Date: November 2, 2020 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
Guided by her connection to nature and interior designer Ashley Cardiel, Michele Anthony builds her dream home in Northwest Arkansas
El Dorado native Michele Anthony had been living in downtown Fayetteville for several years when she got the itch to move to the country. The idea started small, with Michele taking drives from time to time to look at property right outside of town. “I kept coming back to this land. There was something about it that spoke to me,” she recalls. “I could envision a house up on the hill and everything.”
As soon as she purchased the property, Michele started to dream up the details of her ideal home. “Part of my inspiration was to bring in some of the features of my dad’s cabin in El Dorado, like the open concept, stone fireplace, and exposed beams,” she says. “But I also wanted it to have modern features so it didn’t look completely rustic.” Michele assembled a team of professionals, including Legend Builders and Parkco Architects, to help bring this concept to life. For interior design, she has her sister, Andrea Brooks, to thank for the introduction to Ashley Cardiel Interiors; Andrea was already working with the designer to remodel a house of her own in Fayetteville, and she suggested the two get together. “It worked out great, too, because Ashley got me very quickly. There were very few things she would show me that I didn’t like,” Michele says.
That client-designer connection was one that Ashley felt from the start, too, particularly given the home’s rural setting. “I grew up in the country, maybe five miles from where this house now stands,” Ashley says. “Michele was drawn to the land and to connecting with the animals and nature all around. I was like, I know this, I can tap into this.” One of the ways she connected the home to its surroundings was in using natural materials, like stone and wood, wherever possible. “We always take the time to establish the conceptual big picture early on, and it makes all the little decisions along the way easier to make because they’re pointing toward that end goal,” Ashley says.
Michele (right) with her girlfriend, Kim Phillips, and their dogs, Shasta and Mae Mae.
The starting point for the design was in the great room, which encompasses a living room, dining room, and kitchen all centered around a striking stone fireplace. “The great room speaks to modern living,” Ashley says, noting the open concept helped steer the home from less of a cabin feel to a more contemporary space. The openness is also conducive to entertaining, which Michele says is an essential function of her home. Identical light fixtures over the kitchen island and dining table play off the strong sense of symmetry around the fireplace. “The scale of the great room is so amazing, so one of the challenges we had was to create smaller, more intimate spaces within a room that doesn’t have walls,” Ashley says. To accomplish this, she furnished the seating areas with pieces that allow for flexible conversation zones, like swivel chairs around the fireplace and an easy-to-move daybed. An abstract painting by Little Rock artist Joshua Plumlee ties in the soft blue found throughout the design.
“Part of my inspiration was to bring in some of the features of my dad’s cabin in El Dorado, like the open concept, stone fireplace, and exposed beams.” —Michele Anthony, homeowner
Nods to Mother Nature are found in almost every detail, such as this tree-shaped table base.
In the dining room, the modern nature of the custom wood and iron table is balanced by softer, more traditional slipcovered chairs.
The kitchen started with a trip to the stone yard, where Ashley and Michele selected the perfect slabs of quartzite for the countertops. “It’s a durable yet natural stone with some really pretty greens and blues, as well as a rust-colored brown that warms it up,” Ashley says. She paired this with a feminine pastel shade on the cabinetry to soften the space. Open shelving provides Michele and Kim a place to display collected pieces as well as everyday dishes, and the barstools feature an iron joinery detail that mimics the construction of the beams overhead in the great room.
One challenge Ashley encountered during this project was the great room’s abundance of wood. “When you get a lot of wood in a space, it can feel heavy, but with all the natural light coming in, we still wanted the home to feel light and bright and airy,” she says. To this end, different finishes were carefully chosen to create contrast between the surfaces. While the hardwood floors are stained and the ceiling was given a whitewash treatment, cerusing adds interest to the kitchen island.
All About Balance
In the home office, Ashley tempered the more masculine tone of the built-ins with a sparkling crystal chandelier. Among the shelves, Michele’s tiny childhood cowboy boots are perched alongside mementos from traveling and a treasured family photograph. While this room gets plenty of use as a study and working office, a pull-out sofa allows it to easily transition into an additional guest space, too.
The element of water inspired almost every detail of the master suite, from the veining in the granite countertops and tumbled pebbles underfoot in the bathroom to the pattern in the bedroom curtains. “I love that I can escape down here and see the pool and hear the waterfall,” Michele says of the view from her bedroom window. “Everything is very soothing and serene in here. I wanted it to be a place where I could come on a busy day and rejuvenate.”
The painting over the bed is by El Dorado artist Sandy Bennett.
A stone firepit is situated in front of the house to take in the stunning view that led Michele to purchase the property. The semi-circular bench allows guests to pull up chairs when Michele and Kim entertain a crowd. For the exterior of the house, Ashley “embraced the beautiful greens of the woods around it” and echoed the use of wood, stone, and iron seen inside the home.
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