Ahhh, Caldwell

I cannot believe I am JUST now sitting down to write to you about my Caldwell project, “THE DREAM PROJECT”. Only…I can believe it because there has simply been no time to SIT or WRITE about “THE” project while juggling 3 other projects (excuses, excuses). You may ask, “Why does this particular project keep getting capitalized, emphasized and all the quotation marks?” Well, I’m trying to help you see how extraordinarily special this particular Storybook project is. There are only a tiny handful of houses in Conway that are on my “Storybook Bucket List”. Every time I drive by one of them, I dream about the potential, if given the opportunity, to renovate. Some are on the list because their very curb appeal has told me their whole story and I’m dying to make it come alive with design- like the house on Donaghey that I swear was moved off the pages of The Little House.

Do you know the one I’m talking about?!?! I’ve been dreaming about putting eyelashes on its windows for years.

And then there are the houses that are on my bucket list because, quite frankly, they are just sooo fabulously ugly. One of my favorite hobbies is daydreaming about how I would help transform these ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. Like the house on… Just kidding- there is no way I would call out my ugly ducklings!

Upon further reflection and refinement, there are still those singular gems that are on the SBL (Storybook Bucket List) because I have the deepest respect for their original craftsmanship and architecture. I would be beyond honored to get to restore such glory and greatness. And this, my Storybook friends, is the list on which we find 2009 Caldwell.

I have loved this house for a quarter of a century since first moving to Conway in 1996. It may be small but its design is mighty in the sea of craftsman homes in old town. A true mid-century design with its ultra-cool monoslope roof (Fact: that roof inspired my own home reno).

Once married, Rory shared my love for this home and later learned the owner was a friend of a friend and approached this owner multiple times about the possibility of buying.

Despite our frequent offers to purchase, it wasn’t until his running buddy mentioned that he had passed on an opportunity to purchase a mid-century home on Caldwell that Rory learned the inside scoop. The seller of this beloved (dream) home was finally ready to sell. Rory called to tell me the incredible news but quickly added that he wanted to keep it as a rental. Um…. I don’t think so. No offense to Rory but I knew that if he wanted to keep it as a rental that would mean minimal renovation. And that plan was no where near the dream reno I had been perfecting for over 20 years! I also knew that once Rory made up his mind about something there was usually no changing it. So I played maybe the biggest card I had…that month was our 20th wedding anniversary. I told him that if he would let Storybook purchase it as a flip that it would be ALL I would want after 2 decades of marriage. He reluctantly agreed, with the one stipulation, I must actually make a profit on this project. (Historic Fact: I kinda have a habit of putting too much into my flips at the consolation of making any profit…darn appraisals).

I will admit that his stipulation did give me at least a 3-second pause. While this house was my DREAM project, it was a terrible investment- and I knew it. I was 1000% making this decision with my heart and not my brain. The purchase price was $80 a sq foot- waaaaaay more than I had ever paid for a flip. It was only 1372 sf, and despite the small size, I knew my renovations always run over $100k. There was no way this one would be different. At the very minimum, I was looking at $210,000 for 1372 square feet. Let me do the math for ya: that’s $153 per square foot….. BEFORE my required profit! Not only was I looking at a price per square foot where no house in Old Town Conway had sold before, it was now a very real conundrum. My heart would never let me do less than my best for this DREAM home. And per past low appraisal trauma (um, 2020), my best was not going to appraise for a traditional mortgage buyer. My greatest hope now relied on finding a buyer who shared my passion for this house and saw it as worthy of the investment with the cash to support the love affair. My Plan B was to make it an Air BnB so I could fully dress it up and love it forever. Both options seemed extremely risky with the latter requiring me to burn through all my savings plus rob a bank to make it happen…. regardless, I agreed to Rory’s terms and sealed the deal with a kiss.

Now my overall plan was not purely based on wishful thinking. I knew my love for this house was not unique but shared by many Conwegians creating a stellar lineup of potential buyers. In fact, just the year before, a lady reached out to ask if I had ever thought about trying to renovate this home. She too had stalked the house and approached the homeowner about purchasing it and had even managed to get some inside pics of the place. Once I had the home under contract, she was one of the first people I contacted to share the good news. This new friend became one of my biggest cheerleaders during the renovtion and even dropped off a pair of mid-century oil and vinegar bottles as a Christmas present to the house.

And another fan left this message, scrawled on the back window. Can you see it? It says, “This is so cool”

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Yes it is, random vandal, yes it is!

With all of the supporting evidence, I knew, in my heart, that someone would see her innate value and want to purchase the finished project.

Enter Brad.

Now. I have a confession. I ordinarily do not like to bring homeowners into flip projects until all the design decisions have been made and it’s too late to turn back. Because…. well… control issues. For 2009 Caldwell, I knew I needed to find a buyer early on and this find would mean some compromise but I was determined to fight for an overall mid century style. Specifically, I had my heart set on a Palm Springs mid-century vibe. A wink to the desert with all its cacti and terracotta earthiness. So when Brad called and mentioned that he had always been drawn to this house because it reminded him of homes in California where he lived for a number of years, I got excited. But it was only when he asked me if I had ever been to Palm Springs that the heavens opened up and I knew the house had found its perfect match. Interestingly, while both of us had visions of a Palm Springs zip code, Brad’s inspiration was narrowed down to one specific location pin- the past home of one of the original members of the rat pack- Mr. Frank Sinatra.

Within minutes of getting off the phone with Brad, I googled Frank Sinatra’s home and lucky for you and me, it has been turned into a short-term rental and event center. Pics were readily available for inspiration:

photo cred sinatrahouse.com

Yep, I could get on board with all that! I mean, look at that rock wall! Note the chimney! Remind you of anything?!?!

I’ll take you on a full tour in a minute but here is a pic of that rock on the inside of Caldwell:

Long story, short, Brad officially came on board and the renovation began.

Prior to Brad joining the project, the exterior plans had been blessed by the historic council and the bones of the renovation were approved by permitting. Fortunately, there was very little I wanted to do on the outside other than to take out the green trellis columns. I’m not a hater of painted brick, but I personally love how the original brick and rock sang together, so I had no plans to change the color pallet…something I knew the historic council would love and would keep me in their good graces. My only requests were to allow me, pretty please, to remove the green trellis columns and add a waterfall wall on the end. This would highlight my favorite feature of the original architecture. I also requested to add an addition off the back to give this home a proper master suite. Here is a peek at my high tech drawings I presented to historic.

It wasn’t too long into the renovation that I realized working with Brad was going to give me a whole new client experience. So far, in my short career, the biggest challenge in taking on clients has been coaxing them out of their comfort zones. The number one thing I hear from my clients when presenting an out-of-the-box design idea is “I’m afraid I will get tired of that” aaaaand a little piece of my soul dies. But Brad was the complete opposite. This guy wanted to push the design to the limit. He wanted lots of COLOR and he was not afraid of ANYTHING. In fact, any idea I threw at him he was 100% on board and even encouraged me to take it further. There were a few times I had to edit his ideas back a notch or two. I’ll give you a few examples in the “before and after” tour. Speaking of…Let’s get that going!!

A little disclaimer: while the outside had tons of mid-century character, the inside was “wah wah”. To keep you oriented, I’m going to give you the “afters” with the “befores”.

Entering through the front door, you are inside the Living Room with the fabulous floor to ceiling window that you see from the road.

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The living room boasted a fabulous monoslope ceiling and original hardwood floors painted black. My fingers were crossed that I could sand and restore the floors to their original color during the renovation.

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In the far corner was that fabulous rock fireplace straight out of Sinatra’s home. Like 100% of fireplace inspections I have EVER done on ANY house in Old Town Conway, this one was not up to code. But Brad agreed it would be money well spent to replace. My hope was to be able to reuse the rock with the new fireplace insert. As you will soon see, I was not able to make that happen.

