Story: Elaine Slayton Akin | Styling: Mandy Keener |
This spring Stephen and Wendy LaFrance are trading cold nights, heavy layers and hot chocolate for sunshine, swimsuits and lemonade, all to be enjoyed literally within feet of their own back door. Their playful, yet refined outdoor living space lends itself to a relaxing, resort-like ambience with scenic vistas from a variety of angles. Built in 1929 and originally designed by the highly regarded Max Mayer, the LaFrances’ Georgian-style residence is steeped in Little Rock’s architectural heritage and exudes the presence of the historical gem it is—making it the perfect backdrop for this invitingly pristine backyard oasis.
While Kevin Walsh of Bear-Hill Interiors originally set out to design the home’s interior spaces, he couldn’t help but notice the potential for the backyard. Once an unrealized extension of the home, Walsh was eager to create an indispensable area for recreation and relaxation. He also wanted to make the space meet the family’s needs as well as their wishes. “A smooth transition from interior to exterior was priority,” he explains. “After that most of the inspiration was drawn from the family’s favorite vacation spot in Cabo San Lucas,” he adds.
In an effort to create this smooth, seamless transition, Walsh considered the interior of the home in the design of the garden. “Color palette is a great place to start in creating a unified feel to any space,” advises Walsh, who diligently established a cohesive flow to the LaFrance home by pulling grays, purples, blues and blacks from the interior décor out onto the pool deck. For example, the garden’s fabric elements, pool tiles and ground cover all mimic the tones and patterns of the interior’s silvery accent pillows, stately marbled fireplace and a graphic, black-and-white wallpaper found in the home’s breakfast room.
Leaving no stone unturned, Walsh also achieved balance of the overall property by softening the Georgian architecture, which is marked by symmetry and hard lines, with a Mediterranean flair of curvy and feminine furnishings. This includes the splats on the chairs, as well as the overall shape of the side tables, urns and sculptures. “This [design] works for the LaFrance home, but not necessarily for every home. Every house is different and I always take that into consideration. We’re not creating a cookie cutter design here, rather a one-of-a-kind venue,” he notes.
The utopian, ocean-side flavor of Cabo comes into play in the special features included in the space. Vibrant notes of this peninsular getaway are reflected in the cerulean pop of the pool tile pattern, not to mention the pool itself, which was installed lounge-style with an aquamarine tinted floor. A smaller version of one the LaFrances enjoy on Cabo vacations, the terraced pool is the focal point of the entire backyard. Other surrounding amenities include a tanning deck and large patio umbrellas for shade as well as an outdoor kitchen, complete with prep sink, refrigerator and a cook top. Although many of the luxuries are optimal in warmer months, there’s still an abundance of delights to enjoy well into fall including a hot tub, fire pit and outdoor heaters.
“From a 50th birthday party to a more serious charitable function, this huge backyard is perfect for all members of the family and their guests,” says Walsh. “Stephen can hang out with his buddies by the fire pit, Wendy can host from the kitchen and their daughter, Katie, can crash with girlfriends by the pool.” Bending to accommodate a plethora of occasions, the LaFrances’ garden space wields a unique flexibility and thoughtful design that make for a comfortable, conducive space that fits the fun-loving family.
Contractor Wayne Moore Construction, Little Rock, (501) 228-5515
Designer Kevin Walsh, Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
Landscape designer Frank Riggins, Little Rock, (501) 246-4632
Landscape maintenance P. Allen Smith and Associates, Little Rock, (501) 376-1894
Pool design Rodney Parham, Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Little Rock, (501) 378-0878,polkstanleywilcox.com