At Home in Arkansas: You’d never know this tropical getaway exists behind this stately home. What was it like before the transformation?
Designer Chris Olsen: The lot was bare when Robert and Martha Ellen Erwin purchased the home more than a decade ago. They added a pool, patio and pool house for their family to enjoy, and then we worked together recently to update the areas with landscaping and containers.
What did the homeowners envision for the outdoor areas?
Having lived in the home for a while, they had a good idea of how they use it. They love to have family get-togethers, casual pool parties and larger-scale events, and wanted to freshen up their outdoor areas to accommodate all of that. The house is on a corner lot and has a traditional look, so a more formal avenue to the front door made sense. For entertaining, they wanted the backyard and patio area to be fun, colorful and relaxed.
What elements enhance the formal approach to the front of the home?
We chose cut stone to create a path and lined the space with columnar hornbeam trees, which can grow 80 feet tall but not very wide, so they don’t shade out the grass. We used wintergreen boxwood to create a clean, square hedge rimming semicircular beds, where we concentrated seasonal color. Summer snapdragon is included, and it’s one of my favorite plants for Arkansas because it will look beautiful and fresh all summer long. I mixed in Silver Bells petunias and begonias, which are great because they grow in sun and shade. And we added lighting, so at night all of this is lit. Lighting is important because it adds dimension to your yard and brings it to life.
The boxwood hedge continues on the side of the house, where you created what appears to be a quiet retreat with a stone bench.
Side yards are often overlooked, and with this corner lot there was an opportunity to create an inviting focal point. We formed a path using crushed granite, which is a great alternative to pea gravel, added a bench for seating, and hung a large piece of custom ironwork on the brick wall to define the area and make it room-like. Behind the bench, we planted gardenias for their scent—that’s an important element often forgotten in landscaping.
From the side yard, the next transition is into the backyard pool and patio area, which offers a colorful juxtaposition.
While the house is elegant, stately and traditional, Martha Ellen has a colorful, contemporary side. When I saw some urns filled with bamboo in the backyard, I knew she liked contemporary elements, and that launched my ideas. The containers and the colors are tropical and fun, and that matches Martha Ellen’s personality.
So while the front space is more formal, the back is more relaxed and fun.
The backyard is the real living space, where their family loves to hang out. It’s not too serious, just casual and full of color.
Neutrals are mixed with bright, tropical shades here, an example being the turquoise towels. What was the inspiration behind this unexpected contrast?
That’s Martha Ellen’s creative side. She’s an artist and has the style and ability to blend elements, like the colorful table setting and the variety of patterns in the pillows and furnishings.
How did you select the combinations of plants for the large containers?
We wanted some softness so we added Phoenix roebelenii palms. And I cheated: I transplanted hanging baskets of Million Bells petunias for instant growth and color. I also used lots of wandering jew plants for foliage. Many blooming plants will burn out over the growing season, but foliage plants will go strong for a long time.
Any additional advice for designing an eye-catching outdoor space?
Be sure to take the elements into consideration. Outdoor fabrics should last a couple of years, but the reality is that when things stay in full sun, even outdoor fabric will fade. So if you can get two years out of it, that’s good. On the furnishings, instead of adding cushions, we just draped colorful towels, which would be great for a party. You can wash and put them away instead of dealing with the upkeep of cushions. And the lower the maintenance, the more time you have for fun.
