Date: September 30, 2022 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
Designer Jill Lawrence builds an abode where the amenities and style of a luxury hotel meet the personalization of a cherished home
Little Rock designer Jill Lawrence had been drawing a “someday” house for years. Thinking she and her husband, Frank, would pull the trigger on a move when their daughter left for college in 2022, she was steadily dreaming and taking her time to finish the plans. Then came the market rush of 2020 and the process began to move more quickly.
Finding a lot in a wooded west Little Rock neighborhood, the Lawrences began to perfect their loose plans for what they refer to as an “empty nest” house. “This house is everything we want our next phase of life to be,” Jill says. “It’s hospitable, and we now have the ability to host at a moment’s notice. It’s also very accessible and user-friendly,” she says, noting all the main living spaces are on one level. “Our former house was very traditional, and we loved its footprint, so we went with that same layout downstairs but without the walls,” she explains. Walking into the home, guests enter through a small vestibule tented in fabric that opens to one large space divided into four quadrants—a kitchen, a dining room, a formal living room, and a den—that allow for overall togetherness as well as more intimate areas within the design.
Jill also used the project as somewhat of an interior design laboratory. “I wanted to try as many new techniques as possible; if it failed it was in my own house, not a client’s. There was a lot of learning for me professionally,” she says. For example, new experiences were found in the installation of cork flooring in the majority of the home, an indoor fire pit (yes, really!), and a custom, stenciled walkway at the couple’s front door.
As for the aesthetic, Jill treated herself as her own client. “When we dream with clients we always ask, What places do you feel best? For Frank and me, that’s a really great hotel—a place that feels cozy but luxurious. It instantly relaxes us,” she says, adding that these spaces are generally darker and a bit moodier.
To this point, one of the first decisions was the marble on the kitchen island, which became the inspiration for the entire home’s palette. “Nothing in this house is white,” Jill says. “I love white, but I wanted to see if I could design without it.”
Aside from the palette, overscaled windows played an important role in bringing light into the main living spaces as well as the couple’s bedroom. “Light was extremely important; none of this would’ve worked without proper lighting,” the designer says, adding the importance of fixtures and lamps throughout to create dimension. “People don’t know why it feels good but it does,” she says. In the same manner, soft fabrics and inviting furnishings found throughout the home seem to invite guests to linger, while a mix of vintage and acquired accessories strike interest as well as conversation.
Playing off the idea of chairs gathered around a coffee table, Jill opted for a round table in the dining room. “I wanted the world’s most comfortable dining chairs,” the designer says. “These feel like tiny club chairs on casters, so no one ever wants to leave the table.” A full-service beverage station, including a coffee bar, filtered water station, and two refrigerated drawers, is concealed in cabinetry along the wall.
Raising the Bar
With a hotel lobby bar as her inspiration, Jill created a kitchen that feels glamorous yet remains hardworking. “I did everything short of covering the cooktop to make it feel like it is not a kitchen,” she says. The island features a waterfall countertop and large-scale lamps. Sleek stained cabinetry conceals all the inner workings of the space, from the refrigerator to a full-size door (at the far right) that leads to a walk-in pantry. The dogwood mural, which was painted by AF Decorative and extends into the dining area, is a nod to Frank’s love of the flowering tree as well as the home’s subtle Asian influence.
Best of Both Worlds
In the open floor plan, the more formal living room (above) and den sit opposite one another. Four comfortable swivel chairs are gathered around a brass coffee table, a design Jill says encourages conversation and turns the focus to the people in the room. In what the family lovingly refers to as the “TV pit,” a 13-foot sectional invites relaxation across from a television that hangs on the firepit hood. “Again, we wanted the firepit to add to the hotel lobby feel,” Jill says. “The challenge was in creating one that would pass code.” The result is a version that operates on biofuel, making it safe for indoor use as well as eco-friendly.
Near the stairwell, a jib door opens to reveal a powder bath outfitted in Schumacher’s equestrian-inspired “Faubourg” wallpaper. “It’s fun to watch guests discover things like this in the house; it kind ofmakes them feel like a kid,” Jill says.
Prior to the build, the Lawrences traveled with friends to Sonoma County, California. Inspired by the vacation home where they stayed, Jill envisioned a contemporary floating staircase in the center of their house. Custom built by Khanh Nguyen of Iron World, the stairs artfully ascend to the second floor library. The open design allowed for a small desk space to be tucked underneath.
Upstairs, a library and lounge area (above) stores the couple’s collection of books and wine. “We jokingly call it the wine-brary,” Jill says. A whimsical, woodland-inspired wallpaper brings personality to the hallway, which leads to the children’s rooms, guest suite, and craft area (below). Originally designated as a walk-in mechanical room, Jill began gathering leftover materials from around the house (including the cork flooring, pegboard, and wallpaper seen in the shelves) to create the craft space. Hannah Wilson of Simply Abode helped organize the room to function at peak.
Positioned on the front of the home, the primary suite has an enclosed courtyard that allows light to stream into the rooms while also providing privacy. Both the bedroom and bath are a study in the contrast of light and dark. For example, the cozy bedroom features a dark grasscloth on the walls that contrasts with the lighter seating area and bedding. Similarly, the bath mixes streamlined dark cabinetry with cream limestone floors, marble countertops, and a Tadelakt waterproof plaster technique in the shower.
“There’s not a ton of square footage devoted to the bath but it’s such a tranquil, transporting spot.”
Architect (interior) Ellen Yeary, Yeary Lindsey Architects Architect (exterior) J.D. Mullins Builder Chris Maris, Chris Maris Custom Homes Interior design Jill Lawrence, J. Lawrence Design Landscape design Jill Lawrence, J. Lawrence Design and Stewart Clark Accessories Cobblestone & Vine, Fabulous Finds, One of a Kind Find Antiques, Providence Design, Roy Dudley Estate Sales, South Main Creative, and Tipton & Hurst Appliances Metro Appliances & More Bedding Dillard’s and J. Lawrence Design Cabinetry (kitchen and dining) and Flooring (limestone) Kitchen & Bath Ideas Cabinetry (bathroom and pantry) Duke Custom Cabinets Countertops Countertop World Fabrics, furniture, lighting, and wallpaper J. Lawrence Design Fixtures Falk Plumbing and J. Lawrence Design Flooring (installation) Roger Cypert Framing Cantrell Gallery Hardware J. Lawrence Design and Lumber One Home Center Mirrors Staley Glass and West Little Rock Glass Organization Simply Abode Paint Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams Painting (decorative) AF Decorative Rugs J. Lawrence Design and Roy Dudley Estate Sales Staircase (design and installation) Iron World Staircase (treads) Kaufman Lumber Upholstery Howard’s Upholstery Wallpaper (installation) Debco Painting and Wallpaper Windows Pella Window coverings Nancy Osbourne