Date: November 23, 2020 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
A Little Rock designer helps Mechan and Dr. Susanna Shermer meld their distinct styles in a cohesive, well-loved family home
Dr. Susanna Shermer has always had a knack for reviving homes in her favorite Little Rock neighborhoods, the Heights and Hillcrest. However, when she and wife Mechan first stepped foot in their current home, they had different thoughts about just how much renovation the place required. “When this house came on the market, Mechan was like, Oh, it’s perfect! We don’t have to do anything,” Susanna recalls. “And I was over here going, this has good bones, but we can change everything.”
As soon as they moved in, Susanna got to work on the spaces she recognized as areas for improvement. “She’s touched every part of this home,” Mechan says of Susanna’s involvement in the process, which included painting all the walls, removing heavy draperies, and updating the kitchen with new countertops and a concrete finish on the brick pillars. “My preference is so neutral and light and airy, and everything was a lot darker when we moved in,” Susanna says.
During this process, Susanna was taken by a piece of art she saw featured in an issue of At Home in Arkansas. She reached out to the artist, Northwest Arkansas painter Allison Hobbs, and commissioned something similar—a woman’s face in abstract, which now hangs in the couple’s foyer. “Once we got that piece, we knew we had to make some changes,” Mechan says, noting that its modern nature didn’t mesh with the French country furnishings left over from their previous abode. “I would say that piece was probably the launching pad of us moving into a complete redo of our home.”
Susanna (left) and Mechan with their son, Hudson.
While Susanna was comfortable picking out paint colors and kitchen finishes, she felt she needed the help of a professional to combine her love of simplicity with Mechan’s desire for a touch of eclecticism. She headed to one of her favorite design stores, Cobblestone & Vine, where Stuart Thalheimer Davis was working at the time. “I said, I would love to talk to one of your designers, and God gifted us Stuart,” Susanna laughs. “She’s so patient and sweet, and she took both of our visions and just made it happen.”
“Since the home is so much about neutrals and textures, we really let the art be where color comes through,” Stuart says. She helped the Shermers find furniture, light fixtures, rugs, and accessories that drew from both the piece in the foyer and the bright abstract in the sunroom (also by Allison Hobbs) in subtle ways that carry throughout the design. “They had some of the most amazing pieces already, and it was really about merging their two styles together,” Stuart adds.
A grasscloth wallcovering and woven pendant in the dining room play off the homeowners’ love of natural textures.
“They had some of the most amazing pieces already, and it was really about merging their two styles together.” —Stuart Thalheimer Davis, designer
In the foyer, a blue wall color and beaded light fixture bring color and whimsy.
In the living room, Stuart helped the Shermers resituate the layout, allowing the mantel to become a focal point. In doing so, they moved the television to the wall opposite the fireplace and, in its place, installed floating shelves to display pottery collections and seasonal décor. “They also wanted it to feel like a place where their family of three could all be together, so we added swivel chairs to make it more open and relaxed,” Stuart says. Neutral stockings with colorful tassels reflect the home’s playful spirit. The Shermers are passionate about their growing collection of art by Arkansas locals. Over the mantel hangs a painting by retired Little Rock artist Kax.
In the kitchen, the couple had two brick pillars resurfaced with concrete, which gives the otherwise traditional room a more modern, industrial slant. They also updated the backsplash with a classic white subway tile, added a faux vent hood (the stove is a downdraft model), and replaced dark countertops with light Taj Mahal quartzite. Mechan collects handmade pottery and vintage crocks; glass-front cabinet doors and built-in island shelving provide opportunities to display her pieces.
Stuart balanced the farmhouse style of the breakfast table with chairs that have a midcentury vibe. The woven seats add another layer of texture to the design.
Place for Play
A pass-through space between the living room, screened-in porch, and kitchen presented a design challenge. “That was a tricky spot for them,” Stuart says. “They showed me an inspiration picture of this great window seat area, and this was the perfect place to add something like that.” As busy moms of 5-year-old Hudson, Susanna and Mechan also loved that this solution created storage for toys, craft supplies, and games in close proximity to so many of the home’s living spaces.
One of the biggest changes the Shermers made to this house was the addition of a spacious screened-in porch complete with a stone fireplace, porch swing, and dining table. “Susanna’s grandparents on both sides of her family had screened-in porches, so every house she’s been in, that’s been important to have,” Mechan says. “We love the mountains, especially Aspen and Eureka Springs, and we wanted to incorporate a little of that feeling out here with the stone,” she adds. The Shermers also called on Stuart to help decorate their home for the holidays. “For Christmas, we wanted to bring in lots of greenery but keep it pretty loose and organic,” Stuart says. “Nothing’s too formal. That wouldn’t be fitting for the house, and that wouldn’t really be fitting for them.”
Inspired by Travel
Both the master bedroom and bath contain subtle influences from another one of the Shermers’ favorite travel destinations: Seaside, Florida. “We’ve vacationed there every year since Hudson was a baby,” Susanna says. Their bed frame was inspired by one in the very first cottage they ever stayed at in Seaside. Stuart helped customize their bedding around an Aztec-inspired blanket, one of Mechan’s favorite motifs. In the bathroom, they maximized the small space by replacing a walk-in shower with a tub/shower combination and a pedestal sink with a more storage-friendly vanity. For the shower surround, Susanna worked with Kaufman By Design West to come up with something “white and beachy.” “That’s my little beach nook,” Susanna says. “I just wanted a piece of Seaside at home.”
Bathroom design and contractor Gary Pursell, Pursell Construction Interior and Christmas design Stuart Thalheimer Davis, Stuart Thalheimer Davis Design Accessories, furnishings, and mirrors Cantrell Furniture Design Center, Cobblestone & Vine, Fabulous Finds Antique and Decorative Mall, Jayson Cain Interiors, Jenifer’s Antiques, Ransom Interiors, and Stuart Thalheimer Davis Design Art Allison Hobbs Bedding, pillows, and wallcoverings Cobblestone & Vine Christmas décor Cobblestone & Vine, Ransom Interiors, and Tanarah Luxe Floral Concrete resurfacing, construction (window seat), and millwork Nick Brown & John Woodard, NB Enterprises Countertops Triton Stone Group Countertops (installation) All Natural Stone Lighting Light Innovations and Stuart Thalheimer Davis Design Paint Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams Stonework (outdoor fireplace) Ellison’s Home Improvement Tile Kaufman By Design West Upholstery (window seat) Patti Morrison Slipcovers, Etc.