Date: January 4, 2024 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Alison Gootee | Styling: Rachael Burrow |
In the Delta, an heirloom home receives an update that pays homage to its history while leaning into its future
Time-honored dwellings and found pieces are the kinds of things that make Heather Chadduck Hillegas’s heart sing. “I love historic homes, and I always want to save what is there and honor its past,” the Birmingham, Alabama-based designer says. When the opportunity to work on a project of this nature in her home state of Arkansas arose—with a client-turneddear-friend, no less—she embraced it fully.
Situated on a row-crop farm on the outskirts of the tiny town of Montrose near Lake Village, the house is as much of an heirloom as it is living quarters. Passed down to Sam Shackelford and his wife, Elizabeth, the home has seen four generations evolve inside its walls. Elizabeth, who hired Heather to redecorate her city bungalow while living in Birmingham, grew up in nearby Inverness, Mississippi—just an hour from the Arkansas Delta homestead—but this wasn’t a life she saw herself living. When Sam, who had met Elizabeth years prior and shared a circle of mutual friends, called to ask for a date, she began to see the story unfold. “My dad also farmed, and Sam knew I would understand the life. A lot of it was like coming home for me,” she says. “I would not have imagined this, but the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Before tying the knot in 2020, the two began to discuss where they would live, and conversations always seemed to circle back to this house in Montrose where Sam was living at the time. His great-grandparents were the first to own the home, with his grandparents and parents following suit, each raising their children here. “There was zero pressure to do this, but it felt like a bit of a rite of passage to get to live here and make memories in this house,” Elizabeth says. “I had a heart and a passion for taking it on and making it our home.”
She immediately brought in Heather. Having entrusted the designer with her first home, the two developed a close friendship and seemed to be kindred spirits in terms of taste. “The first time we met for coffee, we hit it off. From a design standpoint, we just click. It’s easy for us,” Elizabeth says. Heather echoes the sentiment. “Elizabeth has an incredible personal style that was easy to translate into her home. She’s an incredible cook and sets a beautiful table, and we both enjoy antiquing and hunting for the right piece.”
While Sam’s grandmother had updated some rooms in the 1990s, the structure was in need of updates for its next chapter. “We wanted to keep it historical but bring it up to what made sense for us today,” Elizabeth adds. Playing off the home’s best features, like the tall ceilings, wood-burning fireplaces, and built-in shell bookcases, they focused on infusing pattern, color, and meaningful objects—many of which were already found within the confines of the home. “We played musical light fixtures and kept reupholstering, reframing, and rewiring—really using what was already there,” Heather says.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to honor the home’s history, but that makes it that much more special and honestly easier to make design decisions because they are rooted in relationships,” Elizabeth says. “Arkansas has become such a special place to me, and I feel a real sense of purpose here.”
Above: Elizabeth Shackelford stands on the home’s front porch with the couple’s golden retriever Lucy—better known as Goose—and springer spaniel Wilson.
Looking to the Landscape
Guests enter through the formal living room where the home’s palette and patina are introduced. “We were inspired by what was outside,” Heather says. “The first time I visited it was harvest, so cotton, corn, and soybeans were all around in shades of green, gold, and brown.” A Jasper fabric that incorporates the hues and is seen on the curved-back sofa was “the roadmap for the house,” Heather says. Grand ceilings are highlighted with tall drapery trimmed with a fringe, while fixtures and accents with age bring character.
A Place of His Own
A side sunroom is Sam’s favorite space in the house. They covered the walls, trim, and ceiling in one uniting, glossy hue. “He calls it Sam-o-flauge,” Heather says with a laugh. A benchseat sofa seems to invite afternoon naps or reading time with a book from the well-stocked shelves. Overhead, the light fixture was an existing piece that also points to Sam’s fondness of searching for arrowheads on the property. The walls are painted “Saguaro” by Sherwin-Williams.
A Les Indiennes wallpaper coupled with a dramatic window valance sets an elegant tone in the formal dining room. Heather connected Elizabeth and Sam with a friend in Virginia who was selling an estate that included this table and chairs, pieces the designer felt were meant for their home. The chandelier was relocated here from the primary bedroom. “This is a destination for friends. Everyone loves to be invited here because they make it so special and fun,” Heather says of the couple.
Practical Made Pretty
Leaving no space untouched, Schumacher’s “Persian Lancers” print covers the walls of the butler’s pantry. “I love taking a small room and turning it into a jewel box,” Heather says. “When we originally started this space, Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she’d use it that often outside of the storage but it’s become a favorite for small dinners with friends,” the designer says of the multipurpose space that connects the kitchen and dining room.
New Elements, Timeless Style
“Elizabeth is an incredible cook and the existing kitchen was not going to work, so we reprogrammed it,” Heather says. Closing a doorway allowed for more countertop space while an industrial stove upgraded its capabilities. Poured concrete counters appeal to the rustic elements of the design, and the flooring adheres to the thread of black seen throughout. The brass chandelier from the dining room was relocated here. “Since the kitchen is new, I felt like we needed something imperfect,” the designer says of the slightly askew fixture. A coordinating rail displays found pieces of copper cookware behind the range. The lemon painting was a birthday present from Heather to Elizabeth.
Point of Entry
Exterior shingles, a sign of a previous addition to the home, line the walls of the mudroom that serves as the back entrance and adjoins the kitchen. A French mattress-style cushion, iron table (that was found in the garden and topped with glass), and a pair of chairs Heather purchased in Palm Beach create an area that acts as overflow seating for dinner parties as well as a comfortable spot for morning coffee.
Hunt scene wallpaper was hung during Sam’s grandmother’s years in the home. Heather and Elizabeth loved the pattern and opted to restore rather than remove it. Speaking to the philosophy of using found objects to honor the home’s heritage, twin beds that both Sam and his father slept in as children were dressed with fresh linens for their next chapter of life.
“We wrapped the whole room in ‘Dolly,’” Heather says of the Sister Parish fabric seen on the bed, chair, and drapes in the guest room (opposite). She and Elizabeth both collected botanicals to create a collage over the bed. “It shows that if you can create pairs, nothing has to match perfectly,” Heather says. A shared Jack-and-Jill bath connects this bedroom to the primary bedroom. Here, Old English-style pedestal sinks and sconces that previously lived in the living room add character to the completely updated room.
Best Use of Space
Originally a den, Heather suggested turning this room into the couple’s primary bedroom (below). Not only did this give them more space but also the benefits of a working fireplace and gracious windows that fill the room with natural light. The chests on either side of the fireplace are family heirlooms while the bed was custom made in India.
Interior Design Heather Chadduck Hillegas, Heather Chadduck Interiors Accessories, Bedding, Fabrics, Furniture, Lighting, Mirrors, Wallpaper, and Window coverings Heather Chadduck Interiors Wood Finishing Cody Ruth, Ruth’s Woodworking & Historic Renovations (Greenville, MS)