Date: July 31, 2023 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Stephanie Maxwell Newton |
A Fort Smith family enlists the help of designer Emily Heim to update their classic home with a modern spin
The original rock exterior of the 1940s home is complemented with a fresh coat of paint on the door and copper lantern. Jessica’s friend Sarah Garlow, who is a Sebastian County Master Gardener, created the container plantings at the base of the steps.
I have a little bit of a Zillow addiction,” admits homeowner Jessica Irgens. Over the past 10 years, she and her husband, Shane, and their two children have lived in five different houses in Fort Smith. However, when she found this 1948 charmer on a long-established street, she knew it could be a place for her family to really put down roots.
Although parts of the house had been remodeled along the way, much of the original structure and architectural features were still in place. “I’ve always favored older, historic homes,” Jessica says. “It needed updates, but I could see the vision.” She and Shane turned to friend and local designer Emily Heim to bring the dream to life. “When they bought this house, I was working on a new construction home that was totally different,” she recalls. “This is such a classic storybook home.” With solid bones, enchanting archways, and a timeless traditional feel, the house had a lot going for it, and Emily knew they could play to these features while also updating the flow and functionality of workhorse spaces such as the kitchen and primary bath. Wanting to preserve the structure’s character while incorporating the Irgenses’ personal style, Emily looked for ways to highlight the home’s beautiful stonework as a focal point. She also used as many of their existing furnishings as possible, including the tables and chairs seen in the dining room and breakfast nook. The result is an updated space that reflects the family’s preferences and celebrates the abode’s history.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to use a designer, but there is no way I could’ve done it on my own,” Jessica says. “I’m quirky, and I doubted that someone could nail my style; but Emily did, and she was such an advocate for us along the way. She quickly had a vision for the house and could make decisions to make it happen.”
The music room is Jessica’s favorite spot for morning coffee as well as a place to practice piano on the white baby grand. “We were going for a midcentury-modern vibe, and I knew we could do that while still keeping the walls clean,” Emily says, pointing to the mustard-hued sofa as evidence of this influence. Whimsical pieces like the large-scale tapestry, an Anthropologie find, and portrait of Lil Wayne feel at home next to traditional architectural features such as the leaded glass windows and dentil molding.
Bring in the Drama
A moodier feel comes into play in the dining room where rock floors, a feature original to the house, were left intact and accented with a teal grasscloth wallpaper. A large-scale Arteriors chandelier commands attention overhead while a hanging tapestry echoes the piece seen in the adjoining music room.
Outfitted for a Chef
“Jessica loves to cook and entertain, so we knew the kitchen would have to be a showstopper,” Emily says. The entire room was updated with a streamlined neutral palette, new appliances, and an island that is large enough for both meals and craft projects. “Everything is clean and bright but not totally white,” the designer notes. The sink was relocated from a corner to a far wall where a pair of newly installed windows overlook a backyard vegetable garden. Open shelving brings in a warm honey wood tone while giving Jessica a place to store cookbooks and display art.
Classic & Cozy
A spacious den (above) complete with an oversized sectional and funky swivel chairs is the family’s favorite hangout spot for TV time and togetherness. A saturated, gray-green hue envelops the room and complements the existing stone fireplace, and built-in shelving creates display space for collected treasures. Between this space and the kitchen, a breakfast nook (below) offers additional seating when the Irgenses host a crowd. Walls are painted “Homburg Gray” by Sherwin-Williams.
“This is such a classic storybook home.”
—Emily Heim, designer
Mindful of budget, Emily and Jessica opted to cover only the ceiling of the Irgenses’ daughter’s room with a garden-inspired wallpaper. “It’s a print that can grow with her,” Emily says of the two-tone selection. A Juju hat, a symbol of prosperity and good fortune, hangs over a white iron bed that is outfitted with colorful, botanical-print bedding. Walls are painted “Demure” by Sherwin-Williams.
Previously, the primary bath was outfitted with a tan palette featuring a travertine-look tile and dated brass fixtures. Emily kept the original layout but took the space in a fresh direction with a dramatic mix of white and a deep bluish charcoal. Features like the wall-mounted tub faucet, vertical application of the shower and tub surround tile, and patterned marble underfoot add to the current look. The artwork near the vanity is by Emily’s sister, Tulsa artist Candice Barry.
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