Builder Bowden Boshears Construction Company, Little Rock, (501) 960-7515
Landscape design Chris Olsen, Botanica Gardens, Little Rock, (501) 614-3000, botanicagardens.com
Pool design Brooks Pool Co., Little Rock, (501) 771-1501, brookspools.com
Stonework, dining table Joe Murdaugh Masonry, North Little Rock, (501) 833-0891
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, Jonesboro, (870) 933-7800; North Little Rock, (501) 758-1988; Springdale, (479) 750-2200; metroappliancesandmore.com
Bench, containers, ironwork Botanica Gardens, Little Rock, (501) 614-3000, botanicagardens.com
Dinnerware chargers Williams-Sonoma, Little Rock, (501) 663-3019; Rogers, (479) 636-0153; williams-sonoma.com
Furnishings Ken Rash’s Arkansas, Little Rock, (501) 663-1818, kenrashsoutdoorfurniture.com
When designer Susan Latta first met with clients to discuss the look for their new master bathroom, she was given a unique directive: “Bring the outdoors in and emphasize the windows,” says Latta, “which was such a nice change of pace from homes where privacy is a problem.”
Situated at a quiet corner of the home and screened with a wooded backyard, the room was inherently private, and allowing unobstructed natural light to flow into the space was a possibility. “That set the tone,” says Latta, “for creating a relaxing, restful place.”
The builder, Nall Custom Homes, had planned a large, rectangular area for the master bath, and Latta was brought on board to design the room with all the amenities the homeowners had in mind. “Having enough space was integral to creating the spa-like style they wanted,” she says, “with both a shower and a tub, dual sinks and plenty of storage.”
Latta began with the connection between bedroom and bath, designing a glass shower flanked by windows as a sunlight-filled focal point when entering the space. On one side of the shower, she placed a spa tub in an alcove rimmed with windows, creating a tranquil spot offering views of the wooded site. On the other side, she specified a long vanity with dual sinks and a series of mirrors to reflect the views. “That added to the retreat-like feel of being surrounded by the outdoors,” say Latta.
For the vanity, Latta and the homeowners worked through the details of storage needs, adding ample drawers in various sizes. Counter-mount sinks were chosen as sculptural elements to complement the room, with the simple forms of the vessels plus streamlined wall-mounted faucets adding a spa-style feature.
An earth-tone marble was selected for the countertop and backsplash, paired with light terracotta tile for the floor and shower. “Bringing in the soft, earthy palette added some warmth, and kept the room from feeling stark,” says Latta, who accented the materials with light reflecting cream-colored walls and woodwork.
Open shelves were added alongside the shower as additional storage for towels and larger items, as well as favorites from the homeowners’ pottery collection. Ceiling lighting was placed to illuminate each area at night, with artisan glass pendant lights suspended over the vanity. “It’s important to have lighting that’s closer to you at the counter, illuminating your face better,” says Latta. “I always look for a mix of overall lighting and task lighting to add to the functionality.”
A cozy armchair and upholstered vanity stool were added to complement the room’s restful and relaxed atmosphere. “It’s fresh yet warm, full of comforts and surrounded by the outdoors,” adds Latta, “which makes it a truly inviting spa-like space.”
Bath designer Susan Latta Design, CKD, CBD, CGP, CGB, Fayetteville, (479) 601-3377, susanlattadesign.com
Builder, cabinetry Nall Custom Homes, Springdale, (479) 872-1337
Armchair Marshall Clements, Little Rock, (501) 663-1828
Cabinet hardware Interior Fabrics and Design, Fayetteville, (479) 444-0222
Flooring Townzen Tile & Laminates, Springdale, (479) 751-4043, townzentile.com
Marble Artistic Tile, Marble & Granite Co., Springdale, (479) 750-2121, atmgusa.com
Pendant lights Lighting Emporium, Springdale, (479) 751-8184, lightingemporium.com
Vanity stool Cynthia East Fabrics, Little Rock, (501) 663-0460, cynthiaeastfabrics.com
Sam Elardo has a self-proclaimed obsession with flea market finds. As the owner of a men’s clothing store in Helena for 25 years, he used antique furnishings in his displays, which he says he “became obsessed with upgrading.” While at market for clothing in New York, he would rise at dawn each Sunday and congregate with locals at neighborhood flea markets, rummaging through a sea of estate furnishings and accessories.
