A restructured roofline and plenty of repurposed finds transform a cramped attic into a comfortable and charming family area
Built in 1932, the home that Anna Dickinson shares with her husband and two small children is loaded with charm—much of which can be attributed to the signature style of her Little Rock shop, White Goat. However, there was one portion of the house lacking in functionality. Located in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, the house was constructed in a time when most homes lacked central heating and air, thus the top floor had been originally used as a sleeping porch. Years later when the porch was enclosed, short ceilings made the room claustrophobic, and window units were insufficient for Arkansas’ extreme temperatures. Therefore, the upstairs portion of the home fell into disuse and became a graveyard for the family’s castoff furniture.
Enter Chris Milligan of Dwellings, Inc. Looking at the big picture, he knew the first step in creating a livable space was to build a taller exterior shell, which raised the roofline while preserving a streamlined look with the original roof. Now the twelve-foot ceilings of the upstairs sitting area create a loft-like feel, while eight-foot ceilings in the overlooking reading nook accommodate the vaulted ceilings of a first-story room. Next, central heating and air were added to the space, while a cushioned window seat cleverly disguises the additional ductwork.
Always mindful of the end result, Dickinson knew that if the space was not stylish, the room would remain unused. She enlisted White Goat designer Adam Smith to help her infuse the room with the shop’s signature mix of French country minimalism. The wood walls, railing, and ceilings were covered with a coat of fresh white paint to complement the sofa and to create contrast with the room’s other more vividly hued furnishings. Even with two small children, Dickinson is not afraid to use a light color palette. “Slipcovers can be washed,” she says. To offset the light hues, the ceilings were lined with reclaimed wooden beams from a one-hundred-year-old barn in Kentucky. An exposed brick wall adds balance and texture, as well as a bit of history. What’s more, some of its whitewashed bricks were recovered from the home’s original pier chimney.
In fact, everywhere you look the Dickinson family’s restructured upstairs embodies White Goat’s principle of giving new life to found objects. The team repurposed materials from around the world within a traditional cottage layout. For instance, when Dickinson fell in love with an antique stair railing that did not meet safety codes, Milligan used lumber from the attic’s original rafters to construct an equally charming—and up to code—version. Additionally, the wood floors were reclaimed from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, and the sliding doors were found in a French salvage yard. It’s not just the architectural details either; a century-old Belgian leather chair is one of Dickinson’s favorite elements.
While the design trio collaborated to create a functional space that’s reflective of the family’s style, Dickinson gives Milligan praise for his ability to reimagine the bones of the home. “I had ideas; Chris had visions. He took an awkward Heights home and helped it make sense,” she says.
Designer and general contractor Chris Milligan, Dwellings, Inc., Little Rock, (501) 831-0729, dwellings-ar.com
Interior design Adam Smith, White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460
Accessories and furnishings Pottery Barn, Little Rock, (501) 663-0181, Rogers, (479) 246-0118, potterybarn.com; White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460
Art, lighting, mirrors, and rugs White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460
Fabrics White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460; Window Works, Little Rock, (501) 219-1500, windowworksdesign.com
Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide, sherwin-williams.com; White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460
Painting—decorative: Daniel Bright, White Goat, Little Rock, (501) 603-9460
Upholstery Window Works, Little Rock, (501) 219-1500, windowworksdesign.com