A riverside retreat gets a total makeover and becomes one family’s great escape
Sheb and Danny Fisher love their cabin on the Little Red River. Located in Pangburn—less than an hour and a half away from their primary residence in Little Rock, it is a cherished getaway spot for the entire family, including their four adult children and the family dog, Ellie, a Cairn terrier. In the few years since they have owned the cabin, the couple have transformed the entire property, from the bedroom loft right down to the riverside dock.
Make it Bigger
“The cabin was tiny when we first bought it—perfect for two people, but there just wasn’t enough space for all of us,” Sheb Fisher says. To remedy this, they expanded the home’s living and sleeping quarters by 900 square feet. One half of an existing deck was enclosed, and the open-plan living area was extended toward the river, making space for a full-sized dining table. A stone fireplace formerly stood in the center of the living room. “It was pretty…and massive,” Fisher explains, “and I tried to plan the space around it, but it just wasn’t going to work.” After relocating the fireplace to a side wall, Fisher says she realized that it had stood in the way of the cabin’s best feature: “We have enjoyed the space so much more now that the fireplace isn’t blocking the river view.” The remaining half of the riverside deck was screened and now serves as a place for the family to eat, gather, and relax outdoors.
Another top priority was to ensure that everyone would have a place to sleep when all four kids—with their own guests, spouses, and children—want to gather at the river house at the same time. “The main thing I told the architect was that I really needed four sleeping spaces, in addition to a master,” Fisher recalls. The house’s two original bedrooms were preserved, and a loft space was divided, creating one annexed bedroom and one open sleeping/sitting area. The cabin’s existing carport was enclosed and converted into a master bedroom, a spacious and peaceful retreat where Sheb and Danny feel right at home, as their visits to the cabin become longer and more frequent. “Especially when the house is full of guests,” Fisher says, “we sometimes need a place where we can be quiet and by ourselves.”
Make it Brighter
Before the renovation, the interior of the home was finished in deep wood tones, wall-to-wall, creating a lodge-like atmosphere. “Everything was pine—it was so dark,” Fisher remembers. “The cabin has lots of natural shade anyway, and the dark interior just made it even darker,” she says. Fisher’s solution? “I decided to paint the whole thing white. I have to be surrounded by a light, airy feeling.” The pine plank walls of the cabin are now covered in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. “I like to start with a neutral palette, preferably white,” Fisher says of her favored design approach, “and [then I] add color with art, furnishings, and accessories.”
With the new white walls, a rustic, white oak flooring of varying plank sizes poses a slight contrast and supports the organic feeling of the space. “The texture of the floor shows all the knots—it’s so rustic and pretty. I love how it turned out,” Fisher says. The addition of a bank of windows to the loft space also helped open and brighten the cabin. “We were going to completely close off the loft area,” Fisher says, “but the windows brought in a lot more light, so we left that part open.” In fact, she is so pleased with the loft’s radiant renovation that she envisions making the space a mini art studio, where she can work on creative projects.
Make it Personal
In addition to creating more space and light in the cabin, Fisher brought together furnishings, both old and new, to infuse the retreat with her personal style. Confident and skilled in interior design, she attributes her know-how to a background in photography and her subsequent experience in photo styling. Plus, she adds, “I have always been interested in home décor. Even as a child, I loved to move furniture around and try it different ways.”
The Fishers purchased the cabin partially furnished, and Sheb has incorporated a number of those remaining pieces in her design, including the deer-antler chandelier that hangs above the dining table and the curvaceous, hide-upholstered chairs that now stand in the home’s entry. Some of the other items were cast-offs from the couple’s primary residence, while still others are family heirlooms that had not previously found a home. The iron bed in one of the guest rooms, for instance, belonged to Fisher’s great-grandmother.
Original artwork adds character, color, and movement to every space in the cabin, and most of the pieces were done either by Fisher herself or by her sister, Somers Collins. As she was pulling the rooms together, particular pieces her sister had made came to mind as perfect finishing touches. About the painting that hangs in the dining room, Fisher recalls, “I called [my sister] and asked to use the butterfly picture, because I knew I had the perfect space for it.” The painting that stands on the mantel above the fireplace—another that was made by her sister—is known among the family as “the red woman picture,” and Fisher notes, “Everybody in our family wants that picture. I love it, too!”
Make it Home
Each member of the Fisher family has a favorite river pastime and a unique way of enjoying the property. Sheb claims her favorite space is the screened porch, where she says she spends “most of [her] waking hours,” while she is at the river, and Danny and the kids enjoy fishing off the dock. As for Ellie—the dog—she loves kayaking and chasing geese. “Ellie is so happy at the cabin,” Fisher says, “she just claims the whole neighborhood as her own.” The renovation of the getaway certainly achieved the Fishers’s ultimate goal: to create a place for family togetherness, enjoyment, and relaxation. “We love the river,” Fisher says, “It’s so quiet and peaceful there. It’s just really lovely.”
Architect Chris Milligan, Dwellings Inc., Little Rock, (501) 831-0729, dwellings-ar.com
Builder Larry Douglas, Searcy, (501) 593-2521
Interior design Sheb Fisher, Cynthia East Fabrics, Little Rock, (501) 663-0460, cynthiaeastfabrics.com
Landscape design—hardscape Terry Farris, Farris & Sons Construction Inc, Searcy, (870) 405-4055
Cabinets and countertops—master bathroom—and mirrors Pottery Barn, locations statewide, potterybarn.com
Countertops—guest bath Custom Stone LLC, Searcy, (501) 305-3007, customstoneofarkansas.com
Fireplace Lakeside Siding Supply, Heber Springs, (501) 362-5590, Kensett, (501) 742-5300, lakesidesidingsupply.net
Flooring Forest to Floor, Memphis, (901) 360-1330, North Little Rock, (501) 353-0746, foresttofloor.com
Hardware and tile Ridout Lumber, locations statewide, ridoutlumber.com
Lighting TEC Electric, Jonesboro, (870) 932-7252, North Little Rock, (501) 758-5483, tecelectric.com
Millwork Larry Douglas, Searcy, (501) 593-2521
Paint Benjamin Moore, locations statewide, benjaminmoore.com
Windows Lumber One Home Center, Mayflower, (501) 470-1122, Stuttgart (870) 673-3601, lumberonehomecenter.com