Date: September 1, 2021 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Steph Smith |
Before & After: Underused areas become favorite spaces thanks to a cohesive, decorative update
The living room, dining room, and entry of this Little Rock couple’s home have a story common to houses built in the mid-1900s: The front rooms weren’t living up to their full modern-day potential. “These spaces were dated, and we had kind of piecemealed the furnishings but never really pulled it together,” one of the owners says.
To remedy this, they contacted friend and designer Jill Lawrence. Inspired by what she calls the couple’s “timeless and elegant” style, Jill began to reimagine the rooms with fresh updates. “We didn’t have to rip everything out and start over. This project had lots of little tweaks that make it pop,” she says. For example, existing built-ins in the living room were updated by removing a heavy trim, covering the backs in a navy grasscloth, and adding brass library lights.
A framed sailboat painting was the inspiration for the palette. The couple, who are originally from the Northeast, had purchased the piece shortly after moving to Arkansas. “We found it at an antique show, and it immediately took us back to New England,” the owner says. With the hues set, Jill created visual interest through furnishings and, most notably, a bold wallpaper that greets the family and their guests just beyond the front door. “This is the middle ground between the two anchoring rooms. We went a little bit wild here, but it ties everything together,” Jill says.
Across the entry in the dining room, the couple were able to use their existing buffet but opted to replace the table with a round version paired with comfortable upholstered chairs. Framed antique botanicals and a new work by local artist Tanya Sweetin complete the space.
“We really trusted Jill and gave her free rein,” the owner says. “And the redesign totally exceeded our expectations.” The rooms are now a destination for morning coffee, evening cocktails, and meal time. “It’s so cohesive, warm, and inviting; I can’t imagine it being any other way now,” the homeowner says.
Keeping the couple’s three children in mind, Jill opted for wool sisal rugs to take the formality down a notch and make the rooms practical for everyday use.
In the living room, club chairs replaced stiff, formal options while a new velvet sofa in a blue hue coordinates with the beloved sailboat painting that hangs at its back. A metal and glass coffee table breaks up the wood in the space and brings in a hint of contemporary style. Built-in shelves, which previously held books, are now a display space for the owners’ blue and white collectibles. “I like to shop the house first to see what collections and pieces the owners have. It makes the design more personal, and most people are so excited to use pieces they have in a new way,” Jill says.
“We didn’t have to rip everything out and start over. This project had lots of little tweaks that made it pop.” — Jill Lawrence, designer
The living room’s built-in bookcases were updated with new trim, a navy grasscloth backing, and art lights to illuminate the blue and white collection they house.
A tan grasscloth wallcovering was used in both the dining room and living room to bring a sense of unity to the spaces on either side of the home’s entry.
In the entry, “Cornelia” wallpaper by Thibaut creates a central wow factor that is balanced by more neutral selections in the living room and dining room.
Pattern & Polish
Pleated curtains in Thibaut’s “Allaire” are trimmed with a Samuel & Sons tape, adhering to the couple’s traditional and timeless style. These were repeated in the living and dining rooms for continuity.
Interior design Jill Lawrence, J. Lawrence Design Accessories Cobblestone & Vine, Fabulous Finds, Ransom Interiors, and Tipton & Hurst Art Cobblestone & Vine and Ransom Interiors Fabrics Designer Effects and J. Lawrence Design Furniture, lighting, and rugs J. Lawrence Design Millwork Chad Koon Upholstery Brockinton Upholstery Wallpaper Designer Effects Wallpaper (installation) Debco Painting Window coverings Designer Supply and Nancy Osborn