An intriguing combination of contrasting elements makes for a balance that is both authentic and approachable in a new Hillcrest home
Meridith Hamilton Ranouil had no idea what to expect when she first visited the construction site of this teardown project in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood. When owner Kim Williams Gary reached out to her about taking on the design of her new home’s interiors, Meridith was aware that the house was already nearing completion—then just three months out from moving day. “As a designer who usually works on projects from the blueprint phase, it’s always nerve-racking to come on board when the canvas has already been set,” Meridith says. But all of her concerns vanished when she saw the selections Kim had made. “The details were so cool in the house! Kim had done such a wonderful job working with the builder and selecting fixtures, paint colors, and finishes,” she recalls. In every project she does, Meridith strives for authenticity, she says, and tries, “to let the homeowner dictate the feel.” In this case, Kim’s groundwork provided her with all the cues she needed to understand exactly the kind of atmosphere the family wanted. From there, she created a design for the furnishings and accessories that uses the power of contrast—the tension between opposites—to infuse the home with energy and character.
Simple + Sophisticated
In the key initial selections she made—the base color palette, special accent pieces, fixtures, and finishes—Kim evinced a keen eye for the finer points of home design. Meridith understood that this level of taste meant her client would appreciate subtlety and poise in her home’s décor—especially when it came to details. “Naturally, I wanted a home that is beautiful, but it also needed to be functional and durable as we have two young children and pets,” Kim says. Meridith’s solution was to keep the furnishings rather minimal, but to choose pieces with interesting lines: “I didn’t inundate the space with furniture, and I kept the accessories sleek.” She also honored Kim’s request to have no leather upholstery and only tight-back furniture (pieces with no back cushions), to keep things low-maintenance and looking crisp, despite the daily wear-and-tear of kids and animals.
Organic + Industrial
Dramatic variations in texture and shape also do their part to set a tone of natural grace in the Garys’ home, where rough-hewn natural materials harmonize with polished, linear accents. Meridith kept pattern layering to a minimum in textiles, using only one medium- to large-scale fabric motif per room and choosing mostly solids for the other fabrics and rugs, thereby directing attention to the visual interest of the surfaces themselves. From the dappled unevenness of the natural stone fireplace surround and the coarse grain of the barn-style doors (seen in the master suite) to the sleek, chrome finish of caged ceiling fans and high-polish light fixtures, every texture plays into the overall scheme. Case in point, a streamlined, brushed metal étagère in the sunroom stands alongside a side table made from a cross section of a tree trunk. Even the mix of accessories that fill the piece, including earthenware jars and bowls, books, and a piece of driftwood on a stand, comply with the juxtaposition.
Old + New
Fitting for a new house built in the middle of a long-established neighborhood, the décor of the Garys’ home makes references to various historical periods, adding to its sense of originality. For instance, the door to the kitchen pantry was salvaged from the house that was torn down to make way for their new one. Similarly, the barn-style sliding doors in the master suite were made from “solid walnut wood that my father found in the process of deconstructing an old barn on the dairy farm where my mom was raised,” Kim says. Meridith refers to these touches of vintage charm as “an Americana look,” which is amplified in the home by the shiplap planks—reminiscent of a farmhouse—in the sunroom. By way of contrast, the abstract painting by local artist Vickie Hendrix-Siebenmorgen that hangs over the living room mantel directs us back to the present. “I’m drawn to the simplicity and clean lines of modern design, and I think the overarching desire to have a home with character drove me to combine antique and salvaged pieces with new items,” Kim reflects.
Earthy + Ethereal
The approach Meridith takes to using color throughout the home is crucial to bringing all of these pairs of opposites into harmony. Employing her signature method of “designing an overall palette in a neutral tone and then adding color in art and accessories,” she softens the richness and depth of the more dramatic organic elements by creating a bright and airy envelope of warm white, taupe, and gray—light but earthy neutrals. Like pattern, non-neutral color is used minimally, in applications that don’t “overwhelm” the home, she says. The living room ottoman and pillow fabric—a lattice motif by Kravet—inspired the blue accent color that appears in delicate touches throughout the main living areas. In the master suite, Meridith draws more charcoal into the palette, balancing the drama of the barn door, and accenting with gold metal finishes. “I think the color palette helps tie the varying elements together,” Kim says. From the mix, what emerges is a deep sense of home, according to Kim: “It has added so much value to our daily life. We genuinely enjoy being there and find ourselves breathing a sigh of relief when we get home at the end of the day. It’s a soothing place to be.”
Architect Lew Oliver Inc., Roswell, Georgia, (770) 643-3938, wholetownsolutions.com
Contractor Bret Franks and Jennifer Franks, Bret Franks Construction, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 680-1238, bretfranks.com
Interior design Meridith Hamilton Ranouil, CKD, Allied ASID, MLH Designs, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com
Landscape design Jordan Parker, The Good Earth, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
Accessories and rugs MLH Designs, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com
Art Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; M2 Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 944-7155, m2lr.com; MLH Designs, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com
Bedding and window coverings Nancy Osborn, North Little Rock, (870) 680-2730
Cabinets Hardman Cabinets, North Little Rock, (501) 960-8231
Countertops A1Granite Man, Maumelle, (501) 753-9696, a1graniteman.net
Fireplace—interior stone Bennett Brothers Stone, Hot Springs, (501) 984-5040, Little Rock, (501) 455-5040, bennettbrosstone.com
Fireplace—exterior brick and outdoor furnishings Antique Brick Outdoors, Little Rock, (501) 375-0060, antiquebrickoutdoors.com
Flooring and tile ProSource, North Little Rock, (501) 791-9928, prosourcewholesale.com/littlerock
Florals Tipton & Hurst, locations throughout central Arkansas, (501) 666-3333, tiptonhurst.com
Furniture Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; MLH Designs, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com; Massimo Interior Design, Little Rock, (501) 664-0355, massimointeriordesign.com
Lighting TEC Electric, Jonesboro, (870) 932-7252, North Little Rock, (501) 758-5483, tecelectric.com
Millwork E.W. Ray’s Wood Carpentry, Jacksonville, (501) 982-2658; Whit Davis Lumber Plus, Cabot, (501) 843-7009, Greenbrier, (501) 679-3265, Jacksonville, (501) 982-2156, whitdavis.com