When roommates Natalie Smith and Casie Williams began searching for an apartment, they had choices to make. Proximity to the freeway or a quirky neighborhood? Character or closet space? It quickly became apparent that they preferred crystal doorknobs and built-in bookshelves to a community pool or covered parking. They were searching for a home and a lifestyle. They found unexpected charm.
Their search ended in the form of an apartment hidden in the cottage-filled streets of Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood. When they opened the front door and made their way up a curved stairway, they discovered a rare rental gem with French doors, crown molding, an original doorbell and a dining room harkening back to 1930s dinner parties straight out of the movies. Needless to say, they were sold.
As with most young professionals just starting out, their furniture was donated by family members. Natalie, who is the assistant to First Lady Ginger Beebe, says the apartment’s style is “hand-me-down chic.” But thanks to the inspiration of their character-filled apartment, the roommates were able to use frugal solutions and creative projects to embellish their new space.
Natalie created valances from materials she purchased at local craft stores. She constructed the frames from foam core, covered them with batting and fabric, and mounted them using PVC pipe and screw hooks. Casie, who works at the Little Rock Dermatology Clinic, collaborated with her mother, Clare, sewing pillows and adding fabric accent panels on the bottom of pre-made curtains. She also painted their coffee table, along with transforming a thrift shop brass lamp with aqua spray paint.
Natalie’s love of cottage charm is a family affair; her mother, Cindy, owns Periwinkle Place in McGehee, a gift store located in two renovated cottages linked by a breezeway. And whether it’s recovering her great-grandmother’s wing chairs in a yellow damask fabric, adding quirky knobs to an old dresser, or hanging artwork painted by her grandmother, Natalie relishes incorporating sentimental items into their apartment. “I love family heirlooms,” she says. “Not necessarily silver tea sets, but everyday things that remind me of my grandparents.”
And while the girls admit to sacrificing a few modern luxuries in their older rental property, they feel the trade off is worthwhile. Each time they select a book from the arched bookshelves in the living room or construct party place cards with rosemary and twine in their dining room, they’re thankful to have forgone traditional rental housing and assigned parking. They prefer their home’s unexpected charm.
Curtains Walmart, locations statewide
Fabrics Cynthia East Fabrics Inc., Little Rock
Paint Glidden, locations statewide
Rug Target, locations statewide
Sofa Hank’s Fine Furniture, locations statewide
Valance materials Hobby Lobby, locations statewide