Three Arkansans share their inviting exterior retreats
Jana Hunter’s Outdoor Living Room
Jana Hunter really knows how to make something out of nothing. Take, for example, her backyard. “When we moved in, you would step out of the back door and there was a brick patio area with a table and chairs. We never used it,” the designer says. “We loved dining outside and we weren’t, so I said let’s build a screened-in porch.” She and her husband Mark dug into the project, extending the outdoor living space to their property line with a newly constructed screened-in porch. When she first imagined the space, Jana, who describes her personal style as “traditionally eclectic,” says she knew she “wanted it to be very airy, and I knew I wanted two living areas—the dining and sitting areas.”
Inspired by a porch swing she found on an antiquing trip through Arkansas, Jana created a cool yet lively porch that works for drinks with friends as well as it does for an after-school snack with her two children. “I want guests to feel at home and at ease when they are here. A sign of a good party is when they stay four and five hours,” she says. To create this feel throughout the porch, she incorporated finds that are either beautiful, functional, or fall into both categories: a bunny on the console is a nod to her trip to visit Bunny Williams with her mother and her daughter, an iron chandelier over the table holds seasonal plantings, vintage door frames (which were originally intended for her parents’ lake house) inset with burlap allow a breeze into the room, and lanterns hold battery-operated candles for a convenient glow.
“Since we have the porch, we really use the space. We come out here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—our family loves to be outside,” Jana says. As for the décor, she adds “when you start putting together everything you love, it tells your story.”
Design Jana Hunter, Jana Hunter Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 690-2234, janahunter.com
Furniture—farm table Mid-Towne Antique Mall, Little Rock, (501) 223-3600, midtownantiquemall.com
Lighting—iron chandelier Fabulous Finds Antique Mall, Little Rock, (501) 614-8181
Christina Phelps’s Potting Shed & Garden[embed:fc:field_portfolio:6745:fc_portfolio_node_embed]
You know how one thing tends to lead to another for homeowners? Christina Phelps, who shares her rolling West Little Rock landscape with her husband Ivo, relates that the process is no different when it comes to a garden. “It started when we had no way to get from point A to point B in the garden. So, I put in a few plants and we created a pathway to connect the patio and the gazebo (which Ivo had previously built),” Christina says. From there, it kept going. “It was just like a little play job for me,” says the Master Gardener, who was eager to test new plantings. “I did one area every season, and it just grew from there.” Christina, who is an artist by trade, admits, “The garden is my palette. I arrange my plantings just as I would in a painting.”
Pretty soon, the yard needed another structure among the dotted landscape—not to mention a place to store tools and organize all the accoutrements that come with an avid gardener’s passion—and plans for a garden shed were set in motion. “I had a picture of a garden shed from a magazine that I had saved for twenty years; I just loved it. So, we ordered the plans,” Christina says. Ivo built the shed, which—thanks to two skylights—doubles as a greenhouse during the winter. The couple, who work together on all the projects, also added a pergola to the structure to give room for hanging plants.
“My passion is to share the garden—it’s not just for the two of us. I like to have people over for lunches or dinner and see them relax and unwind in our garden. And, of course, I always share cut flowers and seeds with others,” Christina says of her overarching purpose for the naturally beautiful garden. Each year she dries flowers from the garden by hanging them along the shed’s pergola. She collects the seeds and creates packets to give to friends for their own enjoyment.
Flowers, plants, and trees Bemis Tree Farm, Little Rock, (501) 831-4558; The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
Lawn care Top Notch Turf, Little Rock, (501) 607-1991, mytntlawn.com
Landscape maintenance Classic Landscapes, Inc., Houston, (501) 889-4549
Jeanne Spencer’s Sitting Porch[embed:fc:field_portfolio:6763:fc_portfolio_node_embed]
Like most people, Jeanne and Dan Spencer never imagined a tornado might bring them joy. However, that was just the case in April of 2011 when gusts from the storm that blew through Prospect Terrace flattened their small, detached garage and sitting porch. A year and a half later, the couple put the finishing touches on a new version of the beloved outdoor space, which was originally constructed in 1924. This time they gave it a slightly larger footprint but kept many of the treasured pieces that make the screened-in living room so comfortable and personable.
When the weather is warm, Jeanne, shown here with her dog Jiggs, can be found on the porch almost any time of day. “I love to play Mah Jongg with friends out here. I also take my morning coffee out here; in the afternoon I’ll have tea for anyone who drops by; and then, after five o’clock, I serve gin and tonics on the porch,” Jeanne says of her congenial beverage schedule.
However, her hospitality isn’t the only thing that makes the porch so welcoming. Furnishings that were handed down, purchased from friends, or even created by Jeanne—who holds both art and interior design degrees—create the sort of Southern aura one would expect to find on a porch of this nature. For instance, the glider that sits along the far wall once welcomed guests at both Jeanne’s grandmother’s home and her parents’ home. Similarly, the coffee table that offers a resting spot for your beverage of choice was purchased from her art teacher at Central High School, while the botanicals that hang over the porch’s white console table were painted by Jeanne herself, using leaves from her garden as an inspirational guide. In the same manner, she leaves no detail undefined. The window situated over the glider may appear to have been original to the 1924-version of the garage, but it’s actually a find Jeanne discovered at Mid-Towne Antique Mall when she first began to rebuild the structure. Together, these details and personal touches come together to create a retreat that’s sure to make you want to stay for a spell.
Fabric Jana Hunter Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 690-2234, janahunter.com
Furnishings—vintage window Mid-Towne Antique Mall, Little Rock, (501) 223-3600, midtownantiquemall.com