Eventually, he shipped home so many that he decided to open an antique store. No longer in the clothing business, he now owns Helena’s Gracious Living Antiques, housing his finds both past and present, including an impressive collection of silver-plated napkin rings.
Being in the clothing business for so many years gave Elardo an appreciation for quality and detail, which influenced his love of antique napkin rings. Common in the late 1800s, they’re an anomaly today. “Few sit down to a formally set table each day, much less with cloth napkins that require washing and ironing,” he says. “It’s a change in lifestyle.” In Elardo’s collection, several even have monograms, including one with the name “Gertrude,” which was used to denote use by members of the family since linens weren’t washed between every meal. “It’s not something you see much any more,” says Elardo. “Now we have paper napkins.”
In their heyday, napkin rings graced tables in both middle and upper class households. Their hundreds of variations range from vase and statuary-like designs to birds, animals and cherubs. They were especially detailed during the Edwardian era, with not just monograms but also intricate embossing and scrollwork. A very rare style, one of which Elardo owns, depicts Rip Van Winkle, and is valued at around $3,000. Another valuable style, popular with the upper class, is called a combination set, containing a napkin ring, butter pat holder, salt cellar and pepper shaker. Napkin rings grew less detailed in the Art Deco and Mid-Century eras, before ultimately fizzling out in everyday usage.
Elardo doesn’t discriminate against badly damaged napkins rings, which were prone to falling from tables. Instead, he has gone to great lengths to have them expertly silvered and polished over the years. Because of the time and expense involved to resilver, sometimes $100 each, and since fewer silversmiths are now in business to make repairs, he’s learned to become more lax. If a napkin ring has grown dull in appearance but is otherwise in good condition, he doesn’t mind.
He keeps an eye out for telltale hallmarks that indicate their place of production, noteworthy companies being Tufts Silverplate, The Meriden Silver Plate Co. and Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co., among others. He also notes that each and every one of his napkin rings is American-made. “It’s amazing when you consider the quality of what American workers made all those years ago,” he says. “You can find reproductions from the 1970s or ‘80s, but they won’t be as fabulous.”
His well-trained eye continues to fuel his passion for quality antiques, allowing him to spot napkin rings worthy of his collection with remarkable precision. Even at large markets, “I can zero in on them,” he laughs. He keeps a rotating collection of about 100 in his antique store, and a select few of about 15 at home for safekeeping. While most people haven’t seen or heard of them, much less owned one, “I’m very dedicated when I begin to collect something,” Elardo says. “I bought three more just last week.”
Gracious Living Antiques, Helena, (870) 753-9420
1. BRIGHTEN UP!
Harbor Outdoor titanium lantern from Hinkley Lighting. hinkleylighting.com for stores statewide, including: Lewis Lighting & Home, Benton, (501) 315-2400, lewislightingandhome.com; Light Innovations, Little Rock, (501) 223-9026, blog.light-innovations.com
2. CONTAINER COLOR
Update a porch or patio with pretty pots from The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
3. COLOR POP
Multi-hued outdoor umbrellas from Ken Rash’s Arkansas, Little Rock, (501) 663-1818, kenrashsoutdoorfurniture.com
4. FLORAL FAVE
Bring spring into the kitchen with floral print dishtowels from Vesta’s, Little Rock, (501) 375-7820, vestasboutique.com
5. EASY ACCENT
Patterned pillow from Antique Brick Outdoors, Little Rock, (501) 375-0060, antiquebrickoutdoors.com
1. TILE STYLE
American Tile and Stone’s Stonepeak Ceramics line offers Raja tile in a variety of sizes and colors. Acme Brick, Tile & Stone, Fort Smith, (479) 782-7974; Little Rock, (501) 812-5574; Russellville, (479) 968-6900; acmebricktileandstone.com
