Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Chip Jones |
Gathering spaces at the Governor’s Mansion receive an elegant update to welcome the people of Arkansas
“This is the people’s house,” first lady Susan Hutchinson says of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. “It was important to me that the house feel like a home, and that the people who walked through the door felt invited.” To accomplish this, the main gathering spaces of the mansion—the living room and dining room—recently received a refreshing update. Shayla Copas Interiors donated its time to the project. The firm consists of designers Shayla Copas and Marianna O’Dea. The pair worked closely with Mrs. Hutchinson to update the two rooms, both of which are located at the front of the home just off the main entrance.
The Mansion’s architectural features tend toward a more formal feel and this was definitely a consideration when selecting furnishings; however, the design team sought to make the spaces feel approachable. The oriental rugs in each room, which were donated to the Mansion by the Rockefeller family in the 1960s, set the palette for the refresh and also played into the comfortable, yet refined feel that radiates throughout the spaces. The rugs feature coral and blue hues tied together in an intricate motif. The draperies in both rooms, as well as the upholstered furnishings in the living room, play off of these hues while accents of gold and crystal add a distinguished air.
Detail was of the utmost importance to the trio of women. The jewel of the dining room is a customized Paul Montgomery wallcovering that features hand-painted native birds, including the blue jay, finch, cardinal, and mockingbird—Arkansas’ state bird. Additionally passionflowers—a runner-up for the state flower—are scattered throughout the design, making it even more personalized to the local landscape. The wallpaper was applied over muslin allowing it to be removed and stored (or reinstalled in a new location) should a future resident of the Mansion decide to change the room’s décor. As a further nod to the state’s history, the Chippendale chairs placed around the dining table feature petit-point-stitched seat coverings that offer a pictorial history of defining events or characters. These are not new pieces but rather gifts that were lovingly made and presented to the mansion by a group of Pine Bluff ladies in the 1970s and still fit beautifully into the room today.
In the living room, practical considerations were made to accommodate the family as well as guests of the Mansion. For example, the room’s overall lighting scheme was updated. It now includes a Thomas Grant custom chandelier, the gift of a generous donor, which hangs prominently in the center of the room. Additionally, wingback chairs that are large enough to comfortably seat tall guests—including six-foot-tall Governor Hutchinson—and a pair of customized, extended-length sofas provide seating for after-dinner conversations as well as more casual gatherings. A new coffee table with leather-inset slide drawers, which offer an ideal place to rest a cup of coffee, replaced a small tea table that had limited space. “The coffee table is more in scale with the room and is able to accommodate people when they entertain,” Copas says of the addition.
Much as the customized wallcovering and stitched seat covers seen in the dining room reflect local history, the living room also features several nods to the Natural State. For example, custom-made pillows embroidered with the state seal sit prominently in the wingbacks near the fireplace while historical art covers the walls. Eagles, which are a part of the state seal, can be seen in a marble-topped table as well as the mirror that hangs above it. Sitting atop the table is a copper box from the USS Arkansas that was built in the early 1900s and served throughout World War II.
All of these pieces of history evoke a sense of deep personal pride for Arkansans who enter the home, while the comfortable furnishings make them want to linger and learn more. “It’s really a grand day that people have been so generous through the association to give and help update the mansion. And it’s been wonderful timing for me to be here with Shayla and Marianna and work on this,” Mrs. Hutchinson concludes.
Interior design Shayla Copas and Marianna O’Dea, Shayla Copas Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 258-7396, shaylacopas.com
Window coverings Designer Effects, Little Rock, (501) 661-4070, designereffects.net