Date: August 31, 2022 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
A Little Rock designer gives her own 1930s cottage practical updates with a punch of personality
When designer Jill White first walked into this two bed, two bath cottage in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, she knew it was just what she needed. “It was literally the perfect size for me and little Stella,” she says, “little Stella” being her 10-year-old daughter. “You can stand in the middle and see every room in the house. We didn’t need anything bigger.” The only drawback? The residence would need some major love to truly fit their needs and style.
At first, Jill thought the renovations would be purely aesthetic. “When I bought it, it was just very dark. There were heavy velvet draperies, dark colors, and everything was extra traditional,” she says. However, some of the rooms she most wanted to tackle—including the kitchen—would have to wait as structural problems continued to arise. “One day I woke up and thought, It is raining so hard. I turned on the lights and there was water just pouring out of the recessed lighting in my bathroom,” she recalls. This, of course, bumped a primary bath renovation to a top priority followed by new roofing, insulation, HVAC, and interior paint. Despite these setbacks, Jill affectionately dubbed the house “Tiny” and continued to scratch away at her to-do list.
After almost four years, the timing was finally right to delve into a major kitchen remodel. Jill’s main objective was to update the space’s country farmhouse style to better reflect her modern sensibilities. In the process, she found smart solutions to increase storage, which is at a premium in the 1,250-square-foot home. For example, a tower of open shelving to the right of the sink was traded for a built-in pantry, and all of the cabinets were replaced with a streamlined style. “There was so much ornate millwork that I gained a lot of space just by doing flat-panel cabinetry,” she says.
The designer also took the opportunity to use her own home as her playground, testing paint colors and finishes she’s fallen in love with on the job. “This reeding detail on the upper cabinetry is something I’ve been doing a lot with clients,” she says. “Every house where I’ve done it so far, it’s all light, natural stained oak, so I wanted to do something different and paint it; plus, I wanted it to be me, so I stuck with the black and white.”
In addition to her signature palette, details such as a geometric floor tile, Lindsay Cowles wallcoverings, and brass accents unite Tiny’s personality-packed rooms, creating a seamless design throughout the abode.
The dining room’s major statement is the “Maya” mural wallcovering by Virginia’s Lindsay Cowles, a resource-turned-friend whose work often appears in Jill’s designs.
Extra-deep upper cabinetry has room to house small appliances (including the microwave!), keeping the counters free of clutter. The lower cabinets were stained a rich, matte black to coordinate with the hardwood floors. Overhead, flush-mount lights are a stylish, practical upgrade that replaced a single pendant light.
A Modern Bend
Inspired by the curved cased openings original to the house, Jill had the doorway to the mudroom altered to match. Rounded corners appear again in the profile of the upper cabinets and the custom range hood, which was painted to look like brass—a cost savings that allowed the designer to splurge on the countertops and backsplash. “Marble can drive me crazy, but it’s the look I wanted and I absolutely love it,” she says.
The designer reimagined a small laundry room into a functional (and fun!) mudroom. The mustard wall color was an opportunity to do something unexpected. “I like to experiment with my house and do things clients won’t let me do. Most everybody wants blue and green, so I wanted something funky and different,” she says. A Gucci wallpaper and the same tile used in the bathroom complete the space.
“I wanted it to be me, so I stuck with the black and white.” — Jill White
In the primary bath, Jill traded a tub for a wall of built-ins used for clothes storage. The existing shower and water closet are concealed behind the vanity wall. “You know these little Heights houses have no storage, and that’s where this came about,” Jill says. She worked with her friend Leslie Marshall of The Marshall Concept on organization solutions here and throughout the house.
Contractor Chuck Hamilton, Chuck Hamilton Construction Interior design Jill White, Jill White Designs Accessories, hardware, fixtures, lighting, tile, and wallpaper Jill White Designs Cabinetry Chuck Hamilton Construction Countertops Triton Stone Group Countertops (fabrication) Southern Interiors Flooring Arkansas Wood Floors Organization The Marshall Concept Painting (decorative) AF Decorative