Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Angela Alexander |
A young family works with Yeary Lindsey Architects to reconfigure their Little Rock home, giving it new life and longevity
Childhood memories have a way of influencing us—whether we realize it or not. “I grew up in a house like this until I was in late elementary school, and I still remember every room of that house,” says Sarah Duke who lives with her husband Steven and their two young sons in a classic Heights neighborhood cottage. “I don’t know if that played a role in why I wanted a house like this or why I wanted to live here, but I think it may have,” she says.
The Dukes moved into their circa 1937 home in 2008, and while the charm of both the house and their neighborhood appealed to them even more as years passed, they began to notice the house wasn’t functioning as well as it could for them—especially once they began to have children. “It was great but it was a lot of little rooms,” Duke notes. For example, the front door led to a small den, which led to a cozy dining room, which led to a compact kitchen. The biggest room in the home was the couple’s master bedroom, which was part of a 1990s renovation by a previous owner. “When we had our first child, we spent a ton of time back there because it was the biggest room in the house,” Duke recalls. In 2015, when the couple learned they were expecting their second son, they knew they had a decision to make: renovate or move. “We loved where we were, we loved our neighbors, we loved the street, we loved the location because we can walk to Forest Park Elementary, so we were like OK, let’s just bite the bullet and redo it,” Duke says.
Duke, who works with Moses Tucker Real Estate, has experience with floor plans and began to draw out her ideal configuration. “I called Ellen and said, ‘Here’s what I want to do. Can you make this real?’ She liked what I had done, and she made it work; she was just awesome,” Duke says of architect Ellen Yeary of Yeary Lindsey Architects.
“I just like taking these little Heights cottages and figuring out how to make them work. Because they are great houses to begin with—they start out with really good bones. I mean that house was cute before we ever got over there. It had been updated but it hadn’t been reconfigured to make it work for how we live today,” Yeary says.
To make it more livable and solve for the succession of rooms that greeted guests at the front door, Yeary and Duke eliminated the walls and created one large family friendly area that includes a living room, dining space, and a large kitchen. “Sarah had this vision from the beginning—to be able to see through the house. Some people would say, ‘I don’t want to walk through the front door and see the kitchen.’ But if your kitchen looks like Sarah’s, then that’s not a problem,” Yeary notes.
“I remember when that wall came down in the dining room, I couldn’t believe how much more functional it was already because we never sat in there; it was just a pass-through on the way to the kitchen,” Duke says of the structural transformation. Rather than being hidden—as Yeary notes—the family’s new kitchen was now front and center. Duke selected timeless yet eye-catching finishes to personalize it. For example, the backsplash features a neutral tile that is hand-thrown so it has a sort of “shimmer” that brings texture to the look. A brass faucet and hardware along with large funnel-shaped pendants over the island also add contemporary style without leaning too modern.
While most of the home’s makeover involved gaining space, Duke was concerned about losing cabinetry. Although the home’s former kitchen was small, its cabinets stretched to the ceiling along almost every wall. To ensure she would still have an abundance of storage, she and Yeary designed a large floating island that features concealed areas for tucking away everything from cookbooks to blenders on both sides of the structure. They also added a built-in sideboard along the side wall for storage as well as service space.
While Duke knew she wanted to have a place where she could cook and keep an eye on the kids as well as have an open space for them to run around, she also knew it was equally important for everyone to have a room to get away and be on their own. The renovation allowed for a screened back porch to be created, which is a favorite hangout for Steven, and a playroom for their sons. In addition, the boys each have their own bedrooms and a shared bath located to the right of the home’s front entry.
The master suite—a favorite spot for Sarah to relax—also received a reconfiguration and cosmetic updates. Windows were relocated to accommodate the playroom that now shares an interior wall with the master suite, and the fireplace was updated to be more in line with the Duke’s style. In the bath, carpet was traded for contemporary marble hex tile while a cultured marble countertop was replaced with a quartz option.
The Dukes also gained a second closet that adjoins to the master bath. Prior to the renovation, the couple shared a closet located to the right of the vanity. To enlarge their nearby laundry room, they took in part of this closet (which is now solely Steven’s) and blew out the bath’s back wall to build a new closet for Sarah as well as an outdoor storage space, which is accessible through the backyard.
“Their expectations and wish lists were really reasonable. They weren’t trying to overbuild the site. They have a nice comfortable family house,” Yeary says. Duke was equally pleased with the process and since the renovation she has started her own design company, Sarah Duke Design, to help others who are looking to renovate or redecorate. “Once it was all said and done, it was so worth it. It just works—and it was fun!” she concludes.
Architect Ellen Yeary, AIA, Yeary Lindsey Architects, Little Rock, (501) 372-5940, yearylindsey.com
Contractor Justin Cleveland, Little Rock, (501) 680-0554
Interior design Sarah Duke, Sarah Duke Design, Little Rock, (501) 539-1528
Accessories Providence Design, Little Rock, (501) 372-1886, providenceltddesign.com; Sarah Duke Design, Little Rock, (501) 539-1528
Art Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; DRAWL Southern Contemporary Art, Little Rock, (501) 240-7446, drawlgallery.com; Justus Fine Art Gallery, Hot Springs, (501) 321-2335, justusfineart.com; Local Colour Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 265-0422, localcolourgallery.com; Providence Design, Little Rock, (501) 372-1886, providenceltddesign.com
Cabinetry Renaissance Custom Cabinets, North Little Rock, (501) 256-3252, cabinetideas.com
Countertops Triton Stone Group of Little Rock, Little Rock, (501) 562-9994, tritonstone.com
Fireplace Antique Brick & Block, Little Rock, (501) 375-0060, antiquebrickinc.com
Florals Tipton & Hurst, locations throughout central Arkansas, (501) 666-3333, tiptonhurst.com
Lighting Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; Sarah Duke Design, Little Rock, (501) 539-1528
Paint Benjamin Moore, locations statewide, benjaminmoore.com
Tile Inside Effects, North Little Rock, (501) 954-8866, insideeffects.com
Wallpaper Sarah Duke Design, Little Rock, (501) 539-1528
Window coverings Accent Shutters, Inc, Maumelle, (501) 902-0810, accentshuttersinc.com; Cynthia East Fabrics, Little Rock, (501) 663-0460, cynthiaeastfabrics.com