Date: October 1, 2014 | Story: Ashley Gill | Styling: Chip Jones |
Knowing the rules and always playing by them are two different things. Designer Joshua Plumlee uses color, art, and custom furnishings to shake up traditional design and to make this home a reflection of its fun-loving owners.
When Julie and Jason Smith and their two children moved into a home in the Heights neighborhood of Little Rock, they turned to designer Joshua Plumlee with Cobblestone & Vine to help bridge the gap between the classic look of the house and their distinctive personal style. “They are just a very interesting family;” Plumlee says, “they’re quirky and fun, with great taste in art. The house is very traditional, and it’s in a very traditional neighborhood, and the design needed to make sense in that context. But we also wanted to have some fun with colors and art—stepping outside of what is expected.” The result is a moody and glamorous—yet inviting—home that delights in its own eccentricities and offers a unique take on traditional home decor.
Into the Deep
Shadowy blues and grays dominate the color scheme in a painting of a cathedral that greets guests at the home’s entry. This painting, by Hans Feyerabend, was the first piece of art Julie purchased after moving into the new home, and, Plumlee says, “it dictated much of the [home’s] palette, especially the navy; we just loved it so much.” The rich, smoky marine carries throughout the home—on the dining room walls and the fireplace accent wall in the formal living room. Overall, the deeper hues Plumlee selected, including the dusky aubergine in the guest room, create drama and really set the tone of the design.
The living room, however, is lighter and more neutral. “We have so much color in the other parts of the house, we wanted this room to feel classy, with this pinky, platinum gray—a little blush,” Plumlee says. The dark hardwood floors present a striking contrast in this airier section, which Plumlee explains, defines the space and—along with strategic use of black door and window trim in certain areas—“enhances the interesting room progression. It’s a big house with an open concept, but design can add definition.”
An Artful Approach
Perhaps most compelling is the diverse collection of art showcased throughout the home. Plumlee describes his design approach as “art-centric,” explaining that, to his mind, “everything should play second fiddle to the art.” Longtime collectors, the Smiths brought many of the pieces from a previous home, but some of them are new to the family, including a number of paintings done by Plumlee. From black-and-white photographs of grain silos to abstract paintings and tribal textiles, the art enhances the experience of every room in the house, either by harmonizing with the design or by presenting a visitor with the pleasing friction of encountering the unanticipated.
The Great Mix-Up
To achieve a collected, deeply personalized look in the home, Plumlee embraces the interplay of opposites: the polished with the rough-hewn, the dramatic alongside the delicate. The result? A predominately serious home with a whimsical wink. In the dining room, the high-gloss of the lacquered lampshades juxtaposes with the rustic, unpolished table. Plumlee says “In one way, the choice is a play to kid-friendliness, but the design also needs to feel tried and true.” In the same vein, when it comes to the home’s various metal finishes, Plumlee’s attitude is: “Mix it up!” His own impulse—and the Smiths’ personal style—is very resistant to the look of what he calls a “homogenized home,” where everything matches everything else and exactly meets a visitor’s expectations.
As for the process, the design work began soon after the Smiths purchased the home, and it has been an ongoing “labor of love” for two years, Plumlee says. The initial work was centered on the family room—the vibrant and casual space where the family still spends most of their time—and has expanded from there. Though the adjustment in the scope of the work “made it more challenging,” the designer recalls, “it also made it more fun.” To find design solutions, he—along with the homeowners—often had to think creatively and, in certain cases, they had furnishings and accessories fabricated to specification. Case in point, a Lucite console table that was unavailable in the correct dimensions for the space in the entry inspired the glass one that stands there now. Just as in the creation of a work of art, it’s often the innovations that occur along the way that give the home its unique texture and character. Or, as Plumlee puts it, “We made some weird decisions that have really ended up being lots of fun.”
Contractor E.J. Simpson, Ezra Simpson Enterprises, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 920-3998
Interior design Joshua Plumlee, Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Landscape design The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
Accessories and furniture Joshua Plumlee, Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Art Boswell Mourot Fine Art, Little Rock, (501) 664-0030, boswellmourot.com; Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; Joshua Plumlee, Little Rock, (501) 658-3403
Bedding and lighting Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Fabrics Joshua Plumlee, Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Framing M2Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 225-6257, m2lr.com
Fresh floral About Vase, Little Rock, (501) 603-9200, aboutvase.com
Painting—decorative Angelfish Studios, Little Rock, (501) 960-4826, angelfishstudios.net
Upholstery Burl Elkins Upholstery, North Little Rock, (501) 753-4026; Howard’s Upholstery Shop, Little Rock, (501) 225-0476
Window coverings Nip & Tuck, Cabot, (501) 843-6756