Esteemed interior designer Kathryn Crisp Greeley bought her North Carolina home, Chestnut Cottage, in 1987. Since then, she’s enlarged the almost-century-old house, tended its gardens, and added to her layered collections inside—all while graciously sharing the space with others through gatherings large and small. Kathryn’s second book, The Collected Cottage, is a love letter to this place and an invitation for all to step inside. Today, she discusses with At Home in Arkansas her home’s history, English inspirations, and advice for how to create a home that’s “collected, not decorated.” Read on for information regarding the author’s Little Rock appearance and book signing on Thursday, October 27. See you there!
At Home in Arkansas: As you’ve made updates to Chestnut Cottage over the years, how have you maintained the integrity of the home’s history? Why is it important to you to stay in keeping with a home’s time period and aesthetic?
Kathryn Crisp Greeley: From the moment I purchased the cottage, I knew I must carefully keep the cozy, cottage atmosphere. In the ’90s, I sourced wormy chestnut for the new master bedroom suite to maintain the finishes throughout the cottage built in 1925. Since the entire cottage’s walls, ceilings, trim, and doors were wormy chestnut, I knew I had to find what I needed for the master suite.
The kitchen was originally tongue and groove pine, so when I enlarged the kitchen, I continued with the tongue and groove pine, but decided to paint everything white. I felt that the white would still maintain the cottage aesthetic and keep the cozy feel of the original house. With the addition of the keeping room, I continued with tongue and groove on the ceiling, added stonework to match the original stonework in the cottage, and added English wallpaper from Nina Campbell for more cottage texture. The goal in each of these additions was to maintain the look of the original part of the cottage and to keep everything cozy and casually elegant—key word, cozy!
AHIA: When you first bought the house, it was less than 1,000 square feet—but you didn’t let that stop you from having people over! Do you have any advice for entertaining in a small space?
KCG: I love round dining room tables for smaller entertaining spaces, as I believe it improves circulation. I often set a round table for eight in our master bedroom, moving a coffee table and settee to the side for added space when I have filled the kitchen and keeping room tables. Flexibility in small spaces is key to entertaining. A 60-inch round folding table and nice folding chairs are a good investment and can maximize small entertaining spaces.
AHIA: Can you remember the first collection you ever had and how it began?
KCG: As a child, I had a little collection of tiny tea sets for my numerous dolls. As an only child, my “victims” were always my dolls … they suffered through many tea parties and hair stylings! I still have two of my little Blue Willow tea sets at Chestnut Cottage. My paternal grandmother had Blue Willow dinnerware (likely purchased from the local 5 and 10 cent store), and I fell in love with this pattern at a very young age. I suppose that was the beginning of my passion for blue and white!
AHIA: Where are your favorite places to treasure hunt for pieces to add to your collections?
KCG: Antique stores, antique shows, and antique auctions are my favorite places to find treasures. I have many local favorites, but I scope out antique shops in every place I visit!
AHIA: Do you have any tips for those who want to follow your advice to live in a home that’s “collected, not decorated,” yet don’t know where to start?
KCG: My best advice would be to look for pieces for your home that really speak to you and avoid the “everything new” look. Collected pieces just have more history and don’t look like you purchased an entire showroom. Develop your own personal style by investing in the best-you-can-afford items that bring joy to your life. Look for quality over quantity and be mindful of the size of the space where you plan to use an object. I believe that scale is a very, very important aspect of design.
AHIA: In addition to beautiful collections and gatherings, there are food and drinks for every season in The Collected Cottage. Do you have any stories to share behind the recipes in the book?
KCG: Most of the recipes in my first book, The Collected Tabletop, and now in The Collected Cottage are recipes from my mother, family members, and friends. I seem to always add or subtract or substitute in recipes and my favorites are my family recipes. They evoke so many memories and for me that is what cooking and entertaining are all about … creating memories! When I fix Mother’s recipes, I feel like she is right back in the kitchen with me, and it heals my sadness of missing her.
Meet the author
Get your own copy of The Collected Cottage and meet Kathryn Crisp Greeley at an event co-hosted by At Home in Arkansas. Join us for drinks, mingling, and a book signing in conjunction with Providence Design‘s ninth anniversary. The event is part of the annual Six Bridges Book Festival.
Thursday, October 27
5-6 p.m. | Book signing
5-8 p.m. | Providence Design’s anniversary party
2314 Cantrell Road, Little Rock
Photo of The Collected Cottage by Rett Peek. Portrait courtesy of Kathryn Crisp Greeley. Find out more about Kathryn’s work at thecollectedcottage.com.