Story: Diane Carroll |
“Entertaining has always been a source of pleasure for us,” says Martha Murphy, who along with her husband, Vent, and their three daughters has hosted numerous parties at their Ft. Smith home and at a condo they owned on Lake Hamilton. The relaxed, summer get-togethers on the lake were their perennial favorites, though, prompting Martha and Vent to look for a larger place where extended family and friends could gather.
Their search led them to a water-view lot on Lake Ouachita, and they had begun drawing up house plans with designer Tobi Fairley, who had worked with them on their Ft. Smith residence, when an opportunity arose. A house next to their lot went on the market, and it boasted an excellent view of the lake as well as ample square footage. Even though it needed some remodeling, there was no doubt that reworking an existing house would be faster than building new,” says Fairley. The thought that they wouldn’t miss a summer of lakeside entertaining was enough to persuade the Murphys, and they opted for the change in plans.
Renovation work began in the winter months, geared around creating accommodating spaces for family and friends and updating the building materials in the early 1990s home. Laminate flooring was replaced with hardwood, custom cabinets were added alongside the living room fireplace and a wet bar was built into an unused portion of the entry hall.
The kitchen in particular needed to be overhauled to handle large-scale entertaining, and Fairley had it refurbished with new cabinetry for increased storage, high-efficiency appliances and easily cleaned tile and quartz surfaces. “We went for quality and classic styles so that the elements would be long-lasting,” she says. The existing bathrooms were similarly updated with a more streamlined floor plan and durable surfacing, and a new one was added alongside the guest bedroom.
At the onset of the project, Fairley and the Murphys had agreed that the emphasis of the home should be on the views. When it came to furnishing the renovated spaces, Fairley opted for a neutral color palette on the home’s main level to complement the natural setting and the vistas out the windows. From the brown and cream colors used in the living and dining areas, she mixed in bold strokes of green on the adjacent screened porch. “That seemed like a natural connection to the Ouachita National Forest that surrounds the house,” says Fairley.
On the lower level, a space designed as a retreat for the Murphy’s daughters and their friends and where the views weren’t as prominent, Fairley incorporated brighter colors to enliven the area. “The downstairs was darker, and we certainly didn’t want it to seem gloomy,” she says. “So we used reds and greens, plus a variety of patterns, to make it feel fresh and fun.”
Throughout the home, Fairley ensured that the furnishings would accommodate large gatherings. She incorporated a living room on each level, so that college-age kids could have a separate relaxing space from the adults. On the screened porch, she worked in two dining areas as well as multiple chairs, a sofa and even ottomans for extra seating. In the dining room, she included a table that can easily be extended to fit 10 or more guests. “We also used multi-purpose pieces whenever we could,” says Fairley, “like ottomans with removable tray tops and benches that double as seating or tables.”
The home’s transformation was wrapped up in time for the Murphys to enjoy it that summer, and they celebrated its completion by throwing a 4th of July celebration. “We’ve been entertaining here ever since, and it’s a full house on summer weekends,” says Martha. “For our family and friends, it’s become a destination, and we love that.”
Design: Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, Little Rock
Contractor: Robert Wortsmith, Wortsmith Construction, Mt. Ida
Tile: Elder Distributing, North Little Rock
Window treatments: Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale
Appliances and bath fixtures: Metro Builders Supply, North Little Rock