Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Nancy Nolan | Styling: Chip Jones |
A Little Rock home that has housed two generations of one family receives a light, airy, and completely comfortable update from designer Susan Walsh
When a house provides the setting for one family’s story across generations, it carries a special sense of place—it becomes a home with history, in the most personal sense. For Eliza Gaines, her husband Alec and their young son, Holden, it wasn’t a direct inheritance that brought her to live in a home already full of family memories, but rather fate. “This is the home my parents lived in as newlyweds. My brother was born during their time here, and Holden’s nursery was actually his nursery at that time,” Gaines says. “We were thinking about our future and starting a family, and we really liked this neighborhood, but this house wasn’t even on the market. My mom knew the homeowners were moving soon, and she called them to see if they would be willing to set up a showing.” From there, things fell right into place. Once the couple purchased the home they were eager to begin making it their own, so they contacted Susan Walsh of Little Rock’s Bear-Hill Interiors to guide them through the process.
Point of Palette
Few changes had been made to the home since Eliza’s parents left it decades earlier, and the young family were eager to put their own stamp on it. After an initial design consultation, Gaines shared her Pinterest boards with Walsh, in addition to a tear sheet of a pastel room from Veranda magazine. These inspirations helped the designer to discern more about Gaines’s personal style and the look she wanted. “I saw this home as being bright, happy, and cheerful because Eliza likes pastels so much,” Walsh says. Indeed, pastels prevail; from the lavender walls in the master bedroom to the green-hued nursery and splashes of violet, blue, pink and yellow at almost every turn, the delicate palette unifies the design.
Updating a Classic
Gaines and Walsh both felt the home had a great deal of architectural interest, so they were cautious not to compromise its character in the process of renovation. However, certain areas of the home needed updating in order to be functional, modernized, and more in line with the Gaines’s taste. “Because the home has a small footprint, every room needed to serve a very specific function,” Walsh says of the space planning. For example, the sunroom offers a place for the couple to sit with a good book or for Eliza to entertain her friends while Alec is in the main living room. Additionally, the kitchen has a small table with space for quick, casual meals, and the table in the dining room can accommodate up to eight—ideal for larger family gatherings. The living room also houses a standalone bar area, eliminating the need for an additional dedicated nook in the kitchen or dining room for this purpose.
Carrying over the same practical approach to their choice of furnishings, the couple, with the help of Walsh’s artful eye, selected classic shapes and styles that reinvigorated the space, without transforming the floorplan. Walsh also incorporated many pieces the Gaineses already owned into the design. “Eliza and Alec gave me an inventory of items they had, and I tried to use these if they worked,” Walsh notes. For instance, the plates that hang in the dining room are pieces of china that now serve as wall décor.
A Well-Dressed Home
While Walsh made good use of the family’s existing pieces, she didn’t forgo the opportunity to incorporate new furnishings and accessories that would give the home a fresh sense of traditionalism. “One of the things I really like about this house is that it has pieces she already owned, it has pieces from Pottery Barn and West Elm, and then it has a few aptly placed pieces that really pull it together,” Walsh says. “You can think of it just like you would your wardrobe, there are accessories that really make it pop. The fabrics, light fixtures, and accents are like pieces of jewelry for this home.”
Because the Gaineses knew they were planning to start a family, Walsh picked many furnishings that would be kid-friendly and last for years to come. “We really thought about that from the beginning and tried to choose things that would make sense for children and be pet-friendly,” Gaines adds. For example, Walsh could easily envision kids coloring at the durable dining room table, and the furniture in the living room is soft and casual—ideal for a family night at home.
Perhaps the best example lies in the couple’s son’s room. “It has a nursery feel, but it’s also something that he can grow into and that will work for them when he’s a toddler,” Walsh says of the pale green walls and animal-motif fabrics; “It still has the softness of a traditional nursery.” It’s this same softness, which flows throughout the home, that makes the approach and end result an undeniably current take on traditional style.
Interior design Susan Walsh, Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
Contractor Bob Breeding, Beard Breeding Painting Co. Inc., Mabelvale, (501) 455-1010
Accessories, bedding, fabrics, furniture, lighting, rugs, and wallpaper Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
Countertops—master bath Arkansas Granite & More, Benton, (501) 315-4500, argrmore.com
Fixtures—bath and kitchen Southern Pipe, locations statewide, southernbathandkitchen.com
Tile—master bath Daltile, Maumelle, (501) 812-4800, daltile.com
Window coverings Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale, (501) 455-2216