2. PLAN TO VISIT!
The new home décor showroom at Antique Brick Outdoors (a division of Antique Brick & Block) for all the goods to outfit any outdoor living space. From furniture and fabrics to tableware and accessories, nearly all the wares are suited to indoor use as well, including these candle-lit lanterns. 1609 E. 9th St., Little Rock, (501) 375-0060, antiquebrickoutdoors.com
3. HAVE A SEAT
Made Goods’ Gabriella ceramic stool, designed for use indoors or out. Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
4. PILLOW TALK
Decorative pillows from Antique Brick Outdoors, Little Rock, (501) 375-0060, antiquebrickoutdoors.com
5. STONE STATEMENT
Whiterock urn from Currey & Company. Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, cobblestoneandvine.com; Marshall Clements, Little Rock, (501) 663-1828
1. PATTERN POWER
Duralee’s Pavilion line of indoor/outdoor fabrics combines easy care with graphic flair. M. Grace, Bentonville, (479) 715-6050, mgracenet.com
2. EASY ELEGANCE
Bruce engineered hickory hardwood wide plank flooring in Wild Cherry/Brandywine. bruce.com for stores statewide, including: Arnold’s Flooring America, Little Rock, (501) 225-3840, arnoldsflooringlittlerock.com; Little Rock Flooring, Little Rock, (501) 868-3633, littlerockflooringcompany.com; Storey’s Floor & Carpet, El Dorado, (870) 862-9446, storeysfloor.com; Whitley Floor Covering, Benton, (501) 315-3626
3. TOUCH OF GOLD
Masland’s Brink & Campman line features abstract designs, such as this Kodari wool rug with gold accents. maslandcarpets.com for stores statewide, including: Arnold’s Flooring America, Little Rock, (501) 225-3840, arnoldsflooringlittlerock.com; C&F Flooring and Rug Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 399-9909, candfcarpet.com; Inside Effects, Little Rock, (501) 954-8866, inside-effects.com
4. LUXE LIGHTING
Vintage hand-blown green and gold Murano glass lamps (one of a pair shown) are a glamorous addition to any room and are available from Swank Lighting, newly relocated to Little Rock. With showrooms in Dallas and Atlanta as well as online offerings, Swank has made Arkansas the home base for its extensive lighting collection, (501) 414-8898, swanklighting.com
1. CLEAN AND CRISP
Bella Cera’s Amalfi Coast series is hand-carved, hand-distressed and dual hand-stained, offering a sleek finish in a range of wide plank sizes. bellacerafloors.com for stores statewide, including: Double “S” Carpet and Supply, Kensett, (501) 742-3543, doublescarpet.com; Flooring America by Carpet Smart, Centerton, (479) 795-8520, flooringamericacenterton.com; Storey’s Floor and Carpet, El Dorado, (870) 862-9446, storeysfloor.com; Tom January Floors, Inc., Fayetteville, (479) 521-2422, tomjanuaryfloors.com
2. SLEEK SILVER
Add some shimmer with Hudson Valley Lighting’s Chelsea six-light chandelier. hudsonvalleylighting.com for stores statewide, including Light Innovations, Little Rock, (501) 223-9026, blog.light-innovations.com
3. SITTING PRETTY
Chic steel barstool from Soho Modern, Little Rock, (501) 372-4884
4. TEXTURED NEUTRAL
Mohawk’s SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona carpet lends subtle patterns to any space. mohawkflooring.com for stores statewide, including: C&F Flooring and Rug Gallery, Little Rock, (501) 399-9909, candfcarpet.com; Ridout Lumber Company, locations statewide, (501) 268-3929, ridoutlumber.com; White River Flooring, Searcy, (501) 268-5370, whiteriverflooring.com
5. COFFEE TABLE TALK
Little Rock-based Bear-Hill Interiors and At Home contributing photographer Nancy Nolan are featured in this new release from Clarkson Potter. randomhouse.com
6. NEUTRAL NUANCES
Complement polished nickel with neutral colors from Benjamin Moore, including Smoky Ash, Cedar Key and Feather Down. benjaminmoore.com for locations statewide
1. SET THE SCENE
Architectural icons set a stylish scene with a dose of pink pattern. Globetrotter wallcovering from Clarke & Clarke, through Larry’s Inc., Little Rock, (501) 663-0674, larrysinc.com
2. BLOOMING COLOR
Adorn the floor with an April Blooms wool hooked rug from Company C. companyc.com for stores statewide, including: The Boutique, Searcy, (501) 268-3434, searcyboutique.com; Cynthia East Fabrics, Little Rock, (501) 663-0460, cynthiaeastfabrics.com; The Full Moon, Little Rock, (501) 663-4367; The House Special Interiors, Fayetteville, (479) 527-6464, thehousespecialinteriors.com
3. POPS OF PINK
Handmade by Kalee print apron from Vesta’s, Little Rock, (501) 375-7820, vestasboutique.com; vase from Soho Modern, Little Rock, (501) 372-4884
4. COTTAGE COZY
Vintage-inspired printed cotton offers an easy room update as curtains, slipcovers or pillows. Clarke & Clarke Nostalgic Prints collection, available through Larry’s Inc., Little Rock, (501) 663-0674, larrysinc.com
5. SPRING SHADES
Add cheer with paint in Glad Yellow and In the Pink from Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com for locations statewide
Sissy Clinton and Lydia Hall, Fifth Season, Little Rock
Create a relaxed holiday tabletop that is as versatile as it is cheery. “Casual with lots of color sets the tone for the fun to follow,” says Clinton. Red polka dot china can be used year-round, square Santa Claus-motif salad plates double as dinner plates, a utensil container holds a bottle of wine, and a footed punch bowl filled with sequined tree ornaments is transformed into a festive centerpiece. Tall white trees can be moved to a buffet during a dinner gathering. And to maintain a casual feel, incorporate traditional red and green plaid linens and natural accents such as greenery, pinecones and woven wood chargers. “But,” says Clinton, “a more formal tablecloth and place cards are also fun for holiday get-togethers, to make guests feel special.”
Old St. Nick by Vietri square salad plates, mugs, sugar and creamer, salt and pepper, wine holder, footed bowl centerpiece; Rosso Vecchio Dot by Vietri chargers, mugs; Reed & Barton Allora flatware; Mary Carol Home Collection chargers; India Overseas plaid placements, napkins; Rose Tree red napkins; RAZ place card holders; Melrose International trees; Renaissance sequined ornaments; all from Fifth Season, Little Rock; 1950s Directoire table available at Marshall Clements, Little Rock
Becky Charton, Table Setters Inc., North Little Rock
Go exotic this holiday season and spice up your tablescape. Begin with statement-making plates like these, inspired by Charton’s favorite faraway destination, India, and then layer on wares in the same color palette—in this case, turquoise, orange and metallics. Try suspending handmade paper cones holding seeded eucalyptus from a light fixture, or gold leafing mangos and oranges to scatter around the table. “It combines India’s traditions of gold leafed candy and holiday fruit giving,” Charton explains. Set out bowls of sugar crystals, and send guests home with authentic party favors such as journals personalized with scrapbook letters and tasseled money cards inserted with thoughtful holiday messages. Striking silver cutlery with carved handles, French 1930s chairs and centerpieces with floating orange roses add elegance to the enchanted setting.
