At Home in Arkansas: You renovated this space twelve years ago for a different client. What types of changes did your new client have in mind for the redesign?
Designer Meridith Hamilton: The space was nice, but it was beginning to look a little dated and heavy. The kitchen had a natural wood finish and colorful backsplash, with a design that focused on the vertical lines. It was modern, but not sleek. I wanted to change that by focusing on the horizontal lines and really exaggerating the tall ceilings, lofty feel and big windows, and taking advantage of the light coming in. It was time for something different, something new and sleek, something less visually heavy.
Was the clean, new look a welcome change for your career-minded client?
His personal style went from traditional to modern. That was a huge transition for him. He is very work-oriented and his office is in the same building as his home. He wanted to clean everything up, get rid of any clutter and get rid of anything that makes his personal life more hectic, because he does work very hard.
If your client was originally a traditional guy, how were you able to overhaul the kitchen and still achieve a look he would feel comfortable with?
He wanted the apartment to have a chic New York feel, but not be too harsh and contemporary. For the cabinets, I found this gray pearwood finish with recessed handles. He was used to the traditional cabinets with vertical doors so he was a little leery about the gray cabinetry and horizontal design. He told me he trusted me, but he was afraid it would seem cold. Gray can be cold and industrial, but this had the browns in the wood showing through, and combined with the brick wall that runs the length of the apartment, the kitchen still felt warm and welcoming. When they were installing the cabinets, he said, “You’re right. It looks amazing.” That’s a scary thing —to just step out there and do something totally different that you can’t change as easily as you can change your shirt. It was different, but that was what he was looking for—something that nobody else has in Little Rock.
The open feel is great for parties and guests. Was this kitchen designed with entertaining in mind?
My client enjoys entertaining small groups, so I didn’t need to accommodate a large dinner party, but rather more intimate gatherings. Since he’s in a loft with no dining room, the kitchen island functions as his main seating area. I wanted it to be conversation friendly, so the barstools wrap around the front side of the bar to keep them out of the workspace but still create an angled area where you can hold a conversation without having to lean across other people.
The Cambria countertop on the kitchen island is very unique. What inspired it?
My client is very tall and he was adamant that we needed to raise the island. To keep costs down, I kept the cabinets the same height, rather than splurging on custom cabinetry, and used a thicker, chunkier countertop to add height. I had my fabricators make it very linear across the top, and then use hidden supports that carry all the way down to the floor to create a really streamlined, unique look.
How did you carry that open, modern look into the bathroom?
The shower was open before the renovation, but it was black granite, which was really heavy and weighed down the whole room. Taking that black granite off and putting on something lighter opened up the space. We changed the glass from a framed shower to frameless, which visually opens it up as well. The tile is my favorite aspect of the bathroom. It hones in on that horizontal line and establishes the bathroom with more neutral colors and less warm grays. Floating the bathroom vanity also helped carry the horizontal lines of the kitchen into the bathroom.
What are some challenges you run into when renovating a building built in 1896?
The biggest challenge is that nothing is straight. There are different measurements from one wall to the next. The tall cabinet in the kitchen had to have custom stainless-steel legs made because there was so much difference from one side to the other. But old buildings have huge amounts of character, like the brick wall and high ceilings. It just feels so airy. When I renovated this building twelve years ago, they had cinder blocked the windows. We took them out and replaced the windows to their original size and got this gorgeous natural light that filters in to the room.
Do you have a favorite feature?
There are so many different aspects in both rooms that I like, but it’s the big picture that I really love. I enjoy the island and chunky countertop, and I love the horizontal wall cabinets, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Interior design Meridith Hamilton, MLH Designs, Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com
Contractor Distinctive Kitchens & Baths, Little Rock, (501) 666-7756, kitchensofarkansas.com
Appliances Metro Appliances & More, Jonesboro (870) 933-7800; North Little Rock, (501) 758-1988; Springdale, (479) 750-2200; metroappliancesandmore.com
Art I.O. Metro, locations statewide, iometro.com
Barstools Soho Modern, Little Rock, (501) 372-4884
Cabinetry Distinctive Kitchens & Baths, Little Rock, (501) 666-7756, kitchensofarkansas.com
Countertops AHI Stoneworks, Hot Springs, (501) 262-1622, ahistoneworks.com
Fixtures Distinctive Kitchens & Baths, Little Rock, (501) 666-7756, kitchensofarkansas.com
Ottoman Mertins Dyke Home, Little Rock, (501) 280-3200, mertinsdykehome.com
Tile-backsplash Elder Distributing, North Little Rock, (501) 758-4170, elderdistributing.com
Tile-bath Emser Tile & Natural Stone, North Little Rock, (501) 771-9111, emser.com
Lighting MLH Designs, Little Rock, (501) 766-0594, mlh-designs.com
Paint Benjamin Moore, locations statewide, benjaminmoore.com