Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Chip Jones |
A lifelong passion for a Little Rock home leads a couple to purchase and restore its aesthetic as well as beautifully dress it for the holiday season
Leslie Pender has had a longstanding love affair with the Little Rock home she shares with her husband, Jim. As a young girl living in Fort Smith, she and her twin sister would travel to the Heights area to visit their grandmother. “My grandmother would let us walk around the neighborhood when we got bored,” she says. “I loved pretty homes, and I was into red brick; I’ve always been. I would come up here and stare at this house. I never thought I would move here but I thought maybe one day, I will have a house like this one,” she says of the Federal colonial-style home.
Pender’s admiration for the home didn’t wane as she grew older. After marrying, she moved into the neighborhood and shared her fondness for the home with her husband. “Our first home was nearby, and I would walk up here with my poor husband and show him the house,” she recalls. One day, her husband was out walking alone and strolled by the property to see a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign going up in the yard. “My husband said, ‘Oh my gosh; this is not good because my wife is obsessed with this house,’” she recalls with a laugh.
The couple did make an offer on the house; however, it was taken off the market for a period. “During this time, my mother passed away,” Pender says. When the house was once again listed Pender felt as though she didn’t have it in her to take on the project. However, her husband knew it could be just what she needed at that point. He went ahead and made an offer, and they soon learned the house she had fallen for years before was now theirs.
Making It Their Own
After purchasing the property, the Penders called on Yeary Lindsey Architects to help them assess the residence. “In the first meetings with the architects, they said, ‘Man, this house is in bad shape. It’d probably be cheaper in the long run to tear it down.’ I felt like someone had kicked me,” she recalls. But Pender was adamant about preserving the home. “I told them we are NOT tearing it down, and my husband said that was the first bit of spark in me he had noticed since my mother passed away.”
The home, which was built in the 1920s has only been lived in by two other families. The last of which moved in during the 1960s and retained ownership until the Penders bought the property in 2009. It was important to the couple to keep the integrity of the home and honor its original aesthetic. Pender’s friend and local interior designer Charlotte Whitt walked with her through this process, helping the couple make the home work for them while still preserving its beauty.
Features such as the foyer’s stunning curved stairwell had to be brought up to modern living standards. “It was too short for current code and had to be completely torn out,” Pender says. Through hour upon hour of tedious work, it was revived in a manner that meets current building codes and that still feels and looks historically accurate. “We took pictures of everything and put the pieces back where we could,” she says of the entire home’s renovation. Other updates included pushing out the kitchen’s back wall to create a den as well as a complete down-to-the-studs reworking of the kitchen to make it meet the needs of the family, which includes the Penders’ two grown children. “This has been a labor of love, and I wanted to do it right,” she says.
Celebrating the Season
Much like the care that went into the renovation of the home, the holiday décor is dear to Pender. “I’m classic and traditional, and I always jokingly say it’s a Martha Stewart type look,” she says of the home’s holiday design. “That old colonial look is what this house is about, so when I started Christmas, that’s what I wanted,” she adds, noting the fruit and oxblood red hue that is incorporated into so many rooms.
Working with Tipton & Hurst for the first time last year, she achieved her vision with loads of fresh greenery and a design directive that has a trim, understated elegance. “One thing we have that is so wonderful is this huge magnolia tree out front, and they [the Tipton & Hurst team] pulled from that. I’ve always liked bringing in tons of magnolia leaves and red berries,” Pender says. From the magical fresh greenery garland that trails the length of the foyer’s staircase to the red holly berries and fresh magnolia that stand out against the antique furnishings in the dining room, the same classic presence that greets guests at the front entry carries throughout the home. “That’s what I think this house is all about—it’s pretty but not too formal,” Pender says of her beloved residence.
Architect Yeary Lindsey Architects, Little Rock, (501) 372-5940, yearylindsey.com
Christmas décor Tipton & Hurst, locations throughout central Arkansas, (501) 666-3333, tiptonhurst.com
Interior design Edwina Crockett, Chandler & Associates, Little Rock, (501) 372-4278; Talena Ray, Providence Design, Little Rock, (501) 372-1886, providenceltddesign.com; Charlotte Whitt, Charlotte Whitt Interior Design, Little Rock, (501) 626-1189; Kelli Wilson, Kelli Wilson Consulting, Little Rock, (501) 773-8523
Kitchen and bath design Charlotte Whitt, Charlotte Whitt Interior Design, Little Rock, (501) 626-1189
Landscape design Stewart Clark, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 350-2450; Lorri Davis Landscape Design; Robert Mauney, Rosson Landscape, Little Rock, (501) 551-0333
Contractor Bill Hannah Homes, Little Rock, (501) 821-5788
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, Jonesboro, (870) 933-7800, North Little Rock, (501) 758-1988, Springdale, (479) 750-2200, metroappliancesandmore.com
Cabinetry Duke Custom Cabinets, Roland, (501) 868-8111, dukecustomcabinets.com
Countertops and tile—bath Arkansas Granite & More, Benton, (501) 315-4500, agm-design.com
Fixtures Falk Plumbing Supply, Hot Springs, (501) 321-1231, North Little Rock, (501) 664-3911, falksupply.com
Flooring Holmes Floors & Overall, Sherwood, (501) 231-4168
Furniture Fabulous Finds, Little Rock, (501) 614-8181, fabulousfindsantiquesanddecorativemall.com; mertinsdyke home, Little Rock, (501) 280-3200; Roy Dudley Estate Sales, Little Rock, (501) 666-5856, roydudleyestatesales.com
Lighting TEC Electric, North Little Rock, (501) 758-5483, tecelectric.com
Millwork Greenfield Millworks, North Little Rock, (501) 758-0386
Mirrors Fabulous Finds, Little Rock, (501) 614-8181, fabulousfindsantiquesanddecorativemall.com; Roy Dudley Estate Sales, Little Rock, (501) 666-5856, roydudleyestatesales.com; The Showroom, Little Rock, (501) 372-7373, theshowroom.us.com
Paint Pratt & Lambert, sold at stores throughout Arkansas, prattandlambert.com
Rugs Cantrell Furniture Design Center, Little Rock, (501) 225-0002, cantrellfurniture.com; Fabulous Finds, Little Rock, (501) 614-8181, fabulousfindsantiquesanddecorativemall.com; Martinous Oriental Rug Co., Little Rock, (501) 224-0313, martinous.com
Tile—kitchen Emser Tile, North Little Rock, (501) 771-9111, emser.com