Family Friendly in the Country
At Home in Arkansas:
You’ve described yourself as a country girl at heart, growing up on a farm in southeast Arkansas before you became an interior designer for TLC’s television series, “Trading Spaces,” and started your own practice in New York, as well as an online magazine, lauradayliving.com. Now, you’ve come full circle by transforming a historic farmhouse in Bridgehampton, Long Island, into your own family-friendly retreat. What drew you to this particular house?
Designer Laura Day:
My family [husband, Frank, and two-year-old daughter, Olivia] has lived in five houses and apartments in five years. When we decided to look for a country get-away, I knew immediately that I wanted an older home, a place that would feel like it has roots. Houses mean different things to different people, but when we looked at this 1810 farmhouse, Frank and I both fell in love.
AHIA: It certainly is picturesque. Did you learn much about the home’s history?
LD: It was originally located a mile away on one of the oldest farms in the area. They decided it was cheaper to tear down rather than add on or renovate, but someone saved it and moved it down the road.
AHIA: It appears that you restored the exterior; did you make any significant changes?
LD: We lived in the house for a year before renovating in order to absorb its energy and understand what it was about. The facade remains exactly the same, but we replaced the roof and added new gutters. Since we didn’t touch the front, we added a few windows to the back of the house to open up the views. We also installed privet as a green screen of shrubbery, which is a very “Hamptons” thing that my mom finds funny because she can’t get rid of her own privet in Arkansas.
AHIA: And what about the interior? The spaces are very family-friendly but remain uncluttered.
LD: Family-friendly was huge—it was everything. Motherhood causes you to rearrange your whole life, one step at a time: you reevaluate, you reorganize, you move all of your trinkets. In the living room, the coffee table is Lucite and I used chairs and poufs with wipeable coverings like leather and pleather.
But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to have a room full of leather just because you have a child. My sofa is slipcovered, and I’m a big believer in that. I think we all conjure up the image of the slipcover that doesn’t fit perfectly and has a big bow on the arm, but now there are gorgeous slipcovered sofas in a wide range of colors and patterns. You don’t have to have a dark chocolate sofa just because you have kids.
AHIA: Surely you have guests all summer long. How did that affect your design strategy?
LD: Yes, we added a bathroom per bedroom to accommodate our guests. I also designed the rooms around mobile, expandable conversation areas. There were no overhead light fixtures and I didn’t want to drop the ceilings—especially since they are board and batten—so I used a lot of lamps to make it feel cozy.
Being out in the country and at the beach, I didn’t want a fussy interior. I want guests and my family to come in with sandy feet and knock their flip-flops off and not worry about it. To me, that’s the definition of a beach house; the focus is on the outside and you don’t spend all of your time cleaning.
AHIA: The subtle colors you chose definitely give it a beachy vibe.
LD: We like breezy, easy. I kept the background neutral and added pops of color to wake it up, like cushions or a bright piece of furniture here and there, and even books. Almost all of the furniture is vintage, and I didn’t reupholster it. I also incorporated subtle patterns in fabrics and rugs, and I showcased my favorite pieces of art.
AHIA: The art becomes the focal point of many of the spaces. What drew you to those particular pieces?
LD: I love art. Though I’m not well studied, I know what I like and, if I can afford it, I buy it. Take the spin-art inspired screen print by Damien Hirst in the playroom, for example. It’s so fun to me. It’s like a giant kid’s piece of art, but done really well. It brings in all the colors and spin-art was one of my favorite things to do as a child. But art doesn’t have to match the design; sometimes it does and it’s great, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, sometimes it’s that moment where it doesn’t match that catches you and wakes you up.
Interior design Laura Day, lauradayliving.com
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At Home in Arkansas offers your first look inside the state's most inspiring homes in a range of styles. The magazine features monthly advice from the experts to help you plan your next remodel or redesign, entertain at home or find Arkansas' best kept secrets. It is your definitive guide to the state's finest homes and gardens, design professionals, fashion and entertaining essentials, and premier shops and showrooms.