Ever wonder what it’s like to build a house from the ground up? As the owner of J. Lawrence Design, Jill Lawrence has had the opportunity to walk-through the process with numerous clients. Now it’s her turn, and she’s giving us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look here on At Home in Arkansas blog. Follow along as we chronicle each stage before the big reveal in our October 2022 issue.
At Home in Arkansas: Why did you decide to build?
Jill Lawrence: We lived in the house where we raised our children for 18 years. Our youngest is a senior in high school, so we started thinking about building a house after she graduated. But the 2020-21 “selling spree” got the best of us and, before we knew it, we sold our house! I had been working on a house plan for fun for about a year, so we quickly moved that plan to the front burner, and I met with a couple of architects to get our plan construction ready. A great builder and our good friend, Chris Maris, had a nice piece of land to sell us—and he said yes to building it! Just like that, we were building!
AHIA: Is this your first home to build?
JL: This is our fourth home to build, but our first in 20 years. My husband and I really love the process and are beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to build again!
AHIA: As a designer you have access to tons of resources and inspiration. How did you narrow down the exterior style of this house?
JL: Because I am an interior designer, the interior portion of a house comes a lot easier for me than the exterior. My ultimate home is a glass house in the woods, but the property we selected is in a lovely neighborhood, so my dream house needed to become a bit more neighbor friendly. I needed to tone down the modern feel of this would-be glass house in order to complement the homes around it.
I have always loved Neoclassic and Hollywood Regency-style homes, and I felt like a fusion of these two similar architectural styles would mesh well with the other homes in the neighborhood but still be distinctive. I spent hours and hours searching for homes in these architectural styles, noting specific details I liked. After I did all my research, I met with Ellen Yeary of Yeary Lindsey Architects to help me bring these ideas together into a classically modern exterior. Bottom line, I always want to be respectful of the vibe of the neighborhood when creating exterior architecture.
AHIA: What about the interior style? What was your vision here?
JL: After 26 years of making my client’s house dreams come true, I was ready to design a house for my family! I would say I am known for interiors that are classically tailored, timeless, and family friendly. This house is not that at all! This is our empty nest house, and my husband and I absolutely love to entertain.
One of our favorite things to do on any trip is visit great hotel bars. A really good hotel bar has a cozy atmosphere, dramatic design elements, incredible lighting, soft seating, and is a place you feel instantly comfortable and celebratory. When I was working on this house plan, I asked my husband how he would feel if our main living space felt like a great hotel lobby bar. He of course said yes, and then we thought about how we could do that. I took the design challenge on and now we are in the process of building the cocktail party room/hotel bar of our dreams. Cozy, dramatic, wonderful lighting, and lots of soft seating. This house is designed for fun!
The other dream we wanted to achieve in this house was proper storage. We have lived in a number of homes and have always “made due” with storage. I am a total neat freak, so being able to design this house with proper closets is a dream come true. My husband is Mr. Activity, meaning he has basically every piece of fitness, adventure, and hunting equipment under the sun. After 28 years of marriage, I am happy to say that all of his toys will finally have a home, and I never have to figure out where to stuff another thing!
AHIA: What rooms are you most excited about?
JL: I am truly downright giddy about every aspect of this house. I am using this house as a bit of a design laboratory to try new ideas and finishes. The main room sets the design scheme for the rest of the house. It is almost all glass on the front and the back. My safe design choice for this large open space would have been to keep everything light—off-white walls, furniture, etc., with kind of a light and airy museum gallery feel. But, because I am going for a sophisticated hotel bar vibe, I am taking some risks. The color palette is deep taupe, cream, off-black, and paprika. Nothing is white. Because the space is so large, our main seating area is a giant 13-by-10-foot U-shaped sectional sofa. I am going for it, and ordered it in a paprika velvet! This space will also have dark marble countertops, taupe-stained cabinetry, brass metals, and a fire pit in the middle of the room. It’s all a bit Art Deco meets the 1970s.
Want to see this house come together? Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes pics, inspiration, and insight on our blog, and don’t miss the October issue of At Home in Arkansas that will feature the full house reveal.