Think that bright white must be banished from a family home? That serene hues, shimmering surfaces and chic accents won’t work in a household full of boys?
Not so, say designer Susan Walsh of Bear-Hill Interiors and homeowner Amanda Allison, who, along with her husband, Scott, is the proud parent of three young sons. With thoughtful planning and wise purchasing, the pair proved that stylish rooms and family living can co-exist peacefully.
When the Allison family moved into a recently renovated home in the Heights neighborhood in Little Rock, Amanda sought Walsh’s assistance in transitioning existing furnishings into their new residence. “The house was a great fit for the size of their family, and since it had recently been updated, it didn’t need any structural changes,” says Walsh. “But many of the rooms were dark and felt heavier than what Amanda had in mind.”
The pair began in the living room, an especially important space since it’s the home’s sole gathering area and needs to function well for both entertaining and daily living. The large room features a pair of French doors leading to the backyard and an expansive window, but heavy draperies and cornices cut down on the flow of natural light. Similarly, Amanda had added a streamlined sofa and armchairs in a neutral, textural fabric, but had mixed in an old leather chair as well. The room became the impetus for defining the home’s style.
“From the pieces they already owned, I could see that they gravitated to a streamlined modern look, with soft, light colors, and we moved forward with that in mind,” says Walsh. Down went dark draperies, up went simple, color-banded silks, with sleek rods hanging above transom windows for full access to sunlight. Away went a leather chair, in came a cushioned ottoman, a family-friendly alternative to a coffee table—add a tray and it can sport appetizers during a party, remove it and it’s the setting for family game night.
Walsh paired new side tables and sturdy lamps with the current sofa and armchairs, creating a seating grouping while leaving open spaces for the boys to play. Working with the room’s existing light green paint color, Walsh added in bright white accessories for contrast, including a bookshelf in an open niche alongside the fireplace. “It’s a transitional piece,” says Walsh. “If the Allisons want to add built in bookcases at some point, they can move this to one of the boy’s rooms for extra storage. These kind of multi-purpose items are important as you think of spending your money wisely and having the ability to modify your home over time.”
The makeover progressed to the adjacent kitchen and breakfast room, where wood grained cabinets were lightened with coats of bright white paint and walls were updated to a soft gray. Knowing that both family and guests always gravitate to a kitchen, Walsh wondered how the narrow cooking space could accommodate a crowd. Her answer was to add seating in the breakfast nook, which currently sported a table and four chairs. Removing wainscoting allowed adding a built-in banquette, which Walsh paired with the Allisons’ table. “This space needed to work well for entertaining, but it gets heavy daily use as well,” says Walsh. “So we made it all super easy to clean, with vinyl on the banquette, solid wood chairs and a heavy-duty, wipeable paint finish on the table.”
With budget in mind, Walsh transitioned the existing set of chairs to the dining room, where she mixed them with a table the family already owned, and updated the room with a fresh coat of gray paint to match the kitchen, soft silk draperies and a shimmering Capiz shell chandelier. “This is the first room you see when you enter the home,” says Walsh, “and it needed a statement-making focal point.”
The previous chandelier moved into the master bedroom, the last room on the Allisons’ update list and a space that Amanda hoped would be a tranquil respite in the busy household. The gridwork of the coffered ceiling and the subtle gray colors used in other rooms became the design impetus for a more-modern makeover, with graphic patterned wallpaper, a geometric padded headboard and sleek sidetables with circular fretwork. Layers of white create a serene retreat, yet washable bedding and patterned throws make the room toddler-friendly for naptime.
“You can remove or modify items to make this house more kid-friendly just as easily as you can add elements to get it party ready,” says Walsh, “and that’s important when spaces in your home do double duty—you can really use all the rooms in your house.”
Interior design Susan Walsh, Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
Art-breakfast room Boswell Mourot Fine Art, Little Rock, (501) 664-0030, boswellmourot.com
Art-living room Tipton Hurst, Conway, (501) 329-6663; Little Rock, (501) 666-3333; North Little Rock, (501) 753-0709; tiptonhurst.com
Draperies, headboard Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale, (501) 455-2216
Furnishings Bear-Hill Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 907-9272, bearhillinteriors.com
Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide, sherwin-williams.com