Tobi Fairley, of Tobi Fairley Interior Design in Little Rock, was presented with a few key pieces of furniture when she joined the creative team of a Little Rock custom build project. “The homeowners wanted to take cues for the design from a few existing pieces that were important for them to keep, like their dining table and 18 chairs,” Tobi says. With these beautifully ornate and formal pieces as her touchstone, she went on a mission to infuse their traditional style with her own simple aesthetic. “The result is fresh and new, instead of looking stuffy or tired,” she says.
Although the home was already framed and under roof, Tobi worked closely with builder Byron Holmes, designing the interior, kitchen and bath, choosing interior finishes and consulting on the exterior finishes. “Byron has a great attitude and builds an extremely high-quality home,” she says. “He took a great deal of stress off my plate and made the process run seamlessly.” Additionally, working with clients who had a considerable amount of building experience and on-target expectations for the process was immensely rewarding for the team. “It was a smooth process that was enjoyable for my firm, the builder and the client, so in my opinion it was a huge success,” Tobi says.
Creating a home that is formal and sophisticated, yet still warm and inviting, was the clients’ key request, along with well-designed spaces for entertaining. “Instead of using the traditional approach of piling on the accessories, I planned the bones of the space to be full of details, including inlaid marble patterns, decorative painting, wall tile mosaics, ornate lighting fixtures and highly detailed cabinetry and millwork,” Tobi explains. She devised a color scheme of chocolate brown, gold, turquoise and terra cotta, infusing the home with Mediterranean influences and a few carefully chosen Moorish elements. Rather than grouping accessories, she allowed them to stand alone for maximum visual impact, and she commissioned artwork by Arden Boyce, Sheila Cotton and Andy Reed, who are all represented by Tobi Fairley Fine Art.
To add to the home’s luxurious feel, wallcoverings make a strategic appearance, layered with antique mirrors, gilded millwork and plenty of textured fabrics, including velvets, chenilles and brocades. Stone and tile are equally important elements, with marble, Jerusalem stone and mosaic tile all contributing richness and depth.
While the project was certainly large in scope, it never became overwhelming thanks to the close working relationship of designer, builder and homeowners. “The challenges were typical for a house this size,” Tobi says, “but nothing that couldn’t be managed relatively easily between my staff and the builder.” The challenges, however, were welcome to Tobi, who loves the opportunity to display her affinity for traditional styles. “Considering the level of detail in this project, it’s particularly rewarding when it all comes together,” she says.
For interior designer Tom Chandler, of Chandler and Associates in Little Rock, great design is not always about purchasing an entirely new house full of furnishings. “We really pride ourselves on taking into consideration what the client already owns,” he says. “More times than not, we can create a totally new feel by simply rearranging the client’s existing items and adding a few key pieces.” This is what he and his team were able to accomplish for Jim and Joyce Faulkner. “We looked around our house and said, ‘Well it looks like we have everything, but it’s not in the right place,’” says Joyce. “That’s when we knew to call Tom.”
“The Faulkners had wonderful art already,” Tom says. “We rearranged everything except the dining room table and master bed.” Tom’s approach to reworking a home begins with analysis of traffic flow and moves to purposeful furniture groupings and the home’s visual vistas. “I consider the architecture of the Faulkners’ home timeless, and they have great taste, which offered us wonderful items to work with,” he says. “The first thing I considered when placing furniture is traffic flow. This should be the springboard for everything else. Secondly, I focused on crafting areas of purpose that are obvious to people as they enter the room. It should be discernable that there’s a specific area for conversation, a music space, a game space, a bar area, a writing area and whatever else the room calls for.”
Tom then moved on to the details of each of these designated spaces, making sure the design is independently strong. “Each grouping needs appropriate lighting and a usable surface,” he says. “I define this surface as anything flat as long as it would accommodate a scotch on the rocks, a Bible or both.” In the Faulkners’ home, Tom took cues from the fireplace and windows when designating furniture placement. “We concentrate on the vistas provided by the house, and this is really anything that stops the eye,” he says. “A fireplace suggests a primary conversation configuration, and we take care not to obstruct any views from large windows.” Tom’s team was able to create an office space in the master bedroom, casual seating around the fireplace in the den and more formal offerings around the fireplace in the living room. He also took care to place the Faulkners’ works of art in prominent places. “I particularly enjoyed working on this house,” he says. “I enjoyed the people and their beautiful possessions. Their range of fabulous art from paintings to sculptures and accessories presented on pedestals allow for an almost gallery feel, while still being very welcoming and comfortable.” The Faulkners were amazed by their new home. “Everything was perfect,” Joyce says. “We built this house 20 years ago, and many people who come over think we purchased all new furnishings. Re-envisioning a space is truly one of Tom’s talents.”
