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The Mix Master
At Home in Arkansas:
What plans did you have for the home you and your husband, Don, built in Little Rock’s Valley Falls Estates?
Mona Thompson of Providence Ltd. Interior Design:
I wanted it to feel European but not dressy; just open, warm and comfortable.
AHIA: As a designer, did you have a difficult time settling on a look for yourself?
MT: The look I had no problem with, but I completely agree that it’s easier to make decisions for a client. I am fortunate to have a mentor in designer Tom Chandler, who helped when we were deciding how the house would be situated on the lot. My sister and business partner, Talena Ray, is also a source of inspiration. If we’re not designing for a client, we’re working for ourselves. We love finding things to incorporate into the home.
AHIA: In terms of this project, where did you begin?
MT: I actually drew up the initial plans, and our builder, Bill Parkinson, worked with a draftsman to see them through. Thinking about the design, the kitchen is where I started. I knew I wanted a screen door that would lead to an herb garden and let in the breeze. I also wanted open shelving and a big kitchen window.
AHIA: Textured walls and stone play prominently throughout.
MT: The walls are a sheet rock texture that’s been painted and glazed, so it varies from room to room, from wall to wall. The rock is a Texas limestone. Once we fell in love with it, we had a hard time saying no. I like its softness, color, texture, cut—it plays so well with everything, whether the colors are neutral or rich. I wanted the rock accents, and once we found a complementary paint color, everything just kind of fell into place.
AHIA: Arches seem to be a recurring theme as well.
MT: Especially with the solid mahogany doors. They’re 10 feet tall and three inches thick, and we had them special ordered from Honduras. They were one of the first things we purchased for our home.
AHIA: Moving from the larger main living spaces to the master bedroom, how did you manage to give it such an intimate, cozy feel?
MT: The last thing we wanted was extra space, so we decided to have a smaller bedroom. It’s not really large, but it’s big enough. At one point, the whole wall was going to be windows, but when we ended up with two small windows I decided to do draperies all the way across. The headboard was custom-made with an antique rug I found on a buying trip. The rug was beautiful but it had holes, so I used it to upholster the headboard and the pillows.
AHIA: Any last tips on how you achieved your home’s elegant yet comfortable design?
MT: Focus on the color and texture. I prefer warm, muddy colors to brighter colors, and I mixed materials like plaster, wood and stone. I love to place something really dressy next to something that’s not. It’s a definite mix of things, but it’s a planned mix.
Professional Advice from Mona Thompson
Your home should appear as if it has evolved over time, achieved by mixing rustic with elegant, antique with new, and even combining contemporary art with antiques. Texture is also extremely important—don’t be afraid to intermingle iron, wood and stone, and add depth with textural textiles like velvet and linen.
Ten tips from Mona Thompson
1. There needs to be at least one really special element in every room. It can be a wonderful architectural feature, a really special piece of furniture or just a unique use of the space. Something that says "wow" or lures you to linger.
2. Scale is everything. Don't be afraid to use large pieces in small rooms and over-sized light fixtures. People tend to buy things too small, particularly when it comes to lighting.
3. Stay away from trends. We prefer relaxed, timeless design. The unexpected is a very good thing.
4. Draperies need to be slightly too long.
5. Mix contemporary art with antiques. It just doesn't get any better than that.
6. We prefer casual but elegant and warm interiors, best achieved with the use of either neutrals or muted, muddy or chalky colors.
7. Texture is extremely important. Don't be afraid to mix iron, wood and stone with patinas from aged relics or found objects. Varied textures in textiles add depth and warmth to the look. Velvet and linen are two of our favorites.
8. Your home needs to appear as if it has evolved over time. Rustic mixed with elegant, items that are centuries old (or appear to be) mixed with those that are newly crafted.
9. Gather inspiration from others and enlist the help of a competent designer whom you connect with personally and can trust.
10. Remember this quote from Domenico Dolce: "A house should be continually cared for, adjusted and improved. It's like a growing child--you cannot build a home and then abandon it."
Interior design Providence Ltd., Little Rock
Builder Parkinson Building Group, Little Rock
Landscape design Landscape Architecture, Inc., Little Rock
Landscape installation The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock
Appliances Aimco Equipment Company, Little Rock
Bulletin board, custom bench, upholstery Howard’s Upholstery Shop, Little Rock
Fabric Cynthia East Fabrics, Interior Tailor, Larry’s Inc., Little Rock
Faux finishing Angelfish Studios, Little Rock
Flooring Aloha Hardwood Flooring Co., Bryant
Furnishings Cobblestone & Vine, Fabulous Finds Antiques, Marshall Clements, The Accessory, Little Rock
Garage doors, fireplaces, central vacuum Royal Overhead Door Inc., locations statewide
Lamps The Shade Above, Searcy
Lighting Light Innovations, Little Rock
Slipcovers Slipcovers and More, Benton
Stone-bathrooms Acme Brick & Tile, North Little Rock
Tile Acme Brick & Tile, Elder Distributing, North Little Rock
Window treatments, bedding Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale
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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.