A busy family of six settles into a casual rustic retreat on the pristine shores of Eden Isle.
The Gilbrech family didn’t move into their newly constructed lakeside residence until last year, but Eden Isle has always felt like their home. Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Ozarks between Greer’s Ferry Lake and Heber Springs, Eden Isle is where Mary Noel Gilbrech grew up vacationing and dining at the community’s famous resort, The Red Apple Inn. “I would come here with my grandparents and eat at the Inn,” she says.
After Mary Noel and her husband, Jeff, started a family of their own, they bought a lake house in the small resort community and began enjoying summers on the water. Through the years the family has lived in several different places, but something always kept them coming back to their vacation home in Eden Isle. Finally, while living in Memphis several years ago, a thought occurred to Mary Noel and Jeff: Since they loved Eden Isle so much, why not live there full time?
Jeff, who is originally from Arkansas, and Mary Noel, a Mississippi native, love the flat terrain of the Delta region. With that thought in mind they purchased an older home—one of the first houses built in Eden Isle—on a flat piece of land on Greer’s Ferry Lake. However, as they began planning the renovation the couple realized demolishing the existing home and building a new one would make much more sense. “It would have been great if we could have remodeled it, but it just needed too much work,” says Mary Noel.
So, the family got to work planning the construction of a new home. From the start, they knew they wanted an open floor plan, a big back porch overlooking the lake, and most importantly, simplicity. “We wanted the home to be very casual and simple, both for our kids now and our grandkids in the future,” Mary Noel says. “We wanted a house big enough for all of us, but unassuming. We’re just minimalists, I guess.”
It was also important to the Gilbrechs to use local materials. Along with the home’s exterior, the fireplace and kitchen backsplash were crafted from Arkansas fieldstone. “I wanted everything to be natural,” Mary Noel says. Along with the fieldstone, wood, granite and lots of natural light contribute to the home’s casual rustic theme. Simple, yet timeless accents, including a copper vent hood and an iron light fixture over the dining room table, are scattered around the home. However, integrating natural materials wasn’t without its bumps. The pine floors, taken from the walls of an old building in South Carolina, now create a look of natural warmth throughout the home—but it took some extra work to get them that way. “We bought these floors and Jeff had them stained,” Mary Noel says. “Then we got them into the house and they looked awful. They were the wrong color. We thought we were going to have to get rid of them. Luckily, we were able to have the floors planed and they came out the right color,” she explains.
When it came to furnishing and decorating the home, the family had collected furniture, pottery and art over the years from a variety of places—including antique stores in Mary Noel’s home state of Mississippi. Aged hutches, armoires and four-poster beds blended into the home’s rustic style. “Most of the things I already had and they just came together in this house,” she says.
In addition to using local materials and pieces they already owned, making the home energy efficient was also important to the Gilbrechs. The house was designed for geothermal heating and cooling, which uses pumps to provide a natural and efficient alternative to traditional units. “All the heating and cooling comes from six wells under the house that are 275 feet deep,” says Mary Noel of their well-executed and environmentally responsible energy plan.
Ask anyone in the family, which includes brothers Will, Wade and Palmer as well as their sister Katherine, and they’ll tell you the large, breezy back porch is definitely a favorite spot. “When they were building the porch and I realized how big it was going to be I thought we would never have enough furniture to put out there,” Mary Noel says of the space, which has plenty of room for a separate dining and sitting area, as well as a grill station. “It’s big enough for the boys to throw the football as hard as they can and it will reach the other side. So I can’t have anything breakable out there,” she laughs.
The Gilbrechs’ home has given the family a casual refuge to spend time together and enjoy the lake. Most of all, the house has allowed the Gilbrechs to come home to Eden Isle for good. “There are prettier houses than mine, but mine is very livable,” says Mary Noel. “We love everything about living here. We can walk to play tennis and golf and to eat dinner. People know that once you live in Eden Isle, it’s a special place. We’ve moved here and there, so we are settled. This is home.”
Contractor John Hope, Hope Construction, Inc., Heber Springs, (501) 206-0706
Landscape design Audubon Landscaping, Heber Springs, (501) 281-2604
Painter Nate Towell, Heber Springs, (501) 691-3618
Accessories and rugs Haus Werk, Little Rock, (501) 663-5251, shophauswerk.com
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, Jonesboro, (870) 933-7800, North Little Rock, (501) 758-1988, Springdale, (479) 750-2200, metroappliancesandmore.com
Art Arden Boyce, Ellen Golden Antiques, Little Rock, (501) 664-7746
Bedding Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock, (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Cabinets Ricky Logan, Logan Cabinet Shop, Heber Springs, (501) 362-6545
Carpet and tile Creative Carpets & Interiors, Heber Springs, (501) 429-4335, creativecarpetsandinteriors.com
Fabrics Cynthia East Fabrics, Little Rock, (501) 663-0460, cynthiaeastfabrics.com
Fresh floral Tipton Hurst, Conway, (501) 329-6663, Little Rock, (501) 666-3333, North Little Rock, (501) 753-0709, tiptonhurst.com
Geothermal heating and cooling Lacy Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., Tumbling Shoals, (501) 362-3023, lacyheatandair.com
Railings ArcAngel Metalworks, Heber Springs, (501) 362-6722, arcangelmetalworks.com
Stone Callahan Manufactured Stone, Mountain View, (870) 591-6284
Vent hood Southerland Sheet Metal, Heber Springs, (501) 362-5222
Window coverings Blind Mart, Little Rock, (501) 228-7230, blindmartinc.com