On any given day of the week, the Bell residence in Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights neighborhood bustles with activity. Between Ray and Carrie Bell, their 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, and Carrie’s 17-year-old son, Candler, the house is a hub of game-watching parties, sleepovers, cocktail hours and formal dinners.
“People are always coming in and out,” says Carrie, a stay-at-home mom and freelance photo stylist. “I like to call it my little party jewel box.” Last January, she and her husband Ray, who owns a printing company, traded in their 6,000-square-foot home for a 2,700-square-foot 1947 red brick colonial. They replaced the existing garage with a master bedroom suite and laundry room, and discovered that with this one addition, the home’s smaller size was well suited to their lifestyle. “It made sense for our petite family,” says Carrie, whose son will be heading off to college next year. “We live in this house much more easily than the other because it brings us all together.”
As in her previous home, Carrie turned to interior designer Kevin Walsh of Bear-Hill Interiors to help her with the remodel. “Design wise, he’s a lot safer than I am,” she says. “He reels me in when I’m too crazy.” Carrie describes their former residence as having a casual, beach-like style, and here she sought a more sophisticated look. “I didn’t want it to feel like a cottage,” she says. “I wanted a mixture of Paris flat and something a little bit rebellious.”
After tackling the new addition, Walsh addressed Carrie’s desire for a more urbane interior. The previous owner had chosen an intense color palette: dark red in the living room and apple green in the dining room. “It was more English with chintz,” recalls Walsh, “and Carrie wanted it to have a funky, European flavor.”
Taking a cue from the existing wood floors in the living and dining room, which had been painted to resemble marble, Carrie and Walsh conceived a cool palette of pale gray, lavender, pink and plenty of white plus occasional hits of an intense cerulean blue. They coated the walls of the family room and the new cabinetry in the adjacent kitchen in a soft gray, a color Walsh describes as both modern and classically French. The living room became lavender and the master bedroom suite, a serene white.
Throughout the interiors, Walsh countered the home’s traditional bones with unconventional details such as bold patterns, unexpected materials and art. In the living room, graphic faux-zebra skin benches and an abstract painting by an Arkansas artist coexist with silk shantung draperies and a vintage Murano glass lamp. In the dining room, new French panel molding serves as an elegant backdrop to Picasso lithographs, a dining room table paired with Henry XV-style chairs Carrie found for a song at a flea market and a 1930s chandelier from Paris.
Walsh also used vinyl in nearly every room in the house: on cushions for the vintage bamboo barstools in the kitchen, the Louis XVI-style chairs surrounding the breakfast table and the wingback chair, inherited from Carrie’s grandmother, in Caroline’s bedroom. Not only does the slick fabric add a rock-and-roll vibe, it’s a snap to clean. “Everything just wipes right off it,” says Carrie.
Also surprisingly low-maintenance are the white sofas in the family room and master suite. When they lose their brightness, Carrie simply strips off their slipcovers and tosses them into the wash to make them snowy again. “White covers are the easiest because you can just bleach them,” she explains, “and I love these sofas because you can dress them up with pillows and they look crisp, clean and tailored.”
While Carrie says she likes her new master bedroom because it reminds her of a soothing hotel suite, she admits her daughter’s room is her favorite. A perfect microcosm of the entire house, it’s a blend of Parisian chic and Bohemian flair. Walsh designed a half canopy for the bed, draping it with white linen curtains on the exterior and pink linen on the interior. Jamie Young lamps sit on French bedside tables, and a pink and metallic- patterned wall covering from Osborne & Little offers a design that is feminine but not frilly. The raisin-colored vinyl wing-back chair and a Ralph Lauren faux-zebra skin broadloom carpet, made into an area rug, serve as counterpoints to all the pink.
“It’s a little bit prissy, but a little funky too,” says Walsh. It’s a description that can be applied to the rest of the house, which is as worldly and fashion-forward as it is family-friendly—and French, of course.
Freelance writer and Texas native Katherine Lagomarsino is a former editor for Metropolitan Home magazine and Hampton Homes and Gardens. She recently relocated back to the South.
Interior Design Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock
Contractor Justin Stewart, Little Rock
Appliances Viking through Dillard’s, Little Rock
Cabinetry Jirel Architectural Cabinets and Trim, Little Rock
Countertops The Granite Gallery, Conway
Draperies Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale
Fixtures, sinks, bathtub Falk Plumbing Supply, North Little Rock