Designer Peri-Gay Walker uses a treasured Arkansas setting as the backdrop for a memorable yet low-key Independence Day celebration
Few Arkansas retreats—if any—are as steeped in tradition as Couchwood. Set on the scenic shores of Lake Catherine, the site, which actually consists of four cabins and a train car, was built by Harvey Couch, Sr. beginning in the late 1920s. Couch, who was the founder of Arkansas Power & Light and responsible for bringing hydroelectric power to the state, built the escape as a place to entertain friends and family as well as dignitaries, including President Herbert Hoover in 1927 and President and Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936.
Today, it can be rented for weddings, family reunions, and company retreats from September through May. However, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, it is reserved for exclusive use by the Couch family.
Fittingly, at the peak of the season each year, the family hosts a star-studded Fourth of July gathering on the grounds. We asked Little Rock-based entertaining guru and designer Peri-Gay Walker to set the scene for this year’s annual get-together.
Peri-Gay’s Easy Ideas for a Festive & Flavorful 4th of July
Dine Al Fresco It’s summer; now is the time to get out and enjoy nature, especially if you have a view like the one from this cabin.
Work With What You Have No need to bring in dining tables or chairs, use your outdoor rocking chairs or pull a bench up to a fold-out table for a no-fuss set up.
Keep It Casual Use baskets, enamelware, and other down-to-earth serving pieces rather than your best china. It will match your setting and be easy to transport from the kitchen.
Feel the Hues Embrace red, white, and blue but still put your spin on this color combination and think creatively about how and where you’ll use the colors. For example, I limited the use of white on the table, but allowed a bit to enter the scheme in the decorations.
Spice It Up Add a little kick to your favorite dishes. Peri-Gay created a recipe for a spicy “Firecracker Corn on the Cob” to delight diners. Get the recipe on our blog (athomearkansas.com/blog).
Say “Yes” to Pie Whether homemade or from a favorite local pie shop, these all-American sweets are a nostalgic must-have for any Independence Day social. I like storing them in a screened pie-safe to keep them fresh before serving.
Hang a Banner Whether it’s star cutouts (like the ones shown here) or a traditional flag bunting, nothing says “Happy Birthday America” quite like a simple red, white, and blue banner.
Sweeten Your Sips Add some oomph to your lemonade with fresh fruit (I used strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices) or a simple syrup purée.
Fly Your Flags Don’t forget the most important decorative element of any Independence Day celebration—the flag. Use them to decorate your table scheme and be sure to hang one near your entrance as well.
Eat In-Season Make your menu based on what is growing in the garden. For this gathering, fresh corn on the cob and fruit were a perfect pairing for burgers and hot dogs from the grill.
Add Rustic Flair For a setting such as this cabin, burlap is a natural choice for table runners and ribbon.
Accent with Yellow Bringing in this color was a top priority for me. It feels fresh and I love that we were able to incorporate it through the wildflowers and sunflowers.
Bring in Lanterns Keep lanterns close at hand to fill with lit candles during dusk celebrations and fireworks shows.
Event design Peri-Gay Walker, VIPG Designs, LLC, Little Rock, (501) 247-4906, vipgdesigns.com
For more information about Couchwood, including rental inquiries, visit couchwood.org.