Working with a Fayetteville family in designing their home from the ground up gave interior designer Dixie Pittillo of Shepherd’s Interior Design in Pine Bluff an added advantage when it came time to design the outdoor space. “I drew a lot from the home’s design when we turned our attention to the outdoors,” she says. “They wanted the house to be very open, and with the back side mostly windows, the exterior had to visually blend with the interior.” One reason the homeowners chose to purchase the site was the expansive backyard and views, and Dixie wanted to highlight that in her design.
Dixie collaborated with Seaside Pools in Springdale, Sharum Landscaping and Design in Springdale and Landscape Associates in North Little Rock, to create a large, versatile space centered on spending time with family. “These homeowners are all about family, and I wanted to give them plenty of room to enjoy each other and to entertain,” she says. The pool features an extended shallow end for a game of volleyball, and the hot tub, located closer to the house, is ideal for relaxation.
By building varying levels on the slightly slopping lot, Dixie gave the homeowners various areas that can be used separately or together. “We extended the space surrounding the pool to allow lots of seating room, and we included an outdoor kitchen with stainless-steel countertops, by L&L Metal Fabrication in Springdale, where they can cook and entertain with easy clean up,” she says. “Down the steps from the pool is an open area for sports and games, while the fire pit offers seating around it.” Durability and beauty played a role in choose the furnishings. “We of course wanted the space to be beautiful, but we also wanted the furnishings to withstand kids and lots of use,” Dixie says. “It’s also easy to maneuver and relocate throughout the space, depending on the size of a dinner party or family time on the yard. Flexibility was foremost in my mind for this family.”
Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four, Job McCully of Bigelow survived chemotherapy, radiation treatments and a bone marrow transplant before starting elementary school. Though the treatments saved his life, they also severely damaged his fragile lungs, and in February 2007, Job’s condition rapidly deteriorated when he was diagnosed with a fungal lung infection. The likely source: Job’s own home.
His mother Tina explains that the family’s 50-year-old house was plagued by mold and mildew. “When the house was constructed, they built it into the hillside, but they weren’t concerned with drainage,” she says. “Water was running down the hill and sitting under the house.” Amid worries over Job’s critical condition, which they learned would require a lung transplant and an extended hospital stay, the McCullys now had to find a safe home for their son.
Fans of the ABC television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the McCullys’ friends were convinced that they could get them selected for the home renovation show. “They got everybody to send in letters within ten days,” Tina says. “We later learned that their volume of mail actually shut down ABC’s mailroom.”
The network contacted homebuilder Jack Wilson of Woodhaven Homes, and the experienced builder, whose past projects include the Country Club of Arkansas and Majestic Pointe in Maumelle, didn’t shy away from the fast, large-scale project. “We had approximately 30 days from the time they contacted us to be ready to build,” he says. “Within a matter of hours, we had ABC people at our business helping us with strategy and getting us the information we needed to be able to move forward.”
On a morning in mid-August 2008, the McCullys’ prayers were answered as they were greeted by a team of volunteers, contractors, builders and camera crews outside their home ready to work. “You have all this hope that it’s going to happen, but you just don’t know for sure until the work crews arrive,” Tina says. The build week was a whirlwind of activity, and while the McCullys received a much-needed vacation in California, crews worked around the clock to demolish their old home, construct a new foundation on their property and build a completely new house from the ground up. “We actually built the home in 98 hours,” Jack says. “We had never done anything similar to that before, and we found out that anything is possible if you get the right people together.”
The most remarkable part of the process, apart from the sheer speed with which the home was constructed, was the generosity of the vendors and volunteers who participated in the project. “Probably 80 to 85 percent of the building materials were donated by local people,” Jack says. “We had people lining up to participate. I’ve never seen as many people step forward and be a part of something. It was really heartwarming to watch.” Arkansas-based retailers like I.O. Metro, Cynthia East Fabrics, National Home Centers, Angelfish Studios and a host of others gave freely of their time and supplies.
The home itself, which Jack describes as an eclectic re-interpretation of the French country style, features an open floor plan perfect for a family with young children, because the kitchen is open to the great room with areas for family seating, a dining table and an office. “It seems like we’re together more as a family,” Tina says. The custom-designed bedrooms created for Job and his sister Nicole are testaments to the personalization and attention to detail from the crews.
Job’s pirate-themed getaway is constructed like the deck of a ship, complete with a fiber-optic ceiling to resemble a starry sky above the ocean. Six 32-inch, flat-screen televisions line the walls and play a specially designed video program, making the screens appear to be portholes overlooking the ocean on one side and the shoreline on the other. “I’ll never forget the look on Job’s face when they came home, and he got to see his house,” said Jack. “From age four to 10, he spent most of his time in the hospital, and it’s neat to see him have his own space.” Woodhaven Homes has set up a fund to benefit the McCully family. To make a donation, visit any branch of Community Bank, First State Bank or Twin City Bank.
Special thanks to these partners: