Designer Heather Chadduck Hillegas reimagines a childhood friend’s dream home after a devastating fire
On a cold February night in 2011, Becka and Brian Webb, along with their young son Guy, were tucked snugly into their beds in their charming Heights cottage when the unimaginable happened. “I woke up around two a.m. to the sound of a crackling noise. I walked into the living room, and it was filled with smoke and flames,” Becka recalls. Fortunately, the family made it out of the home safely, and local firefighters were able to contain the fire and even salvage some furnishings. When the smoke cleared and the damage was assessed, the Webbs—certain they wanted to remain in the same location— knew that it would take a major renovation to recreate their beloved home.
Having completed an addition to the home just a few years prior to the fire, Webb also knew she would need the help of a trusted expert to get her family back into their home as quickly as possible. When considering who would be up to the task of recapturing the cottage charm of their home, she thought of her own childhood neighbor, designer and stylist Heather Chadduck Hillegas. “I had saved every article of Heather’s from her days at Cottage Living. I emailed her to ask if she knew of anyone who could help us to rebuild and to get the look I wanted. She immediately responded and said, ‘I can help you do that!’” From there, the two began to exchange ideas and plans for the project. “After a fire, you are touched to your core. Your home is your safe place. Just knowing that Heather was helping to recreate our home for us lifted a huge burden off of me,” Webb confides.
The Webbs also saw the renovation as an opportunity to make functional updates to the home’s footprint. While the previous addition had increased the home’s square footage, they now wanted to create a better flow by enlarging doorways, repositioning the entry, expanding the family room, and reconfiguring the kitchen. They also wanted the home to be fully livable but to keep the look and feel of a house that has been around for decades. “Becka’s style is rooted in tradition, but she loves a surprise,” Hillegas says. “We really wanted to create a modern cottage that would work for them for years to come.”
Reconstructed doorways offer wider access to the kitchen and dining room, both located just off the foyer. A pocket door, installed in the kitchen entrance, allows Webb to close off this room when guests arrive. “It’s a super old-school thing to do,” says Hillegas of the classic pocket doors, which were a staple in mid-century homes.
While all of the cabinetry, appliances, and flooring in the space are new, features such as the wood-planked hood over the stove, the beaded-board ceiling, and detailed millwork on the cabinetry give the space a look that appears timeless.
Hillegas felt it was important to add formality to the architecture of this room, so she installed wainscoting along the bottom portion of the walls. To keep it comfortable and to add layers to the space, drapery panels—hung from casual bamboo rods—mix with woven blinds. An oversized, new sideboard from Cobblestone & Vine offers ample storage and is accented with a gilded antique mirror. An exquisite pair of lamps that Webb inherited from her grandmother—who Hillegas notes “had fabulous style”—completes the look. Cane-back chairs from Ellen Golden Antiques in Little Rock mix with an antique table Hillegas found in Birmingham, Alabama, proving the importance of the continual hunt for exactly the right piece. Webb also found the chandelier through an online auction after months of searching. “I love that it’s not quite perfect,” Hillegas says in reference to its vintage wear-and-tear, “It adds to its character and the cottagey feel.”
When it came to the home’s palette, the rug in the den was a jumping-off point. “Becka told me that she loved everything about this rug—from the design to the colors. I took it and had paint colors matched so that the color of every room in the home spins off this one piece. There are shades of blue, pink, brown, and camel that we used throughout the house. It feels, to me, like it’s a map of the house in a way,” Hillegas says.
Built-in bookcases conceal the television and also offer display space for special trinkets and family photos as well as Webb’s collection of McCarty Pottery. Two pieces from Little Rock artist Ashley Saer, a friend of the Webb’s, were salvaged from the fire and are now an integral part of the new living room’s décor. A five-drawer wooden antique chest also survived the fire and now sits opposite the fireplace. “Because it was so cold at the time of the fire, and our entire home had been hosed down with water from the firefighters, the chest was frozen shut for days. The water harmed the finish, and I asked Heather if I should have it redone, but in the end we decided it had much more character with this broken-in look,” Webb says. Perhaps the greatest save from the fire was Webb’s grandfather’s Purple Heart, which was encased in a shadow box. The firefighters took a great deal of care with this, which endeared them to Webb even more. The medal is now proudly displayed alongside works of art on a gallery wall in the family’s den where it—along with the chest—serve as reminders of both the home’s and the family’s history.
When it came to Webb’s vision for her son’s room, Hillegas says, “She wanted it more neutral and really simple with easy-to-make beds.” Initially, the pair considered using a classic blue-and-brown combo, but Hillegas was eager to take the palette to the next level. “I thought, ‘it needs to look like an Hermès box with a pop of orange— very masculine,’” she says of the bedding.
A chest, which Webb found at an antiques store, does double duty, serving both as a bedside table and as storage. “I think antiques and vintage pieces are recycling at its finest. I absolutely love character and patina,” Webb exclaims. “I like to think that a piece was loved by someone else, and I always try to find old things at estate sales. The hunt is part of the fun!”
In addition to pieces she finds on her hunts and the antiques Webb was fortunate to have inherited, Hillegas also suggested reinventing items the couple already owned to add character and use their resources wisely. A four-poster bed, which was previously in the couple’s master bedroom and had damage to its finish from the fire, was repainted and relocated to the classic blue-and-white guest retreat. A pair of striking vintage lamps gives the space a collected-over-time flair.
Interior design Heather Chadduck Hillegas, Heather Chadduck Interiors & Decoration, LLC, Birmingham, Alabama, (214) 215-4260, heatherchadduck.com
Contractor Arkansas Restoration, Inc., North Little Rock, (501) 753-3600, arkrestoration.com
Custom carpentry Ike Harcourt, Harcourt Construction, Mountain Home, (501) 607-1776
Art Ashley Saer Art, Little Rock, ashleysaer.com
Accessories, lighting, rugs, wallpaper, and window treatments Heather Chadduck Interiors & Decoration, LLC, Birmingham, Alabama, (214) 215-4260, heatherchadduck.com
Furniture Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com; Ellen Golden Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 664-7746; Heather Chadduck Interiors & Decoration, LLC, Birmingham, Alabama, (214) 215-4260, heatherchadduck.com
Cabinetry Bell’s Cabinetry, Jacksonville, (501) 982-8225
Draperies—fabrication and installation Linda McNeill, Batesville, (501) 206-5867
Mirrors Clement/Sweet Home Furnishings, Little Rock, (501) 296-9198, sweethomefurnishings.net
Wallpaper—installation Caroline Suggs, Little Rock, (479) 366-1193; Debco Wallpaper and Paint Inc., Benton, (501) 315-0266