Date: October 2, 2023 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Stephanie Maxwell Newton |
In Little Rock, designer Katie Rees create a comfortable haven for her young family
When you know, you know. After learning they were expecting their youngest son, Caleb, designer Katie Rees and her husband, John Aaron, knew a move was in their future; they also knew when they had found the perfect home for their growing family. “Our other house sold really fast, and all of a sudden we needed a place to live, but there was nothing on the market,” Katie says. A friend mentioned a house in the framing stage that could be a great fit for the Reeses. “We walked through it, and I was like, This is our house,” Katie says.
With kids ranging in age from 14 to almost 2 years old, the layout seemed ideal for their family of six. Upstairs, two bedrooms and a shared playroom are a retreat for the older kids, while the ground floor houses the primary bedroom along with separate bedrooms for their two younger children. Working with builder Chris Maris, who had initially started the project, Katie took the reins on decisions for flooring, paint colors, tile, lighting, and other finishes, opting for neutral hues throughout the design. “I love doing bolder stuff and can do pretty much any style for clients, but for my own house I just wanted it to feel soothing and like a retreat. I think these colors accomplish that,” she says, pointing to the palette that includes rich creams, light tans, and brighter whites.
During the build, Katie and John Aaron’s son Caleb was born with Down syndrome and medical complications. Today, he happily receives therapy and care at home in his bedroom. “His room was slated as an office on the plan, but the size was perfect for him and the equipment he uses for therapy,” Katie says. “As a believer, it’s like God knew what we needed. I really do look at this house and think it’s exactly where we are supposed to be.”
For holidays and more formal dinners, the Reeses’ dining room can seat up to 10. A mix of white and wood continues in the space, where a custom table built by Turner Custom Millwork is paired with upholstered chairs from the couple’s previous residence. “I think it’s a fact that dinners last longer when you have a circular table,” Katie says with a laugh. The table’s finish is echoed in a stain treatment on the built-out oak ceiling.
When Katie took over the home’s plans, she redrew the cabinetry scheme to include a massive 14-foot island that can accommodate her entire family. “I can seat all my people and their friends here,” she says. “I can also have eyes on everyone in all the adjoining rooms.” Tracy Rivers of AF Decorative finished the island base with a paint treatment that mimics the finish on the floors, adding to the warmth and continuity found throughout the spaces. The cabinetry is painted “Swiss Coffee” by Benjamin Moore.
“I really do look at this house and think it’s exactly where we are supposed to be.”
—Katie Rees, designer
Although she had worked with numerous clients on open-concept floor plans, Katie had not lived in one herself. “I’ve loved it for our phase of life—and I’d definitely pick it again—but this style of home is trickier to decorate,” she says. To this point, she chose one neutral color (“Swiss Coffee” by Benjamin Moore) for the walls in all the connecting spaces, including the living room, kitchen, hearth room, and dining room. “When you walk in you see everything, so I wanted to make sure nothing was too busy and everything was cohesive, soft, and soothing,” she adds. A mix of shapes and textures, as well as pieces by local artist Lori DeYmaz flanking the fireplace, bring interest to the large living space.
“Brooklyn was actually one of the only kids who got a new room,” Katie says of her 12-year-old daughter’s space. Not having refreshed her space since the little girl days, Katie sought to create a bedroom Brooklyn could grow into and still be excited about when she is 16. Pink accents were a must-have but otherwise, mom was given free reign to come up with a dreamy space.
“We gave Caleb the biggest room, because he has the biggest need—and really uses all the space,” Katie says, noting he takes physical therapy on the floor and has storage space for medical equipment. Katie made the large room feel warm and welcoming by layering grasscloth and beadboard on the walls. While Caleb sleeps in his crib across the room, the daybed offers a place for snuggles and for big sister, Gracie, to occasionally sneak in and stay with her best friend. A grid of framed vintage bird prints, all pulled from a book that belonged to Katie’s grandmother, are a special, personalized touch.
Away from the Day
Katie and John Aaron had lived with a mix of bedroom furniture since they married in 2018. “I had not done a bedroom for us, and I was determined to do it in this house,” she says. “I wanted us to have a soothing room to go to at the end of the day.” Finding serenity in neutrals and rich textures, she deftly wove them together to create a room that is as cozy as it is refined. The artwork over the bed is by Little Rock artist Heike Talbert. Seated in one of their comfortable swivel chairs is Willow, the family’s cavapoo.
Having never remodeled one of her home’s baths, Katie admits “this is the first time I’ve actually liked a bath I owned.” Varied textures and shapes give visual interest, while pieces like the standalone tub are as practical (especially for the younger kids’ bath times!) as they are pretty.
Builder Chris Maris, Chris Maris Custom Homes & Remodeling Interior design Katie Rees, Katie Grace Designs Accessories, Bedding, fabrics, furniture, lighting, rugs, and wallpaper Katie Grace Designs Appliances Metro Appliances & More Art Lori DeYmaz, Lindsey Meyer, Tanya Sweetin, and Heike Talbert Cabinetry and hardware Duke Custom Cabinets Countertops Countertop World Fixtures Westlake Plumbing Millwork Hall Custom Millwork Mirrors Jones Glass and Katie Grace Designs Paint Benjamin Moore Painting (decorative) AF Decorative Tile C & F Flooring and Rug Gallery Windows Pella Window coverings Bass Shutters & Shades and Katie Grace Designs