Cutlery, small ivory box, Fabulous Finds Antiques, Little Rock; chargers, glassware, napkins, napkins rings, Pier 1 Imports, locations statewide; gold gilded fruit, gold leaf trees, hanging cones, handcrafted by Lori Wenger of Table Setters Inc.; handmade gift envelopes and silk window panel purchased in India; Horchow punch bowl, horchow.com; journals, ABC Carpet & Home, New York; large ivory boxes, TJ Maxx, locations statewide; mercury glass votives through Table Setters Inc., North Little Rock; Mughal King of Elephant glass plates, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; paper for hanging cones, ART Outfitters, Little Rock; sugar bowls, spoons, Global Table, New York; table runners, Southern Wholesale Florists, Little Rock; 1950s Directoire table available at Marshall Clements, Little Rock
Reggie Marshall and Jim Clements, Marshall Clements, Little Rock
Design your holiday tablescape to resemble a still life painting, combining a mixture of styles from a variety of time periods and focusing on color and texture. “Try to use what you have and reinvent it,” says Marshall. “Don’t be confined to the pantry; look all over the house for items to include.” Rather than focusing on trends, create a traditional holiday color palette by mixing pistachio green chargers and dark green dinner plates, and pairing them with an array of green goblets in various styles. Then inject crimson hues through artistically arranged fruit such as red grapes, watermelon and strawberries. As a final festive touch, cherubs adorn napkin rings and a centerpiece, which is filled with red roses, holly and pittosporum, while candelabras cast a painterly glow for holiday meals.
Aidan Gray small candelabra; Art Deco fluted green glasses; German chargers; English sardine containers; 1700s Baroque tall candelabras; 17th-century carved cherub napkin rings; 1830 Louis XVI chairs; 18th-century French terracotta planter; 19th-century Spode plates; Louis XVI bench with original tapestry; vintage Mexican glasses; Murano champagne glasses; 1950s Directoire table; all from Marshall Clements, Little Rock
1. Recycled green wire stool can be turned over and used as a storage bin. Box Turtle, Little Rock
2. Red plaid and embroidered polka dot table runners. Pottery Barn, Little Rock, Rogers
3. Painted wooden reindeer. Haus Werk, Little Rock
4. Frasier Fur candle by Thymes with pinecone branch candle holder. The Full Moon, Little Rock
5. Coton Colors red chevron platter. The Full Moon, Little Rock
6. Aunt Sadie’s Tree-in-a-Can holiday plaid candle. Haus Werk, Little Rock
7. Stitched wool and cable knit stockings with poinsettia accents. Haus Werk, Little Rock
8. Trio of green recycled wood trays. The Full Moon, Little Rock
9. Woodlands ceramic mugs from TAG. Murphy Long Design, El Dorado
A Colorful Tradition: In Sheridan, Beverly Wells and her designing daughter, Tobi Fairley, put a fresh spin on holiday décor and complement a colorful entertaining area with a bright blue and green palette
1. Amber and green hand-blown glass vases. Vesta’s, Little Rock
2. Tag circular metal candleholder with red glass votives. Rose Cottage, Conway
3. Pebbles double old-fashioned tumblers in smoke gray from Moser. Fifth Season, Little Rock
4. Set of five antique cut-to-clear red crystal sake glasses. Jenifer’s Antiques, Conway
5. Pair of gold Murano glass candleholders. Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock
6. Assortment of petite vases for displaying fall foliage. Rose Cottage, Conway
7. Deep gold glass owl vase. The Full Moon, Little Rock
8. Light amber Art Deco glass decanter. Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock
9. Hand-blown multi-colored glass bowl by Arkansas artist James Hayes. Fifth Season, Little Rock
10. Gold and olive glass votive candleholders. The Full Moon, Little Rock
At Home in Arkansas offers you a look inside the state's most inspiring homes. The magazine features monthly advice from the experts to help you plan your next remodel or redesign, entertain at home, or find Arkansas's best kept secrets. It is your definitive guide to the state's finest homes and gardens, design professionals, fashion and entertaining essentials, and premier shops and showrooms.
Published since 1996, At Home in Arkansas is the state's leading home and lifestyle magazine. Contact us.
Our weekly e-newsletter is your weekly link to what's new and best in home design ideas, resources and events.
Sign Up Here.
For advertising information, please contact Kelly Fraiser or call (501) 666-5510.
We love hearing from you. Send ideas and comments to Stephanie Maxwell Newton.
At Home in Arkansas
Weddings in Arkansas
2207 Cottondale Lane
Little Rock, AR 72202