting. The sofa and chaise lounge are antiques from former Little Rock antique and home furnishings store Marshall Clements and the oil painting was Amanda and Trey’s fourth anniversary present to each other.
While the family living room is a favorite hangout year-round, it’s especially meaningful during this season when the tree is decorated and a holiday movie is playing. “Her Christmas tree is not your typical designer tree,” Jeremy says, pointing out that while he helps with the tree’s ribbon topper, Amanda, Trey, and their children take care of the rest. “My husband and I both just love Christmas and the holidays,” Amanda says. “All our ornaments are ones we’ve had from my childhood and his childhood. Some are funny; some are sentimental. Every ornament means something.”
“The theme of Amanda’s Christmas is always just natural, fresh-feeling Christmas,” Jeremy says. “We didn’t want a Christmas tree in every room, but we wanted some sort of Christmas in every room, so I added a little magnolia, pine, cedar, and red berries here and there.”
While little of the home is what you would consider open concept (“I wanted the house to still have walls and separate rooms like an old home,” Amanda says), the kitchen opens up to the living room for entertaining and everyday ease. A soft, neutral palette is the backdrop for elegant details like brass wire in the glass upper cabinets and an intricate backsplash tile above the range. For the holidays, Amanda displays her collection of Vietri’s “Old World Christmas” pattern, which both her mother and grandmother collect, too. The range hood was hand-painted by Tim Morris of Classique Expressions to give the impression of stone.
Amanda and Trey’s children, William and Katherine Louis, look through a Christmas book in front of a second Christmas tree in the children’s playroom upstairs. “Those ornaments are like the ones on the main tree—either they mean something special, someone gifted them to us, or they’re from our travels,” Amanda says.
The front porch spans the width of the home, offering seating areas on either side of the front door—the perfect perch for watching the kids play in the yard at the end of the day. Pennsylvania bluestone covers the porch, and working shutters painted in Farrow & Ball’s “French Gray” frame doors that open to the formal living room on one side and the office on the other.
Architect and builder Chris Milligan, Dwellings Interior and Christmas design Jeremy Carter, JC Designs and The Shade Above Accessories and art Fabulous Finds, Ransom Interiors, and The Shade Above Countertops and tile Inside Effects Fabrics Cynthia East Fabrics and Designer Effects Furniture Debi Davis Interior Design, DP Designs, Fabulous Finds, Jayson Cain Interiors, Providence Design, Ransom Interiors, and Roy Dudley Estate Sales Hardware PC Hardware Lighting The Shade Above Mirrors Debi Davis Interior Design and Fabulous Finds Paint Benjamin Moore, Farrow & Ball, and Sherwin-Williams Painting (decorative) Classique Expressions Rugs Aladdin Rugs and Decor Wallpaper Designer Effects Window coverings JC Designs