“For as long as I can remember,” says Blytheville native Carolyn Grisham, “I’ve wanted a white house with white columns and black shutters.” With a degree in art and graphic design from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and 25 years as senior interior designer with Club Corp in Dallas, Carolyn was ready to tackle plans for her family’s dream home in Harrison when she and her husband Bud, a land developer and native of the area, retired there 16 years ago.
The result was a 4,500-square-foot Greek Revival brick home situated in the middle of 25 acres. Surrounded by groves of natural oak, walnut and pear trees, the stately exterior of the Grisham’s home reflects the tradition of a much older past with white-washed red brick that has gently aged through the years.
Inside, the home also reveals a rich mix of textures and treasures all juxtaposed against the cool serenity of a neutral background. The two-story, three-bedroom home features a welcoming center hallway with living areas on both sides. “I like everything very symmetrical,” Carolyn explains.
She has always taken a casual, yet elegant approach to decorating, collecting only well-chosen antiques for her home that she treasures more and more each year. “Once I fall in love with something, I love it forever,” says the talented designer, who regularly scoured the antique stores of Europe when she lived and worked in Dallas. She found most of her favorite collectibles in France: antique straw hats, blue and white pottery, oil paintings and china plates.
While Carolyn’s home is a showplace for her prized antiques, many of her eclectic accessories are from her store Winterberry Home, formerly located in Little Rock and now in Rogers at Interiors Galleria. She puts her own design spin on a charming Southern style that blends several different periods, including the British and French Colonial era, a style that she likens to “Out of Africa,” her favorite movie. “I tend to mix in a little exotica with more traditional pieces,” says Carolyn.
This is particularly evident in the sunroom where a patterned floor she designed and painted anchors a Zebra rug and an antique French Colonial settee paired with a carved Anglo-Indian table bought on a shopping trip to England. The extensive collections of wicker throughout the house also offer a more casual counterpoint to her European antiques.
The color palette in the Grisham’s Greek Revival home also provides a distinctive backdrop for the interplay between informal and formal furnishings. “I prefer light-colored walls,” Carolyn admits. “I like a fresh, crisp look that has a high contrast with the other decorative elements in a room.” Even crown moldings, fireplace mantels, kitchen cabinetry and window dressings are treated with a cool touch and provide a blank canvas for highlighting collectibles.
The off-white walls in most of the house and the pale pink in the living room enhance the dark woods of both the Grishams’ four-inch-wide red oak plank flooring and their traditional antiques. Upholstered sofas and chairs as well as rattan and wicker are updated with light-colored fabrics that are durable as well as functional.
In the living room, her grandmother’s antique sofa and chair that she lovingly remembers sitting in as a child is lightened up with cheerful Lee Jofa floral chintz cushions and pillows. Chippendale dining room chairs are slipcovered with white linen. The designer finds that fabrics often change the mood of an antique piece dramatically.
A vintage reproduction bed in the master bedroom provides another high-contrast piece in Carolyn’s preferred style. “I love the architectural shape of the bonnet on this bed,” she says, “and I love the high contrast against the light walls, so I never drape anything over it.”
To truly enjoy the Southern charm of their house and property, the couple often head outside to relax on one of their porches. “We have tea on the front porch every morning,” Carolyn says. The screened porch on the back of the house with oversized wicker chairs is a favored afternoon retreat. “We can watch the deer romping around the backyard pond,” she continues, “which seems a very Southern way to end the day.”
Click here for Carolyn’s tips on setting the table for a Sunday supper, Southern-style.
Design Carolyn Grisham, Winterberry Home in Interiors Galleria, Rogers
Developer Bud Grisham, Woodcroft, Harrison