Date: December 2, 2010 | Story: Interview by Diane Carroll | Styling: Mandy Keener |
At Home in Arkansas:
You’ve worked with Witt Stephens Jr. and his wife, Carol, since they moved into this house in mid-town Little Rock a decade ago. How would you describe the home’s style?
Designer Bill Beringer:
It’s a Southern house, with elements typical of Georgian style, including a brick exterior and symmetries in the design as well as in the floor plan, like a central foyer with the living room on the right and the dining room on the left. Our goal has been to keep it elegant yet comfortable for a family.
AHIA: In what ways have you blended those concepts?
BB: We remodeled a few rooms to fit their family and the way they live better, making the house more functional. The dining room, for one, was very small and ended up being used as a hallway to the family room and kitchen. We enlarged it to accommodate entertaining, and in doing so we allowed room for a walkway, so you pass through the dining room and can enjoy that space daily.
We kept the living and dining rooms elegant and geared toward entertaining, but not so formal that their family doesn’t feel comfortable sitting on the sofa. They have two children and none of the spaces are so precious as to be off limits. Warm colors on the walls, thick rugs and printed fabric draperies bring the formality down a notch.
AHIA: The dining room seems to be an ideal spot for a dinner party.
BB: They can seat up to 16 guests at the main table, and they often host parties that size for a group of close-knit friends. To make the room more intimate, we upholstered the walls, which is great for absorbing sound. We paired an antique French dining table with custom-made chairs—antique chairs are often too small to truly be comfortable, so we based these on a Louis XVI-style dining chair and then we adjusted their size. Family pieces, including the mirror and rug, are mixed in as well. Even though it’s a big dining room, it’s still intimate. Between the colors, the upholstered walls, the richness of all the wood and the deep, warm color of the mahogany, plus the lighting, the space just glows at night.
AHIA: How do you typically set the table for holiday dinners?
BB: Carol loves to set it differently each time, mixing new and vintage china, incorporating a variety of styles. And I like to bring out all the crystal and silver; the more sparkle the better for a special holiday. In general, our goal is for the table to look great and have impact when you walk in the room, yet not be overwhelming or distracting when you’re seated and trying to converse.
AHIA: Does the holiday décor vary from year to year or do they have tried-and-true traditions?
BB: Carol has collected the basis of the decorations for years, ornaments and garlands and such, and then we work with the designers from The Accessory to mix things up and make it a bit different every year, which is fun for entertaining. We always work with the colors of the house—cream, gold and dark red—and then bring in natural elements. The Stephenses are avid outdoors-people, and their home and décor portray that lifestyle.
AHIA: The décor has great drive-up appeal, with the reindeer and garlands on the front porch, and the looks seems to flow right inside.
BB: For the decorations to feel like part of your house, they need to not only complement your rooms but also carry through from the front door to the foyer, the staircase, the tree, the mantle and so forth. We consider the front of the house the initial statement, and the look flows from there. Not that each element has to be exactly the same, but your colors and style should carry over. Typically, the outdoor décor has more natural items worked in, and the look evolves based on the room. The overall feel here is warm, traditional, natural yet elegant, and that’s a good fit for this house and their family.
Interior design Bill Beringer, Keith James, Little Rock
Holiday décor The Accessory, Little Rock
Floral design Tipton Hurst, Conway, Little Rock, North Little Rock
Furnishings Bonnie Blackmon Antiques, Dauphine, Trianon Antiques, Little Rock
Paint Pittsburgh Paints, locations statewide
Plus, tour more homes in this issue: