Designer Joshua Plumlee gives his 1960s-era Little Rock house a style upgrade that honors its roots while celebrating contemporary trends
For Joshua Plumlee, bringing work home isn’t a problem. As both an artist and designer, the walls of his home tell the story of his profession as well as his passion. However, when it was time for the mid-century home he shares with Jacob Ponder to be renovated, he took the design process to a new level, breathing life and functionality into the dated home while respecting its original floor plan and the era in which it was built. Here’s how the two tackled the renovation.
Best Laid Plans
Plumlee and Ponder purchased the home a little over three years ago and decided to live in it for a while to see how a renovation might help to better meet their needs. The priority was the home’s common areas on the ground floor. Additionally, they also wanted to create a mudroom that would allow them to bring groceries in from the garage to the kitchen and give them a space to house their washer and dryer.
As with many home renovations, the kitchen received one of the most dramatic makeovers. “My focus in the renovation was largely in regard to space planning and functionality,” says Ponder, who notes that his “style has evolved by default” thanks to Plumlee’s influence. “I literally obsessed about the layout of the kitchen for nine months leading up to demolition,” Ponder admits. “I probably drew at least 30 variations of plans that would maximize the area in an attempt to not have to steal square footage from anywhere else.”
Defining Open Concept
When it came to the dining and living areas, the homeowners strived for functionality rather than openness simply for the sake of openness. “We wanted it to feel open, clean, and bright,” Plumlee says. “Yet we didn’t want it to feel too open concept because it’s not that kind of house. I think it’s a good hybrid of how we live today and how it might have been when this house was built.” A desire for different, defined areas without the feeling of containment led to a thoughtful solution when it came to the home’s most-used rooms. Plumlee and Ponder eliminated walls that sectioned off the dining room, kitchen, living room, and front sitting room but kept the area’s hallways, including one that leads from the front entry to the living room and a second that leads to a main-level guest bedroom. This created defined space separation while still providing a visual openness that allows the cook to see through to both the living room and the sitting room beyond. “I never imagined I could be working in the kitchen and carry on a conversation with someone who is all the way at the opposite end of the house. Every room flows into another without feeling like one giant room,” Ponder says.
New Building Blocks
Sheetrock and nails weren’t the only design tools used in the makeover. Plumlee gave the new rooms a complete cosmetic makeover as well. In the kitchen, dated appliances were traded for state-of-the-art stainless versions and chipped Formica was replaced with white Carrara marble. “I liked a lot of the statuary marbles but I liked the color here. We cook a lot so we knew it was going to get a lot of wear but we embraced that,” Plumlee says. In addition, hardwood flooring was laid in the kitchen, dining room, and living room to seamlessly match the existing planks in the sitting room.
Of course, furnishings and accessories were key to making the updated rooms feel like a home—and, truth be told, probably one of the highlights for Plumlee who worked with both Cobblestone & Vine and mertinsdykehome before starting Ransom Interiors in 2016 with Julie Smith and Laura Borg. He describes both his personal style and the style of his home as “stately, but edgy and youthful at the same time.” This mantra is evident in the mix of masculine furniture, saturated color, and contemporary art seen throughout the home. In fact, many of Plumlee’s own works grace the walls, including a large abstract piece that sits in an ornate frame and seems to have a commanding presence in the sitting room. Even the mudroom benefits from a coral-hued painting that the artist created to bring the hues of the kitchen rug into the mudroom.
There’s no shortage of art and eye-catching accessories along the way either, from the vintage ashtrays and optic glass pieces in the living room to the murano glass in the sitting room. “I’m a collector. Minimalism is great, but I’m kind of a maximalist. I like my treasures,” Plumlee concludes with a laugh.
Joshua’s Tips for Makeover Success
Having worked with numerous clients on renovations and now living through his own home’s remodel, the designer has a few insights to help you achieve the look you want and keep your sanity in the process.
1/ First and foremost, keep your overall vision in mind.
When you have the end result in mind, it can take away some of the anxiety that comes with living in the trenches of a renovation.
2/ Don’t sacrifice your own comfort for resell value.
With every major decision during the renovation, ask yourself, “Is this what I really want?” In other words, take resell value into consideration but don’t let it be the overall guiding factor. Create a home where you want to spend time.
3/ When considering removing walls: open floor plans are great, however, they don’t always suit the architectural integrity of the home.
This was certainly the case in my house. We wanted it open and airy, clean and bright, but we still wanted that element of discovery. Plus, taking out too many walls doesn’t allow the opportunity for hanging artwork. Clients often complain to me that their homes don’t have enough wall space.
4/ When installing sconces and overhead lighting, always consider the fact that furniture and artwork will migrate around the home.
Being an avid collector, I carefully measured and positioned sconces and accent lighting to allow for major pieces of artwork to move around the home and still relate to the overall lighting scheme. The key here is that flexibility is a form of luxury.
Interior design Joshua Plumlee, Ransom Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 838-7267, ransominteriors.com
Construction JQ Enterprises, Little Rock, (501) 952-6602
Accessories, art, and wallpaper Ransom Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 838-7267, ransominteriors.com
Backsplash and countertops—kitchen All Natural Stone, Little Rock, (501) 228-9777; Triton Stone Group of Little Rock, Little Rock, (501) 562-9994, tritonstone.com
Cabinetry—kitchen and floor installation NQ Enterprises, Little Rock, (501) 349-8704
Florals Tipton & Hurst, locations throughout central Arkansas, (501) 666-3333, tiptonhurst.com
Furniture and lighting Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-2676, cobblestoneandvine.com; mertinsdykehome, Little Rock, (501) 280-3300, mertinsdykehome1.wixsite.com; Ransom Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 838-7267, ransominteriors.com
Paint Benjamin Moore, locations statewide, benjaminmoore.com