As a native Arkansan returning home by way of famously au naturel Portland, Oregon, William Wooten is no stranger to environmentally conscious living. “It’s everywhere in Portland,” he says with a confirming laugh, “and it’s exactly what we wanted for our life here in Little Rock.” Serial urban home renovators and builders, Wooten and his wife Rina scoped out downtown Little Rock early in the search for unclaimed land and settled in the Governor’s Mansion District with the help of Herron Horton Architects.
“It’s about working to find a peaceful place to live, retreat and celebrate. The most meaningful client-architect conversations center on how the family will shape a life for themselves over time,” explains Jennifer Herron, whose husband Jeff Horton makes the other half of Herron Horton Architects. For the Wootens, that life is marked by a laundry list of checkpoints: a decidedly small, low-maintenance house amenable to rescuing animals, vegetable gardening, the use of modern, energy-efficient materials and a deep-rooted relationship to the surrounding neighborhood.
The list was no challenge for Herron and Horton, who enjoy creating responsible, eco-friendly homes and define their design philosophy as “building once well,” which includes using vastly sustainable materials. The Wooten home, for example, dons a ribbed metal roof, which is not only a high-performance insulator but also a throwback to William’s first job as a sheet-metal worker. Less conventionally, coated ribbed metal constitutes the exterior siding in a Patrician Bronze hue, which is an aesthetic complement to the rich cedar panels near the front entrance of the home and reminiscent of the traditional board-and-batten exteriors, which are common in historic districts.
Additionally, the home’s dogtrot layout, an old-fashioned architectural solution for efficient cooling, is on a north-south axis and allows for a comfortable, screened-in breezeway with a spot-on view of the downtown cityscape. This breezeway coupled with a covered, south-facing patio provides an abundance of solar shading and is the ultimate casual gathering place for friends and family. During quieter times, the space also provides an outlet for creativity and outdoor recreation in the backyard’s Japanese-style vegetable garden. Plants from the garden including herbs, tomatoes and snap peas, give the Wootens an abundance of organic produce throughout the year.
“I read recently that preservation is not about freezing time and ensuring all buildings never change or that places never evolve. In fact, it is just the opposite,” Herron says of green architecture, whose sustainable materials are the true measure of a neighborhood’s longevity. The Wootens couldn’t agree more: “We appreciate quality materials that last and take care of themselves, allowing us more flexibility when it comes to the things we love—gardening, fostering animals and bonding with friends.”
Architect Herron Horton Architects, Little Rock, (501) 975-0052, hh-architects.com
Plants The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com; Green Tree Nursery and Landscape, Little Rock, (501) 225-6313, visitgreentree.com; Horticare, Little Rock, (501) 407-2727, horticare.net
Stone Bennett Brothers Stone, Little Rock, (501) 455-5040, bennettbrosstone.com