Are you ready to see what that space looks like now??? Gosh, I wish I knew how to put music on this thing to build the anticipation….


The original floors refinished flawlessly!! And check out that light! The living room chandelier was a gift from Brad’s mom- and oh my goodness, it is one of my favorites!

The rock was too thick to use with the new fireplace insert, sniff sniff. But this tile was a fun way to introduce the semi-circle theme to the main living area of the house. You will see this theme repeated throughout the “after” pics.

The fireplace was lifted higher off the ground to accommodate the future table in the dining area.

Speaking of dining… look at that adorable custom bench that Jeff Perry, my favorite cabinet maker, made!

Although furniture and decor is not my thing, I have always pictured a tulip table sitting in that space. Kinda like this:

Brad did not even think he needed a kitchen table but was so supportive of my dream for the space, that a tulip table was the first piece of furniture he bought for his new home!

Because I wanted the living room chandelier and the fireplace sconces to take center stage, I chose not to hang a chandelier over the dining area. Instead, I opted for a long, arching floor lamp that reaches to the center of the table.

Ok…you ready to go into the kitchen??

Before…the kitchen was closed off from the living space through that door:

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It was pretty small with the fridge and range just hanging out in the corner like they were being punished.

Sooooo one of my main goals of the renovation was to open the kitchen up to the living/dining area.

This was tricky because the kitchen did not follow the same sloped ceiling line as the living room. My solution was to drop the ceiling to one level, from the kitchen all the way to the fireplace, which also helped differentiate the living room from the dining room.

Ironically, much like the dining table, Brad really didn’t want much of a kitchen. He lives the bachelor life and never cooks. He told me all he really wanted was a fridge and a microwave. During this conversation, I had to focus mightily on not letting my face reflect what my brain was thinking. I had to practice using my client/designer psychology skills to convince him that my, excuse me, HIS dream home NEEDED a dream kitchen. In the end, he gave in to a full kitchen and to thank him, I made sure his kitchen would be a true reflection of his personality.

Let’s pause in the middle of this kitchen tour to discuss color. One thing I quickly learned about Brad was that this guy LOVES color! The brighter and bolder, the better. So when it came time to choose the color theme of the house, I knew the original, muted desert tones I had envisioned for this Palm Springs-inspired home was not going to work for what Brad had in mind. But, I was also not ready to concede that Sinatra would approve of the brightest side of the color wheel either. Thus, my pursuit for the perfect compromise began. When it came time to choose colors, I had spent enough time with Brad to learn that his love of California extended beyond Palm Springs. He also loved the ocean, specifically surfing, and the laid back nature of beach living. I truly think all of these things inspired the final color pallet. Because I LIVE for a good surprise reveal, I kicked Brad out of his house for the final 2 months of the renovation. He had no idea what colors or finishes I landed on until he showed up to see the finished product. The only hint I gave him was this text:

Was he a good sport or what??

Originally, I had Nicolas paint that hand cut brick backsplash white, but I did not think it was bright enough for Brad, so when he came back for final touch- up I had him change it to this yellow. The other thing I did for Brad was to give him that one odd drawer. I had shown him this picture from Pinterest when I was trying to explain the vibe I had in mind for the kitchen.

The mismatched drawer was his favorite part, so I was excited to surprise him with his own “out of place” drawer.

If you are like most of my subcontractors who came in toward the end of the project, the 1 odd drawer and my choice of colors may have you questioning my sanity. When I saw the kitchen come together, I knew, without a doubt, I had nailed Brad’s dream kitchen- the kitchen he didn’t even think he wanted. Other moments on this tour may leave you scratching your head, but actually, these are quite possibly Brad and my own favorite parts of this home. Like the next thing I’m going to show you….

If you open up that upper cabinet….

There is a hidden cat pass through!

That leads into the laundry room…

That formerly looked like this:

But now looks like this!

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“Why a cat door?” you may ask. Well, Brad has 2 dogs and a cat. During the day, the dogs hang out in the laundry room where they have built in dog beds in the drawers under the laundry baskets. The cat is allowed to roam the house. However, the cat’s litter box is also stored inside the laundry room but in the cabinets where the dogs can’t access…

Now if you get freaked out about the cat climbing on the kitchen countertops and going through the kitchen cabinets, please remember that Brad does not intend to use his kitchen to cook. In fact, if you are the next in line to adopt this home, Brad assures me it will be like you have a brand new gas range and dishwasher.

How are you doing? Is this tour over-stimulating or are you enjoying the space? Shall we continue?

Before we get too crazy, why don’t I let you see the guest bedrooms? Before, the 3 bedrooms were all green walls and black floors with a few built-ins:

And now, there are fresh white walls with clear oak floors and some new built-ins:

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Before our final stop I want to show you the “before”bathroom of this original 1 (yep 1) bath house:

I truly loved the floor and was really excited about designing the new bathroom around this tile.

Alas, Brad did not share my love for this tile and since he let me put in a kitchen, I decided not to fight him on the tile. And I’ve gotta tell ya, Brad was right on this one! I think the new tile is the shining star of the newly renovated bathroom.

Last on the tour, but certainly not least, is the master suite. There is no “before” picture of the master suite because it did not exist. I mean, the bedroom did, but not the bathroom/closet portion of this suite.

Here is the bedroom:

Below is the bedroom with the wall blown out and the new foundation being prepped for the addition:

And now…..

A Shoji Screen was on Brad’s wish list from the very first time we met. I’ve gotta admit, I did not know how Shoji and Sinatra went together and wrestled with how I was going to give him everything on his wish list in one cohesive design. However, once the house went more Malibu and Tiki, I think the Shoji Screen fit right in. And thanks and kudos to my Dad for building the door!

Behind the Shoji Screen awaits the final surprise of the tour…

What’s that?!?

Is that a floor to ceiling window inside his shower?!?! Why yes it is!!! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the most questioned feature in this home by all who visit. It is one of the many reasons that Brad will go down as one of my all time favorite clients EVER! Brad was all in with having a full window in his shower…a design feature that I have only dreamed about but never would have dared to incorporate in a flip situation. Well because of what most of you are thinking right now. But not Brad! He is all for it! Now, before you think Brad is an exhibitionist, you should know that the window sits in an alcove of the house and is very private. He has intentions of planting a zen garden in the space right outside the window. Come on, fellow Arkansans, how cool is that?!?! Californians would totally be all over this!

And that, my friends, concludes the tour of my Storybook Bucket List house on Caldwell. It may not have been your style, but you have to agree that this one of a kind mid-century home in the heart of Old Town Conway has continued to live out its unique heritage.

I will leave you with a picture of the fully renovated exterior. Because Brad was such a rock star on the inside and gave me complete creative control, I am giving him the same respect on the landscape. Unfortunately, it has been so rainy he has not been able to fully execute his plan. Just know that there is more to come on the outside, but for now, a glimpse of the waterfall front porch come to life.

Be sure to drive by 2009 Caldwell to see what Brad does with the rest of the yard in the coming weeks. Thanks for stopping by! Leave a comment on the blog or on FB and let me know what you think of the place!


After Pics: Makenzie Evans

Cabinets: Jeff Perry

Framing: Julio

Trim: Custom Culture LLC

Electrician: Jason Hall

Heat and Air: Freyaldenhoven

Plumber: Robert Shearer

Cabinet Hardware: Jeremey Smith

Shoji Door: Dad

Painter: Nick’s Painting

Flooring and all-around fixer of all the problems on every project: Edwardo David


Hey there, 2021!!!

Happy New Year!!!! It’s literally my FAVORITE time of year! And never have I ever been more excited to see January 1!!! After one of the most difficult years for everyone on planet Earth, I wish you could see the biggest, goofiest grin on my face right now while I’m typing. I’m always overwhelmed with gratitude for the fresh start each new year brings but ESPECIALLY this year. Right now, where I stand, the possibilities are endless and I haven’t done anything to mess it up… so far.

So anyway, I thought it would be fun to review the hopefulness of last year’s goals and resolutions to see what, if anything, I was actually able to accomplish. I am going to spare you all 10 sections of my typed 8 page 2020 goals and resolutions and simply zone in on the SBH section for this blog:

2020 Storybook Homes Goals and Resolutions

  • Blog post every other week.
    • I just counted and there was a total of 10 blogs published in 2020 so I’m going to call this a miss.
  • Social Media post weekly.
    • This seemed soooo doable, but again was a total miss. I just can not seem to remember to stop working long enough to take a picture. That’s why, mid year last year, I brought my friend Sarah Henry on board to help with the social media and blogging. When she came onboard the tone of the blogs elevated, the frequency of the social posts tripled, and my guilt of never posting was lifted. But alas, she had to go and get a big girl job and, understandably, her creative energies needed to shift to her classroom and away from SBH for awhile. But I’m not letting her get away completely, once she is fully settled into the teaching world I plan to lure her back on a very part time basis with maybe special projects over the summer.
  • Grow Instagram and Facebook to 5K followers.
    • Nope. Thanks to Sarah I know that I did grow significantly in both categories last year but neither platform has hit that goal… yet.
  • Update Website.
    • I’m going to give myself a “kinda” on this one. I did switch my blogging platform from blogger to wordpress last year and dropped the cheesy @blogspot.com web address for a more sophisticative and easier to find storybookrenovations.com but it still could use quite a bit of attention. But again-time.
  • Complete 3 flips.
  • 2 Custom Client Projects.
    • YES!! In fact, I completed 3 (2 bathrooms and 1 Master Suite) and started another HUGE one in 2020. I also started offering design consultations in 2020.
  • December off.
    • No, Sadly I had more projects going December 2020 then I have ever had in my career.

So 1.5 out of 6……hmm….. I know I should probably be disappointed but when I look at the goals I achieved (or almost achieved) vs those I didn’t, I realize where I fell short was the “story” side of the business but if I think about all the people who are now starting their 2021 in their newly renovated house I feel I delivered on the “home” side of Storybook Homes and really that’s what this business is all about.

So before I officially say goodbye to 2020 I want to share some picture highlights from 2020 projects:

From the Oliver Shotgun:

This was my second new construction project and I was thrilled with how this house jumped from my sketch pad to real life:

Every square inch of this thoughtfully planned out 1215 sq foot home is usable space, including the upper cabinets stretching to the 10 ft ceilings thanks to the….. LIBRARY LADDER!!!

This project allowed me to scratch “do library ladder” off my bucket list.

I also kinda loved the eating nook with that light!:

But perhaps the biggest highlight of this project for me was getting to know her new home owner. She was brand new to Conway when she moved in and since then has become a good friend to me, a cheerleader for Storybook Renovations, and an active member of the downtown community. A true treasure to her neighborhood.

Next up on our highlight tour is a never before seen renovation. I am so proud of how this one turned out that I asked special permission from my private client to show you a few before and after pics of this master suite renovation. So here ya go:

Before: Master Bathroom

Not bad at all! Just didn’t function how my client wished. She also had a nice size master bedroom:

During the renovation we simply rearranged the space to give her a nice soaker tub and relocated the potty to it’s own private space on the other side of the bathroom.

And we expanded her Master bedroom into a smaller room to give her a spacious master closet.

In addition to her Master bedroom we also did a refresh on the entire upstairs of her home. After we wrapped up this renovation, the homeowner extended this new style to the remaining areas of her home. She sent me pictures of a few of the projects she tackled and Wow, her home is beautiful! Aaaaaand a little birdy told me that this home “might” be for sale very soon. So if you like what you see, keep your eyes out on the local real estate pages.

This year, I began this new thing! In addition to the master suite just mentioned, I decided to take on some other “select” client projects…because why not? 2020!! There has been interest for quite some time and I never really had the time to consult. However, I began doing these limited design consultations focusing on layout (not decor).

From these consultations, we completed a total of 3 client projects including 2 master baths and 1 master suite.

Again, these were completely “off the radar” and the only evidence of these fun projects are satisfied clients!! It was a wild year. We moved from one project to the next and no blogs were written for these.

In the midst of private consultation projects and just general craziness, I started the Mountain Modern. Ahhh the Mountain Modern. I love how this one turned out especially the exterior:

Here are some of my other favorite moments of this design:

One of the biggest design consultations of 2020 was for my first celebrity clients for what has been affectionately sired, “Beaglefork”. The home is a diamond in the rough on Beaverfork Lake tucked away on the outskirts of Conway. I can’t wait to see how everything comes together for the homeowners and their humans in 2021!

Here’s a sneak peek/teaser of the Beaglefork “Before”:

Guys it has already come soooo far!

Aaaand I can NOT believe I have not found the time to tell you about my other project! Ya’ll in 2020 Rory gave me my DREAM project for my anniversary. And when I say “gave” what I really mean is he allowed me to buy it when he really wanted it for himself for a rental. After begging and pleading with him to let me adopt it into the Storybook Family, I finally resorted to telling him it was the ONLY thing I wanted for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. He very reluctantly agreed to let me take ownership. Ya’ll THIS HOUSE has ALWAYS been my FAVORITE house in all of old town Conway and I have dreamed about renovating it for at least 10 years. It is my Bucket List House. There is soooo much more I want to tell you but its story deserves its own blog so I promise to make that happen soon. But for now I’ll just drop her pretty before picture here:

Stay tuned, this one has 6-8 weeks to completion.

So while 2020 had its fair share of challenges (I’m choosing to spare you the negatives), there were also some pleasant surprises that I’m still just so humbled and honored by! Receiving the “best of” in the remodeling category in Faulkner County was such a highlight as was a feature article in At Home on our Davis Street house. Overall there were so many great projects and “wins” to celebrate. Which brings me to my:

Goals and Resolutions for 2021

  • Blog post monthly- surely I can do one a month
  • Social media post weekly- Niki, just stop for a second and take a picture! It literally takes 3 seconds. You can do it!
  • Grow Instagram and Facebook to 5K followers- can ya’ll help me with this one?
  • Project List Goals:
    • Caldwell
    • Beaglefork
    • Townhomes (Rory project I’ll tell you about later)
    • Finish Air B&B (another Rory project I’ll tell you about)
    • Cross Street Flip
    • Mill Street New Construction
    • 2 client projects
  • Last Client Project started by July- so can be finished by December
  • December off- I will have a Senior next year and I want to soak up our last Christmas with him at home
  • 1 Design Consult a Month
  • Find another flip for 2022
  • No crying- I’ve got to get tougher and stop letting these projects and subs get to me.
  • 1/2 day off on Fridays to do SBH business- I usually spend 1/2 my weekend paying bills, updating budgets, etc and I really want to be intentional with family time.

Thank you for your continual support throughout this extraordinarily unique season. I’ve really had to ramp up my social media game to remain connected to all of you as we’ve been unable to host our celebratory SBH open houses! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we’ve had our last one on Oliver. From hanging in there with my quarantine cleaning games to participating in our first featured online series of outdoor spaces and favorite rooms from former SBH projects, you, my faithful friends, have engaged and encouraged with each blog and post! It’s my prayer that 2021 is kinder to all of us and writes even more Storybook stories with the happiest endings.


Remember when I was renovating Cindedwella and all of the princesses came over and I completely choked because I fear the famous… (no? you can read about that disaster here)? Anyways….. you can imagine how nervous I was when I was asked to renovate a home for these gals.

That’s right!, “THE” sister beagles! With over 5k followers on Instagram and legendary notoriety among the patrons of Hounds Hideaway, these ladies and their other four-legged friends have reached a level of fame that I can only dream. So when Lacey, aka Human Mother, reached out to me to see if I would be interested in renovating a home they had found on Beaverfork Lake, I was tempted to tuck my tail and run…. but then she sent me this link to the listing …..

And…..well…. my love of old houses won out over my fear of the famed. I mean did you see those rock floors and the fairy tale wooded lot? And what about the 70’s rock adorning the exterior and interior fireplaces.? This house had all the right kinds of ugly to make my heart go aflutter (I mean that in the nicest way- ugly is a term of endearment when I’m looking for a home to renovate).

To prepare for my initial meeting with the Sisters, I studied up on famous beagle architecture:

From my research, I concluded that beagles appreciate minimalist, industrial design that is highly functional and adaptable with elements of surprise. Hmmmm, not sure how that will translate to the house on Beaverfork but I decided to just approach our initial walk-thru with an open mind and hope that the Sisters had a few ideas to help guide the overall design of the house.

On the day of our walk thru, I couldn’t have been more nervous. But as soon as I walked thru the door I was nearly tackled by friendly greetings from not only The Sisters, Yellow and Brown, but also their canine friends Gunner and Jetta who also reside in the Vance home.

After introductions, I went total fan girl and asked if we could take a quick selfie before we started the tour.

Pardon my face, I was still a little star struck at this point. I would have asked to take the picture again but I got the feeling Yellow was a little annoyed. I mean, I get it, her life is constantly stalked by the pup-arazzi, the last thing she probably wanted to do was pose for yet another human picture.

The second the picture was snapped the four of them went straight to business and began sharing their ideas and expectations for the renovations. (And I had been worried they might not have ideas- HA!)

I hope you can read my writing- I was writing down their ideas so fast, I swear smoke was coming from the lead of my pencil. I’m sure I missed a few things but here is what I managed to jot down:

I honestly have no idea if half these things even exist and as I’m sitting here reviewing the list, I wonder if I even heard them correctly. I mean, what is a toad eradication system? And who in the world is the Kitty Cartel? And if this list wasn’t overwhelming enough…. near the end of our meeting Brown slips me a note and tells me it’s from the cat (apparently there is a cat in their posse who could not be bothered to come to the meeting but sent his list of demands).

Oh geez, what have I gotten myself into!!

In an effort to guide the design meeting into more familiar territory I pulled out my Sherwin Williams paint deck to see if we could at least nail down a color theme.

At this, I got the distinct feeling that Yellow and Brown were sneaking “bless her heart” glances my way. I wasn’t sure why my efforts were getting the cold shoulder until Gunner finally spoke up and informed me that dogs are colorblind.

After this revelation, I quickly packed up my fan deck and suggested they take me on a tour of the house.

The tour allowed me the opportunity to not only get to know the house but it also gave me greater insight into each of the dogs personalities. For example, before we even made it thru the main floor of the tour, Jetta caught the whiff of a rabbit outside and was off on the hunt. I’m not sure if she was successful in her hunt but I do know the effort must have worn her out because I later found her snoozing in the sun on top of the old hot tub cover. I get the feeling she will be spending a lot of time outside and made a mental note to do something special for her out there.

As far as the sisters, Yellow and Brown, from what I can tell they are almost always together.

Let me just tell you, these two are clearly the Boss Hounds of the group. What they say goes, and I get the impression the rest of us are just tolerated to do their bidding. They were not shy in letting me know I was not their first pick for the job- but apparently Nate BARKus was tied up on another Oprah home makeover. The only reason they called me was because their friend Pickles from the NOLA House on Davis gave me a good referral for the work I did on his beagle abode. I tried to win their favor by throwing out a few ideas that came to me while we were walking around but every idea was met with this look:

I’ll admit my “beaglese” is a little rusty but I don’t think you have to be fluent in the language to interpret that look! The chronic pleaser in me was just about in full-out panic mode when a leftover cookie fell out of my pocket and the entire vibe of the meeting changed. Suddenly the two were looking at me like I hung the moon and I swear I could have recommended a room dedicated to clipping nails and vaccinations and they would have been on board. From that point on anytime I felt like I was losing them I would drop a crumb and lead the conversation back to how my design would ultimately lead to them getting fed. Without a doubt, the kitchen/pantry will be where I focus my attention for these gals.

While the beagles in this group take center stage and I’m quite confident will be responsible for converting the entire Beaverfork hamlet into a Beaglefork nation, it was the non-beagle member of the clan, Gunner, that I felt an immediate connection to. He seemed a kindred spirit, if you will. I’m not sure if it’s the gray in his whiskers or his laid back demeanor but I just get the feeling that he is wise beyond his years and will be a valuable mentor throughout this renovation process. In addition to helping me out with the whole colorblind issue, it was Gunner who climbed into my lap and whispered “don’t worry…they’re all bark and no bite” when I was feeling especially overwhelmed with the demands and judgy eyes of the Sisters.

I want to make sure I design a special space for him to sit and pawnder the goings-on of his world.

Almost as an after thought, all four of them agreed I should throw in something nice for their Humans especially the human puppy who they can always count on to share her snacks and snuggles. I assured them I would keep them in mind;)

Needless to say, this should be a fun renovation and I am so honored they have entrusted me with the project. If you would like to stay up-to-date on the progress of this renovation I would encourage you to befriend Human Mother- Lacey Vance on FB and/or Instagram. I’m personally living the renovation and I still find myself getting excited to read her progress reports on the house- she is quite the writer and storyteller.

Aren’t they the cutest?? Missing from this family photo is Human Puppy, Scarlet, and Harry Pawter the cat.

As I close, I will leave you with some more “before” pictures of Beaglefork:

Living Room
Living Room
Dining Room
view from kitchen into sitting room and sun porch
sitting room off kitchen
sun room
Living room
Hall to master and guest room
main floor guest room
guest room
master bedroom
master bathroom
screened in porch
stairs to basement
basement fireplace and bonus space
1 of 2 downstairs bedrooms
extra room
future surprise space! For the Humans
safe room
back of house view

The Mountain Modern Before and Afters

At the conclusion of this week, the Mtn Modern will be officially adopted by the cutest young couple. It is time for a new chapter to be written within the well-insulated walls and on the firm foundation of this thoughtful, well-built home. True to my Storybook endings, I conclude this chapter with the befores and afters of my one and (hopefully) only pandemic project!

As is tradition, we will begin this before and after tour with the exterior- the first impression of the home.

Honestly there was nothing offensive about the curb appeal of this home to begin with- she was perfectly respectable. In fact, from the pictures the previous owners left for me I could see she was quite the looker at one time.

The only problem with the outside was that it did not match the modern feel I was trying to create on the inside. I went back and forth with my decision to renovate the exterior throughout the entire remodel. In fact, I did not decide to pull the trigger on the exterior until two weeks before the interior was complete. My head knew that the exterior remodel was not necessary and would not add anything to the appraised value of the home. In the end, my heart won out. I could not settle for anything but my best for this home- and that meant seeing my complete vision for the home to fruition.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is briersprings-mock-up.jpg

So I went for it! And I’m so glad that I did!

It turns out both my head and heart were spot on. The new facade perfectly compliments the interior vibe of the home and I truly believe it helped to attract her new home owners. Unfortunately, the appraiser did not have the same affection for her new facelift. My somewhat prideful decision landed this home more on the “flop” side of the flip or flop equation if based on profit alone. Right or wrong, flip or flop, I decided long ago that the “happily ever after” of each storybook renovation would not be determined by profit (or loss) alone but rather the impact her new story would have on her surrounding neighborhood, community, and most importantly the new family she shelters. Despite the fact that we were unable to show her off with our customary community reveal and give her the debut she deserved, her transformation is nonetheless special. Without further dwelling on yet another negative of 2020, let’s step inside!

As you enter the front door, you walk immediately into the living room. Notice in the before picture, a soffit wrapped the perimeter of the living room. It housed a plethora of up-lights and down-lights to add ambiance to the room.

While I appreciated the effort, I decided to let them go during the renovation.

The other BIG change in the Living Room was the fireplace facelift. Before, the home featured a wood burning fireplace flanked by pretty built-ins. But when I had the fireplace inspected by a chimney sweep company I was told it was not safe to use without major repair. Now, normally when I am given this news I simply demote the fireplace from functional to “decorative only” and move on. However, because this home’s story was based in the Carolina Mountains, I could not imagine this home without a real fire blazing on cold winter nights. So I simply had a new modern fireplace built in front of the old.

Because this home boasts a modern open floorplan, this room shares the space with what is always my favorite part of every house tour- the kitchen! Here she is before:

I mean really! Aren’t those some of the coolest cabinets you have ever seen! They kinda reminded me of what you might see in an RV and I seriously contemplated building the design story around them- but when I thought about how that would translate to the bathroom- I abandoned the idea.

Curious about what that arrow is pointing to on the countertop? You can read it about it here.

Out with the old, in with the new! I chose the moodiest dark blue for the cabinets and soapstone for the countertops. Then, I softened up the space with the light ash wood built-in, eat-in kitchen table and shelves. So much light literally pours into this now open, airy space!

If you peek through that pocket door opening to the left of the gas range you can see the new butler’s pantry.

Before, this space was only accessible from the laundry room. And the hot water tank sat loud and proud in the middle of the room.

But now, it functions as an extension of the kitchen and is where I picture the new home owners crafting their coffee and of course, using the microwave.

Aaaaaaand a spot for an extra refrigerator or standup freezer.

Well shoot, I thought I got a picture of the new laundry area, but I forgot! You’ll just have to trust me that now, the hot water heater is hidden inside its own designated closet and the washer and dryer have new cabinetry to house all the cleaning supplies and such.

Because bedrooms can be kinda boring on a before and after tour, especially without furniture, I’ll only show you one example of a before and after bedroom. Just multiply it by 4 in this home. I’m not sure the story of all the holes in the drywall but each room had them.

Aside from the holes, the bedrooms needed little work besides the normal paint and lighting. Aaaaand each bedroom boasted beautiful solid wood doors that cleaned up beautifully and truly became a feature in its Mountain Modern Story.

The final stops on our tour will be the 2 bathrooms beginning with the guest bath. The size and layout of the original bath was great only requiring an update.

Ta Dah!!!

And if you thought that was a fun transformation, check out the master bath. (I used this picture in a previous blog to point out the gift of the toilet paper left by the previous home owners- this was during the height of the toilet paper crisis)

This remodel did require us to borrow some space from the master bedroom and closet but I think it was worth the sacrifice. It now has a private potty room and a new soaker tub.

Whew! This renovation was truly unlike any other I’ve ever done as the world shutdown and tentatively opened back up to a whole new normal. So thanks for going on this tour with me today- I was so sad I could not show her to you in person. If any reno deserved her moment in the sun, it was certainly the Mtn Modern. Nevertheless, she stands proudly at the end of her wooded cul-de-sac as a reminder that beautiful, important things can flourish in even the hardest times.

The Tale of the Mountain Modern

It has been a long minute since we’ve heard from our favorite Storybook storyteller. But you know the saying…”Good things come to those who wait”? Well, there is no shortage of “good things” in this modern renovation tale. As a narrator for this story, please allow me, Sarah, to share the next chapter, The Mountain Modern, in the words of our girlboss, Niki Thompson.

Hello Storybook Readers, the time has come to tell you another little story. Although the pandemic is not central to the theme of this story, I do want to note, for posterity, this is my Covid-19 house…I hope the one and only. I closed on this home exactly 1 week before our spot on the map shut down and I’m about to put it on the market while we are still in the thick of it. Although we were able to keep working throughout this worldwide pandemic, it was not without consequences. Products were harder to come by and took longer to get. Meetings with subs took place 6’ apart. But perhaps most heartbreaking of all, I do not feel it is in the best interest of the health of humankind to host a public open house. So, for the majority of you, this blog site will be your closest visit to the latest edition of Storybook Homes. So stay tuned for future posts with pictures of the finished project! But for now….. let’s get on to the story…..

This story is unique from past storybook homes in that it was inspired by the actual words of its original author.

The day I closed on 40 Brier Springs Road, I unlocked the door and walked inside hoping the quiet, empty rooms of the “before” would spark inspiration for its next chapter. The wooded lot surrounding this home was already pulling me toward a mountain setting, but I was hopeful that something inside the house would give me greater insight into the details of the story. Never could I have imagined that the details would actually be waiting for me in an envelope left on the kitchen counter.

If you look closely you can see the envelope on the counter sitting behind the clorox wipes. And can we just pause to appreciate the fact that the previous home owners left a container of Clorox wipes and a 1/2 roll of toilet paper on the bathroom TP holder 1 week before these items held the equivalent value of gold in our country? I did not take these gifts for granted.

Inside the envelope were Polaroids taken during the homes original construction, a tiny cassette tape that I can only assume has information leading to treasure buried on the property but will remain hidden because I have no device available in which to decode, and a 2-page, typed love letter. Ok, it wasn’t really a love letter, but it might as well have been because on these 2 pages the original builder passionately laid bare what she felt was the most noteworthy features of this carefully constructed home in the following four categories: Structural, Energy Managment, Home Services, and Other Items.

After reading every last bullet point, I knew it was my duty to honor my predecessor’s forward thinking, above and beyond, modern building practices with a new design of the same integrity…the Mountain Modern. I let her words inspire me and I used my imagination to fill in the gaps where her words were missing. Starting with this picture:

See that lady there? The one with the hard hat, living her best life? She is my muse. Because the remaining artifacts did not tell me who the original builder was, aaaaaand I would rather rely on my imagination than go “fact find”, I’m telling myself and you- SHE is the original builder. I want to be her. She just looks like the type that wouldn’t go hide and cry in the attic when something goes wrong on a job-site or ever back down from a salty sub who doesn’t want to do what she says. I call her “Sandy”. To me, she looks like a “Sandy” but maybe it’s because, if I look a bit closer, she also reminds me of my mother-in-law, Sandy. She is a strong woman who takes no crap off nobody. She wouldn’t think twice about taking charge or dropping the hammer on anyone who doesn’t do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. And then clean the heck up after themselves when they do. Oh! To be a Sandy!!

Let me give a few specifics on how Sandy’s meticulous notes spoke into the design of The Mountain Modern on BrierSprings.

Under Structural item 1:

It reads: “The foundation is concrete-filled block on a reinforced footing. All the block have rebar in them tying them to the footing.  The 5’ (not 3” usual) floor slab has 6 gauge (not 10 gauge as is usually used) wire mesh. At the time the framing was done, I offered to pay $1.00 per inch to anyone who found a crack in the slab. Six people swept it and I did not pay a dime”

Oh my gosh…you guys! It was this paragraph, in particular, that made me fall in love with Sandy. That girl was so proud of her slab! I wanted to pay honor to that slab pride. So instead of covering it, I brought in a team to diamond polish it to let it shine in all its glory. During the process the grinding actually revealed the rock aggregate which reminded me of a creek bed winding through the mountain. And I hate to break it to Sandy but over the years, a few minor cracks did occur in her precious slab (which is to be expected). Rather than hide them we highlighted them and I truly believe that they add a certain “character” to the space.

Under Structural Item 3: 

“The brick is anchored to the footing and is tied to the walls every 24 inches. Portland cement mortar was used instead of common masonry cement.”

I decided not to hide the brick with paint and played off her pride in cement mortar by surfacing the linear fireplace surround, vent hood and outside modern decorative features in a cement/concrete compound. I thought this also added to the Mountain Modern feel.

Can I take just a second to introduce one of my favorite features of the renovation that I mentioned above? The linear fireplace. The original home had a wood burning fireplace but when I had the stove and chimney inspected I could not justify the cost for repairs. Normally, in this situation, I just deem the fireplace “decorative” and move on but I could not imagine a Mountain Modern Home without a functioning fireplace so I had this gas unit built in front of the existing fireplace. This little upgrade to the home is as useful as it is beautiful. We use the one in our own home constantly during the fall and winter. With the height of the ceiling and the openness of the living/dining/kitchen area, it provides ambiance and warms the space without overheating. Even though the fireplace turns on with a flip of a switch instead of the strike of a match, I added a wood stack cubby next to the fireplace to add to the woodsy mountain modern “feel”.

Saving the pic of the finished fireplace for the “after” post but here is a pic of the “during”:

Next Under Energy Management*:

(*I did not really do anything to add to this but she was very proud of her forward thinking energy saving strategies that I thought I would share them with you too.)

“The walls are an R-24 and the ceiling is an R-30. (This is the same as a good quality ice chest). The floor slab has 1” of perimeer insulation.  All corners and cracks received foamed-in urethane before the sheetrock went up.”

Sandy! I am not worthy! I don’t have any idea what you are talking about but I’m duly impressed. 

“All exterior walls are 2×6 studs (not the usual 2×4) and have a full 6”  batt of fiberglass in them, plus 1” of extruded polystyrene board (not styrofoam) for a total insulation value of R-24.”

Again hats off to Sandy! Let me add to this that we also found that Sandy insulated the interior walls too! 

Under # 5 The Heating and Cooling Systems:

The following is probably the most impressive part of her “Energy Management” strategy. 

“Water furnace, closed loop water source heat pump. Operates air conditioning or heat on less than $1.25 per day. The largest electric bill has been $108. The smallest has been $67.00 (insert me- Now readers remember this was written back in the early 90s so don’t get too excited). There is no Freon, so there is no expensive condensing unit outside. The heat removed from the house in the summertime is put into the hot water tank first. The rest is dissipated underground via the two 285 ft deep wells that the closed loop runs through.”

Bottom line, this house has a geothermal system!!! What?!? This was a total shock to me when I purchased the house. I walked around the house 3 times looking for the outside unit and couldn’t find it so I thought it had been stolen. Then, I had Freyaldenhoven walk around with me and he too was scratching his head until we opened up the outside storage room and found the box on the wall.  I still had no idea what it was but the friendly Freyalenhoven rep enlightened me. At that time, I knew this was going to be the best news of my day or the worst. It was awesome to have but if it needed replacing it would tank my budget. When he crawled up in the attic he was able to locate a serial number for the attic unit. He left with the promise to contact me to let me know if it was still operational. Well ladies and gentleman, he called me later that day and said (you are never going to believe this)…The unit was replaced in 2019!!! Score!!! It was the nicest gift any house has ever given me. Not only did it not need to be replaced, that unit was now going to be a major selling feature of the house. Thank You, previous owners! I did not take this gift for granted! 

Under “Home Services”:

Sandy was very considerate to make sure cable and phone lines were plentiful. I’m sure Sandy never imagined a day that gesture would be irrelevant.)

Under Other items:

#2 “All of the interior doors (except the closets) are 36” wide and SOLID CORE.” (Emphasis mine)

Thank you, Sandy! I thought the doors were beautiful so we just cleaned them up and put new matte black hardware on them. I think they add a lot to our Mountain Modern vibe.

Unfortunately, the acrylic tubs and barber sinks did not make it thru the renovation. But I think Sandy would be pleased with the replacements.

Now, let me give you a few additional elements that I, Niki of Storybook Homes, added to the developing story to further articulate the natural, Mountain Modern vibe. 

The ash wood highlights…

White Ash is particularly grown and harvested in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I wanted to feature this light and hearty mountain hardwood. Ash is found on the custom created, eat-in kitchen table. I chose Ash plywood for the oh-so-convenient butler’s pantry. I also had my Dad build a custom Ash top for the dining table. I did not do a ton of staging in keeping with the Mountain Modern design which highlights natural elements found in building materials, open spaces and sweeping structural design. However, I thought it was important to design and bring in the custom table to show the future homebuyer that there is indeed a designated dining space. This is in addition to the eat-in kitchen table installation. So much space for friends and family!

Since I already revealed the kitchen on social meeting, I’m going to break protocol, just this one time, to show you a picture of the Kitchen. Here, you can see an example of that beautiful Ash wood. (The rest of the “after” pics should hit your screen within the week)

The bold color choice…

The moody, deep blue, almost black cabinets and soapstone countertops remind me of the shadows cast by mountains over the valley as the sun is setting. It invokes a desire to be outdoors, maybe hiking, camping or just enjoying a warm fire on a cooler evening, roasting s’mores. With the intentional, almost secluded outdoor spaces created around the Mountain Modern, outdoor living is easy and it’s a “must”.

It’s time for us to draw the Mountain Modern chapter to a close. I, Sarah, the narrator, have seen this newest Storybook home and it definitely does not disappoint. In fact, next to my own Storybook cottage, this is one of my very favorites. The attention to detail and the “extras” make it extremely attractive to buyers with excellent taste. With 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, situated at the back of a quiet, established culs-de-sac, it’s perfect for a growing family. Right off Tyler Street, it’s in close proximity to schools, the library, the Tucker Creek trail system, local shops, coffee and grocery stores. I couldn’t imagine a better place to begin writing a new story!

Intrigued? Have we “peaked” your interest with The Mountain Modern?

For more info or to schedule your showing, give Niki Thompson a call at 501.472.3310.


Tile Installation and overall fix it man and rescuer of all the problems- Edwardo David

Painter Extrodinaire- Nick’s Painting

Cabinets- Jeff Perry

Electrician: JD Hall Electric

Plumber: Lucey Plumbing

Interior Framing: Julio

Carport/Front Porch Framing/Artist- Erik Menzie

Countertops: Countertop World

Effice Surfacing: RJ Plastering

Built-in Table and Front Door Carpenter- MBR woodworks

In the Kitchen with Storybook Homes…

Welcome to Niki Thompson’s Kitchen! Niki is the Founder and Designer behind Storybook Homes.

If you’re reading this, you’re on a journey with us through life on this planet. Through the ups and downs, there are people, places and moments that we value. Crafting a beautiful, functional kitchen, the heart of the home, to be able to tell your best stories is the goal of each Storybook Homes Kitchen. Above all, we want our homes to help you tell an overall meaningful story with friends, family and neighbors. From special celebrations to weeknight meals, the kitchen hosts both the large and small moments and everything in between.

Is there truly a better place to initiate the plot than in the kitchen? Intentional, well-designed, uniquely detailed kitchens build community and encourage storytelling. Let’s begin ours.

Many of you have anticipated this story…the Storybook Storyteller’s own story (no pressure, Niki!). And I, Sarah Henry, get to weave this tale. As you’ve driven down Carl Stuart, I’m sure you’ve imagined what the layout and design concept must be behind the beautifully modern painted brick and stained wood exterior. Well, here’s a snippet of what we’ve been waiting to share.

The mid century modern vibe is strong in Niki’s kitchen. As the owner and designer behind Storybook Homes, Niki had a clear picture of what she wanted in her own home kitchen. Her idea of home cooked meals in the context of a gorgeous space and a place large enough for family and friends and baseball teams to gather inspired the design and renovation. With a nod to history but with obvious modern conveniences, each choice from floor to ceiling was intentional and filtered through Niki’s unique design concept. The black and white contrast. The warmth of the precisely stained wooden floors and cabinets. The white marble countertops both beautiful and utilitarian.

I spent hours daydreaming about how I wanted my kitchen to both look and function. I knew that the kitchen was one of the first things you would see when you walked in the front door so I wanted to make sure it had enough “wow factor” to distract from the inevitable dirty dishes. And because the kitchen shared the open concept space with the living room, I wanted the cabinetry to feel more like furniture. Besides the gas range tucked in its alcove, I was mindful to keep all other appliances hidden behind cabinetry from the living room sight lines.

Niki Thompson, Homeowner/Girl Boss Designer and Founder of Storybook Homes

The openness of the kitchen is stunning and encouraged by the absence of walls and the slope of high ceilings. The abundance of natural light floods through bare windows trimmed in a bold black making it easy to conserve energy and at the same time, grow herbs and plants perched on the open wood and metal shelving. The design highlights and celebrates functionality in style.

The sleek cabinetry was built by Jeff Perry, a name you may recognize from previous SBH projects. The mid century modern style is characterized by highlighting natural design elements such as wood grain. The absence of hardware is intentional and allows the precision and artistry in woodworking to shine.

Built-in custom organization keeps everything in its place.When and where you can, customize these details. They are an easy and convenient upgrade.

The Designer behind the design…“Nothing gets my heart more a flutter than a good organizational system. Thanks to pinterest for the ideas and Jeff Perry for the implementation. Now every item has its place within the drawers of this kitchen.”

The view from the handcrafted concrete dinner table is gorgeous. A thoroughly modern staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms and ultimately, across the enclosed breezeway to the “man cave” located above the garage. A pot filler makes cooking convenient at Niki’s “dream stove”. The industrial details like the coated steel vent hood and stainless commercial stove keep the look of the kitchen stylishly modern where the mid century modern style could trend more nostalgic. No nostalgia here, guys. Industrial beauty and function reign supreme.

To the right of the stove is the laundry and mudroom. Again, tons of light from the windows!Step to the left, and through the doorway is a pass through, true Butler’s pantry. Let’s explore.

This hardworking little nook of a Butler’s pantry boasts another dishwasher, sink area, open wooden shelving, a coffee bar and refrigerator. This is a wonderful convenience for large families or for those who entertain often. Again, if you have the space and room in the budget, this little addition makes a world of difference and increases the value of your home immeasurably!

Regarding the Butler’s pantry, Niki says, “Honestly, as a Registered Dietitian I am more qualified to cook in the kitchen than design one. Up until about 5 years ago, along with weight management consulting, I also cooked healthy meals for families as a side gig. The worst part of that job was the clean-up! It would often take me at least 3 runs of the dishwasher to clean up after my weekly marathon cooking session. It was during that time in my life that I vowed one day I was going to have a home with 2 dishwashers. The butler’s pantry was the perfect spot to make that dream a reality. I know that it seems a little extravagant not that I’m just cooking for our family of four but I’m here to tell ya- I run that second dishwasher ALL THE TIME!”

Here’s a little gem of a recipe that Niki, the Registered Dietitian, uses consistently in her home during the summer months. It’s perfect for a family of 4 but easily doubled to feed a crowd!

Arugula Pear Salad is refreshing and full of flavor and packed with good fats and nutrients.

Ok, Storybook Friends…the time has come to bring this kitchen design tour to a close. But the ongoing story doesn’t have to end here! As many of you know, there’s another modern Storybook Home renovation in the making. The Mountain Modern in BrierSprings. Best completion estimate is end of July. If you like the look of Niki’s own kitchen, you’ll love the one in BrierSprings. And THIS home is available! Think of it as an incredible return on a wise investment. Niki has seen the future and this next story’s outcome, much like each home she designs, is bright.

The developing Mountain Modern…

Storybook Homes needs a buyer with extraordinary vision and a deep desire to invest in a home that writes a unique and incredible story. Let me introduce you, dear reader and Storybook Friend, to the Mountain Modern. Originally and carefully designed and built in 1990, this home is nestled into a wooded lot in the back of a quiet cul-de-sac in an established Conway neighborhood. It honestly feels like you’re in the mountains of Colorado. If school zones are an important factor in the purchase of a home, you’re in luck. This home is zoned for Julia Lee Moore…one of the best in Conway! Convenient to shopping and coffee, the Tucker Creek Trail, the Faulkner County Library and Bell Urban Farm, this home is close to everything. Just imagine being the first in line on a Saturday morning to purchase the stunning but elusive Bell Urban Farm fresh floral bouquet. Winning!

Logistically, this home boasts a new geothermal unit. It is extremely energy efficient. The original owners took great pride in the construction of this home and really went the extra mile. The bones are good! It is literally “built like a tank”. From the pictures provided to Niki at closing, it appears that the original builder was a female. One who took charge while showing up professionally with her stuff together and in her trusty hard hat. What a coincidence that 30 years later, another girl boss would be writing this home’s next chapter?

Back to the developing Mountain Modern storyline…If you like modern design like Niki’s own home on Carl Stuart Drive, you’ll love the open concept, clean lines and simple design of this house. Each Storybook Home is unique but there are some features in her home that she loves so much that she decided to share them with this one. Two of those features include both the linear fireplace and the butler’s pantry with extra fridge storage. According to Jae Curtis of freshome.com, a few unique design features of the Mountain Modern is the unique exterior with sharp, modern edges, an uncluttered layout, natural light from large windows and texture over color…building materials such as glass, wood, stone are emphasized. It is among the newest trends and the most sustainable lending itself to minimal to maximize the built in extras.

The complete story includes extensive interior and exterior renovation including a carport addition. This majestic Mountain Modern will include within its 2233 square foot footprint, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. A Master Suite with a woodland view. The exterior of the home will make a bold modern statement that will lead seamlessly to the interior. It is the complete package. And it’s almost finished!! The interior is 98% complete. The updated exterior is over halfway done and more than meeting expectations. This project is special.

A precedent has been set with Storybook Homes. When you invest in a Storybook Home, your investment is met with a guaranteed delivery of all that you expected and more.

If you would like more information about this project give Niki a call at (501) 472-3310 .

Ready to re•home and begin a new Story on Lee Street?

Welcome Home…

Each Storybook Home story embodies a stand-alone, extraordinary tale to be continued by the people who live and love within its walls and seek to make it their own. In true Storybook fashion and flourish, we will not bore you with a stale “rags to riches”, Cinderella kinda story. The transformation is only the beginning, a jumping off point. With these things in mind, let’s begin…

From shabby to chic, drab to fab, this swanky, fully renovated Ranch to Mid-century Modern home saw its first full transformation in 2016. When Niki Thompson, the fearless woman behind Storybook Homes, was operating under the name “re*home”, she may have been the only one to hear the voice of Dean Martin in her head, singing, “Everybody Loves Somebody” when she gazed lovingly at this tired 1960s Ranch. Nevertheless, undaunted, she began to write a new story for this home as she saw its true potential.

“I had been wanting to try mid-century modern design for a while so when we first looked at this 1960s ranch (style home), something about the skinny brick and faux fireplace of the exterior made me think ‘this just might be the house to give it a go.'” -Niki Thompson, “Farewell to Lee” July 2016

And did she ever “give it a go”. Belting out, “I’ve Gotta Be Me”, while channeling the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s Rat Pack, our charming storyteller wove a tale worthy to be featured in a Bogart film. Niki crafted within this home, a stunning showstopper in a Vegas review with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. at The Sands.

