A home and holiday Q & A with Elizabeth Michael, a delta-raised style guru who grew up behind the scenes at one of Arkansas’s most well-known home stores—Paul Michael Company
At Home in Arkansas: How did you develop your personal style of home décor?
Elizabeth Michael: I grew up around beautiful furniture, art, and objects for the home, and I spent seven years working in the home décor and furnishings industry. The constant aesthetic changes in the industry tempted me, and I was constantly redecorating.
When we moved into the Hemingway House [built in 1893, by Architect Charles Louis Thompson] from a 900-square-foot apartment in downtown Little Rock, we had to make substantial investments to furnish and decorate our home. I was overwhelmed and sought advice from a great family friend—and talented interior designer—Lucia Deen. She told me that I should only buy things I love, and that it will make sense when it all comes together. A truckload of furniture later, it did make sense, but I still needed to bring in professional help to fill in some blanks; Amber Manning helped me do that.
AHIA: What is your personal approach to holiday decorating?
EM: After working at Paul Michael Company for seven years, you can imagine that I had a love/hate relationship with holiday décor. Working there, I was covered in glitter from August to December, and starting in January we went to market to purchase the next season’s styles.
Now I love decorating for the season, and I change our holiday style every year, which drives my husband, Dan, crazy. Our storage is 90% taken up with holiday. [Dan] grew up Jewish, so I also integrate that culture into our holiday decorations. He said he has never seen anyone decorate for Hanukkah like we do.
AHIA: Do you entertain during the holidays?
EM: I love to entertain. Since I graduated from college, I have hosted the Sophisticated Party every year for my friends. One Christmas break, home from college, all my friends and I noticed that our parents were having these fabulous parties, so we decided to have a “sophisticated” party, because typically our college parties were anything-but. The first year, we all wore formals and did everything sophisticated we could think of. It was really hilarious, so we decided to keep doing it, and now the Sophisticated Party is a holiday tradition we all look forward to every year.
AHIA: The piano incorporates beautifully with your décor; are you and your husband musically inclined?
EM: My husband is a fabulous musician. We actually converted one of the bedrooms into a recording studio for him. He can play any instrument. He always plays the piano, especially during the holidays.
Having a piano front-and-center in your house is very interesting. Sometimes people sit down and play, and it surprises me because I had no idea they even played the piano. One such person was my mother—I had never seen her play or talk about playing, but she sat down at the piano during last year’s Sophisticated Party and played a wonderful song! I had no idea she played at all.
AHIA: What do you look forward to most about the holiday season?
EM: The holiday season for me is about being around friends and family in Lake Village. Going to the deer camp, eating fantastic homemade meals, singing along to my husband playing the guitar: It’s my most favorite time of the year!
Architect—historical Charles Thompson
Architect—restoration Tommy Jameson, Jameson Architects P.A., Little Rock, (501) 666-6600, jamesonarchitects.com
Holiday design Ron Pepper, Paul Michael Company, Lake Village, (870) 265-3872, paulmichaelcompany.com
Interior design Amber Manning, Little Rock, (501) 258-8023
Accessories and furniture Paul Michael Company, Lake Village, (870) 265-3872, paulmichaelcompany.com