A move to the Capital City prompts a couple to renovate a 1930s residence with the help of designer Tobi Fairley
Martha and Dr. Vent Murphy are no strangers to home renovations. Having raised three daughters in a 1929 home in Fort Smith, they had built an addition and done a partial renovation through the years, not to mention completed an update to their lake house—all with the help of longtime designer and friend Tobi Fairley. “Tobi and I just clicked. I have worked with her for years, and 90 percent of the time she can bring me something, and I love it immediately,” Martha says.
When the Murphys decided to downsize and move to Little Rock, they knew just the person to call. “We had Tobi look at the house and she said, Yes, we can definitely make this work, so we went for it,” Martha recalls. Built in the late 1930s, the home had just the square footage the Murphys desired without being overwhelming. “They didn’t want to have more house than they needed,” Tobi says.
Top priorities were bedrooms for each daughter to return home to for holidays and family gatherings, areas for entertaining (including a wet bar), and a spacious master suite. “They liked the traditional feel of the Heights area, but it can be hard to find a home with spacious closets and a master suite there, so we knew a renovation was likely,” Tobi says.
Structural updates such as extending the footprint of the kitchen and the master bath afforded them more room in the spaces where they needed it without losing the classic character of the home. Similarly, Tobi took the furnishings and interior design in a traditional trajectory while infusing fresh finds to keep the look current. Their previous home was full of color, but Martha says she “wanted more of a monotone palette” in this house with lots of variations of blue. “I wanted it to feel grown-up and serene,” she adds. “This house is classic but still fresh,” Tobi says. “I always say they’ll get tired of it and want to update before it goes out of style.”
Room for a Crowd
The den, located adjacent to the wet bar and kitchen, is a spacious gathering place with plenty of seating for guests—as well as close access to drinks and dinner—when the Murphys entertain. The far wall previously had a built-in media unit. After removing this, Tobi created a focal point with a large abstract work by Kansas City artist Jane Booth. “We wanted this space to be sophisticated but fun, a place where they can relax and put up their feet,” Tobi says.
Functional & Fresh
Two of the hardest-working rooms of the home, the kitchen and the laundry (below), received large-scale makeovers. In the kitchen, the back wall was moved outward to gain space, while a breakfast nook was transformed into a part of the workspace. An island with barstools offers eating space, while chef-quality appliances and timeless gold finishes complete the design. In the laundry, new cabinetry offers concealed organization of household supplies, while a palette of white and gray adds to the clean look.
In the formal living room, the Murphys’ beloved piano found a home among a slightly more polished infusion of deep blues. A large abstract work from Zoe Bios Creative hangs over a traditional sideboard, thus setting the tone for the blend of contemporary and classic seen throughout the house.
The staircase and landing received structural and style updates. Upstairs, a long window was exchanged for a round option when the roofline changed with the kitchen addition. The nook is an overflow space where the Murphys’ daughters can convene or enjoy quiet time outside of the three guest bedrooms. In terms of style, plain walls were given character thanks to a molding treatment and grasscloth wallpaper. A Stark Carpet patterned runner, which Tobi says “might be my favorite thing in the house,” lines the steps.
The dining room was designed with the couple’s existing table and chairs in mind. Blue, a favorite of Martha’s, flows with the rest of the home’s palette, finding its way onto the recovered seats of the chairs, the draperies, and rug. “This room is fresh and updated but not trendy,” Tobi says.
Study in Balance
Wood-covered walls and a brick fireplace were traded for sisal wallpaper and a marble surround in Vent’s office. A sleeper sofa allows the space to double as a guestroom when needed, while a television and comfortable seating make it a cozy gathering spot as well. Patterned wall-to-wall carpet, a gold pendant from Visual Comfort, and a quartet of “Bulls Eye” prints from Tobi’s collection for Soicher Marin lend a current vibe.
One of the biggest structural changes came in the master bath, where 8 feet were added to the tiny, galley-like room to create a spacious design. Enclosed walls and limited light were traded for big windows that look out onto the backyard from the soaking tub. The soft, neutral palette, which carries to the connecting master bedroom, adds to the airy feel. “I always want these spaces of the home to feel like the client is away at a favorite hotel,” Tobi says.
Architect Carolyn Lindsey, AIA, Yeary Lindsey Architects Contractor Scott Greenwood, Scott Greenwood Construction Interior design Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley Interior Design Accessories, art, furniture, lighting, mirrors, and tile Tobi Fairley Interior Design Carpet and rugs C&F Flooring and Rug Gallery Hardware PC Hardware Upholstery 12th Street Upholstery and Robby Chism Upholstery Wallpaper (installation) Beard Breeding Painting Co. Window coverings Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies