Date: October 21, 2016 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Nancy Nolan |
Bret Franks is all about building character. For the past 17 years, he has been leaving his mark on the homebuilding industry by constructing custom homes in Central Arkansas. However, the opportunity to be the sole builder of a highly personalized show home had eluded him until last fall when he completed a house in Conway’s Princeton Village. Here’s how he, along with Todd Smith and Charlie Groppetti—the duo behind Arkansas’ Park Hill Collection, created a Southern-style, farmhouse-inspired residence that fits perfectly into this new construction neighborhood.
The Program’s Framework
“I had always wanted to do one of the show houses,” Franks says. “Being a member of the Southern Living Custom Builder Program gives you the opportunity to build a tour home, and when we began doing work in Princeton Village I knew it would be a good place to build one.” While vacationing in New England in October 2014 with his wife, Beth, Franks decided the time had come. He looked forward not only to being able to build a home that was directed by his vision but also the opportunity to give back to the community. “Outside of showcasing your work, the other benefit [of building a show house] is that it’s a fundraiser for organizations,” Franks says. The money collected from tours of each Southern Living Custom Builder Program show house goes toward two good causes: Operation FINALLY HOME, which provides mortgage-free homes for veterans and an organization of the builder’s choosing. Franks chose to donate the other half of the funds to Conway Regional Health System to help with a recent emergency room renovation. Franks credits Beth with organizing the volunteers and the marketing efforts to generate funding for these worthy causes. The tours, which took place in the fall of 2015, generated approximately $10,000 for these organizations.
Finding the One
Choosing a house plan came almost as naturally as the decision to undertake the show home. The neighborhood style and the 50-foot lot set some parameters, and Franks took to the Southern Living website to find a house plan that suited the environment as well as his building tendencies. “Being a Southern Living builder, that’s pretty much my go-to,” he says of the site’s extensive library of plans. He and Beth found “Randolph Cottage” and immediately fell for the Cape Cod-inspired exterior as well as the cozy interior floor plan. However, it needed one key Southern element—a front porch. “That’s kind of my deal. I want a porch on every house I build. My style is definitely Southern and traditional,” he says. After learning the “Randolph Cottage” had a porch alternate plan, Franks was sold. He made a few adjustments to the plan, including enlarging the closets and creating a wider staircase, and then set to work to turn the plans into a reality.
In addition to the floor plan tweaks, Franks knew there were interior features he wanted this home to encompass in order for it to be a true reflection of him and his work. For starters, he wanted to use shiplap in some of the rooms. “I’ve been putting boards up in houses for years; it’s not original now but I love to do it in almost every project. It’s timeless and will never go out of style,” he says of the popular wall treatment. Numerous other features are a nod to his building style, including a tongue-and-groove wood ceiling on the porch, an apron-front sink (“a must-have” in the kitchens of all homes he builds), a wood-and-glass front door, and wooden floors throughout the home.
Aside from those mainstays, Franks is also known for incorporating found pieces into his homes. This time the customization feature came in the form of a sliding barn-style door separating the master bedroom and bath. “I got this wood from the floor of an old boxcar. They pull out the boards when they are refurbishing them, and the wood is just beautiful,” Franks says. “I love going to antique shops and flea markets to look for materials,” he adds.
Making It Homey
While Franks’ personalized features gave the house character, he knew he wanted the touch of a designer to make it feel cozy and inviting for the tour guests. “My wife and I both really like the style of Park Hill Home in Conway, so we called down there to see if they had someone on staff who could help us to decorate the house.” Park Hill Home owners Smith and Groppetti were more than happy to oblige as the house seemed to lend itself to their style as well. The Franks, Smith, and Groppetti mapped out the design scheme over supper one night. Upon completion of the structure, the Park Hill team spent a week outfitting it with pieces from their signature collection, which includes simplistically beautiful furnishings that pair well with the home’s cottage style.
“With modest square footage, each room had to seamlessly transition to one another, but also establish its own identity. This gives more usable, livable space that has the dramatic impression of a much larger home,” Groppetti says of the design approach. He notes that a “mild, one-color-throughout paint palette” helps to make the room-to-room transition smooth. In addition the selected neutral hue invites different tones and textures to be easily incorporated in each space. Classic pieces of furniture, art inspired by rural settings, and an overall cadence of wood, iron, and soft colors complete the home’s harmonious down-to-earth look.
Architect Bill Ingram (Southern Living House Plan / SL 1864 “Randolph Cottage”)
Contractor, bath, kitchen, and landscape design Bret Franks Construction, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 404-7412, bretfranks.com
Accessories, art, bedding, fabrics, furniture, hardware, mirrors, outdoor furnishings, rugs, and window coverings Park Hill Home, Conway, (501) 358-3537
Cabinets—kitchen Grant’s Cabinets & Millwork, LLC, Greenbrier, (501) 472-2923, grantscabinets.com
Cabinets—bathroom Kitchen & Bath Concepts, Little Rock, (501) 225-5221
Countertops A-1 Granite Man, Inc., Maumelle, (501) 753-9696, a1granitneman.net
Fireplace Royal Hearth and Home, Mabelvale, (501) 455-3667, royaldoors.com
Fixtures—bath Southern Pipe & Supply, locations statewide, southernpipe.com
Flooring and tile ProSource, Little Rock, (501) 791-9928, prosourcewholesale.com
Lighting Park Hill Home, Conway, (501) 358-3537; Pottery Barn, Little Rock, (501) 663-0181, Rogers, (479) 246-0118, potterybarn.com
Millwork Bret Franks Construction, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 404-7412, bretfranks.com; E.W. Ray Construction, Inc., Jacksonville, (501) 681-9938
Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide, sherwin-williams.com
Painting Melvin’s Painting, Conway, (501) 514-2570
Plants River Valley Horticultural Products, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 821-4770, rivervalleyhp.com
Salvaged wood 2Brothers Reclaimed & Repurposed Inventory Sales, Menifee, (501) 548-7764, shop2brothers.com
Windows Pro Window and Door, Little Rock, (501) 663-3611, prowindowanddoor.us