Date: October 2, 2023 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Stephanie Maxwell Newton |
Chris H. Olsen turns a Cabot property into a picturesque escape just minutes from the Little Rock metro
“I call it my lake house without the lake,” Chris H. Olsen says of his farm retreat on the outskirts of Lonoke County. Wanting a place where he could get away from his day-to-day duties in the Little Rock metro but still be available in less than an hour’s drive, he purchased this property in 2020. “The goal was to be in the country but close to Edgemont,” Chris says, referencing his primary residence that doubles as an event venue in North Little Rock.
As luck would have it, friend Byron McKimmey of McKimmey Associates, Realtors had recently purchased approximately 300 rural acres and was happy to parcel a rather generous lot to Chris. “The thing that sold me was it had everything: woods, hay fields, a beautiful pond, a barn, and a house that was very redeemable. It had good bones,” Chris says.
After purchasing the property, he set out to make it his own—the circa 1950s house in particular. As the owner of Botanica Gardens and Plantopia, many people know Chris’s work as a landscape designer. However, he also has a passion for interiors, which he put on full display in the residence. “My goal was not to make it a Pottery Barn farmhouse. It’s very much a mix,” he says. To this point, eye-catching architectural features—from the wooden tongue-and-groove ceilings to a herringbone wall treatment in the bath—carry throughout the home. Favorite market finds, vintage artwork, and storied collectibles are layered on top, giving the feel that the home has evolved over time—and will continue to do so. “We call it The Big O Farm, and I want it to be a legacy that I leave for my family,” Chris says.
Room at the Table
A blend of textures creates a warm, cohesive environment in the dining room. The newly vaulted ceiling is outfitted with tongue-and-groove boards that add character and pair with the 12-inch pine plank flooring. The table, which has a reclaimed boiler as its base, seats 10 comfortably. A contemporary chandelier and sconces give a polished balance to the design.
Chris designed the screened porch with three sets of French doors that connect to the living room, allowing it to function as an extension of the home and gathering place during parties. “I love to have my doors open and not worry about the bugs,” he says of the concept. Searching for “just the right blue,” Chris painted the ceiling three times before landing on a custom hue that plays well with the stone floor and industrial furnishings.
Inspired by a kitchen seen in the movie The Shack, Chris opted for green beadboard cabinetry. Friend and designer Scott Paterek of Massimo Interiors worked with him to maximize the layout, prioritizing a large island for both work and gathering. “We actually redrew the plans after finding the antique display cabinet,” Scott says, pointing to a piece that houses numerous collectibles. “When we saw it, I knew it was a great piece that would give a look that was unexpected and not so built-in,” he adds. A simple, stained-glass window over the range brings charm and plays well with the room’s gold accents, which include a farmhouse sink.
“I love bookshelves,” Chris says, “so I did them floor-to-ceiling here.” A mix of original ceramics and pieces found at market fills the nooks.
Reallocating square footage from what was previously a guest bedroom allowed Chris to expand the primary bedroom and closet. Windows that were removed in other areas of the home were reused here, offering a view of the barn from the bedroom. A framed cartoon he found at an estate sale in Little Rock’s historic Quapaw Quarter hangs over the bed. “It’s a little guy sitting on a fence—just like the one on the property here—looking out at the landscape; It’s me!” he says of the now personal piece.
A laundry and mudroom that previously adjoined the primary bedroom was relocated to extend the bath into the space where the vanities are seen. Wallpaper with a cornstalk motif reflects the rural setting while pre-stained lumber laid in a herringbone pattern gives the walls character without feeling too “basic farmhouse,” Chris says. The hammered copper tub and Carrera marble floors bring a timeless sense of refinement to the space. Wanting to bring dimension to the outline of the walls, Chris specified 12-inch baseboards that are two inches thick, a subtle yet defining feature seen throughout the home.
Interior and landscape design Chris H. Olsen, Botanica Gardens Kitchen design Scott Paterek, Massimo Interiors Appliances Metro Appliances & More Cabinets Renaissance Custom Cabinets Countertops Triton Stone Group Doors and windows Kaufman Lumber Furniture Arkansas Peddlers Antique Mall, Botanica Gardens, Jenifer’s Antiques, and Moxy Modern Mercantile Mirrors West Little Rock Glass Paint Sherwin-Williams