Open, gracious living and dining…kitchen

“Let me just say, the men that worked on this house (including my number 1 man) thought I was crazy when I started bringing brass into instead of out of the house. My plumber, straight up laughed at me and said that he hadn’t installed a brass fixture since the 90s. But as many of you know, brass is making a big comeback, and is HUGE in mid-mod design so I stuck to my guns and now this Lee Street cutie is proudly leading the cause to bring brass back in our neck of the woods.” -Niki Thompson, “Farewell to Lee” July 2016

Gorgeous tile, built-in storage cabinet…
Double vanity in Master Bath
Hall Bath

Niki looked into the future and indeed, it was golden. The warmth of brass throughout the home is perfectly paired with sleek, stained wood, exposed bulbs in glass fixtures and semi-glossy black cabinets. The large windows in the living/dining area look out onto the patio, backyard and wait for it…the Wampus Cat endzone.

Brass Sputnik fixture featured in dining area.

Let’s sit here for a minute. If you’ve ever attended a Conway Wampus Cat home game, you’ve certainly been captivated by the blazing firepit and the tailgating family freely enjoying the game with friends from the comfort of their own patio. Admit it…you’ve been a little envious.

Season ticket, end zone seats in your own backyard

Its location, story, meticulous attention to detail and extraordinary design are what drew the current homeowners to 2303 Lee Street. And, like Sinatra, they’ve done it “My Way” ever since.

Over the past 4 years, the Stewart Family has made this home their own. With an eclectic, colorful style, they’ve embraced the essential spirit of the intended mid-mod style within their home, but elevated it to include space for the additional energy and texture of modern art and functionality. The added value of the home’s generous outdoor spaces allow the family along with their friends to live easily between indoors and out. This home has certainly been cared for as it has cared for its people. It continues to shine and fully possess its intended vibrancy. It lives graciously and large within its open floor plan, 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. The attractive floor-to-ceiling built-ins offer extra storage for this family of 5. The master suite includes the “extras” we’ve come to expect from Storybook Homes, custom sliding doors that open to reveal a substantial walk-in closet with a convenient island. Every detail has been carefully considered and appointed. But the time has come for the Stewart Family to say “Goodbye” to 2303 Lee and build a new story in a different part of Conway.

This is simultaneously your re-introduction and invitation to live large in this Mid-century Modern retreat under the shady oaks of a well-established Conway neighborhood. If you’ve been wanting to continue your story in a Storybook Home, here’s your chance. 2303 Lee Street is only beginning to write a beautiful legacy.

“Everybody finds somebody someplace…there’s no telling where love may appear…something in my heart keeps saying…My someplace is here.” -Dean Martin, “Everybody Loves Somebody”

For more information on how this incredible Storybook Home can be yours, contact Justin Stewart at 501.428.1799.

2303 Lee Street
Conway, Arkansas 72034

Quarantine Clean the Deck or Walk the Plank!

When Niki first mentioned the title of this week’s installment (the second, if you’ve lost count of days, nights or time, in general) in her creative Quarantine Cleaning Games, I was all in. With my mind’s eye, I imagined a swashbuckling, high seas adventure in which scurvy (but cheerful) pirates, in full costume, danced and sang while cheerfully scrubbing the deck of their pirate ship! At the end of the musical number and after the many, but hilarious, near disasters, the deck shone and sparkled in the sunlight and the pirates collapsed in an exhausted but satisfied heap as they surveyed a hard morning’s work…accomplished in the 7 minutes it took to sing and dance their way to ship-shape. Alas, mateys, this is not the “deck” that our dear friend had in HER mind’s eye.

Ahoy! It’s time to locate and shuffle your trusty deck o’ CARDS and play along!

If you’re anything like our family, you can only handle so many hours of TV and/or screen time. We’ve pulled out games that we haven’t played in years. In the middle of our kitchen table is a bowl of accessible, quick and easy games…UNO, Tenzi, Phase 10, Bananagrams, Skip-Bo, Blink and the 3-4 decks of playing cards we’ve collected (but never intentionally purchased) from different places over the years. It’s kind of fun to remember where we got them…a vacation, signing up for a credit card, a “convention”. My chosen deck is a thousand years old. It was randomly acquired by playing a game at a Blockbuster in the 90s. I spun a wheel and “won” a deck of cards…an old promo item for the movie, “Honeymoon in Vegas“. Anyone remember that movie? Nicholas Cage, James Caan, Sarah Jessica Parker…yeah, me neither. I digress.

Onward! To the game!!

Last week’s game, “Clean B-I-N-G-O“, debuted a Creative Covid Cleaning Costume but this week, we assume you’ve mastered your attire and we dive right in. The video is quick, entertaining and helpful. Along with the video, I’ve attached the printable for you to fill out with your chosen tasks. “Clean the Deck” is not only an engaging game to get things done, it’s also a fantastic way to get your workout in. The rain will not stop already. Our gyms are closed. Why not try something different? Pushups, Push-outs, Mountain Climbers…Yep. You heard correctly. The “Clean the Deck” card game combines cleaning with exercise OR another healthy habit of your choosing…for example, if you dare, drinking 8 oz of water every time you draw a club. Apparently, Niki drew 6 clubs which meant she drank 48 oz of water throughout the afternoon and spent the night traveling back and forth to the bathroom which just happened to be remarkably clean.

This game could get SUPER challenging and interesting, friends. For example, you draw a 2 of hearts…2 is clean the toilet in the master bath. A heart is 10 mountain climbers. You clean the toilet. You do the mountain climbers. You move on and draw another card. You draw the 10 of hearts. A 10 is organize a drawer or clean the kitchen counters. And yep…another 10 mountain climbers. You get it done and keep moving. Next to each number and face card, there are blanks for 2 chores. If you’ve drawn a 2 of hearts and spades and happen to draw a 2 of diamonds or clubs, you choose the chore (or a reward, just sayin). If you’re up for an extra challenge, invite the family to play along by having them choose the chores for each number/face card, draw a card or do some pushups, every now and then, as they’re working hard in their virtual classrooms. It’s Health and PE, fellow homebound educators!

REWARDS. REWARDS. REWARDS. A nap. A snack. An episode of Tiger King while eating a snack. It’s whatever. You get it. You know how to treat yo’self. Jokers and Instruction Cards bring the welcome rewards. Tip: for those of you who like to “bend” the rules, add a couple of Jokers from another deck. This is YOUR game.

Until next week, enjoy the quick video. Print and fill out the “Clean the Deck” printable. Shuffle the cards or stack the deck. Just have fun while getting it done!

Whistle While You Work…Quarantine Cleaning Fun

Hey Friends! How you holding up??? It’s a weird time for us all, I know. One day, last week, after my 3rd nap in the same day, I thought to myself “I should really take advantage of this extra time and blog.” So I sat down, opened up wordpress, and…… nothing. Turns out a side effect of having quarantine related work withdrawal is major writer’s block. (No joke, those last 5 sentences took me 4 hours to write.) Sooo, rather than allow the ole blog to continue to sit stale, I asked my good friend, Sarah Henry, if she would mind stepping in for a few weeks to share her writing talents with the Storybook readers. And guess what?!?! Not only did she agree, she had an idea for a full series before we even got off the phone. She thought it would be fun if I shared some of my cleaning games with you!….. (I’ll pause this paragraph in order to allow time for your excitement to catch up)……..

My cleaning games are one of those things in my life that I don’t realize are “different” or “abnormal” from the normal population until I see my friends’ reactions when I casually mention one in everyday conversation. I mean, how do the rest of you get thru the drudgery of cleaning your homes week after week after week for your whole entire adult life FOREVER and EVER?? If you didn’t have a good answer for that question, you’re in luck! As long as this quarantine doesn’t last longer than 32 weeks, I have enough games to share to last your entire sequestering!

Here is how I’m thinking this will work: each week Colby and I will shoot a video demonstrating a new cleaning game, then I’ll send the video over to Sarah who will use her gift of words to write up a blog to coordinate with the game. Then (if you so choose) you can brighten our days by leaving a comment or picture on this blog (or any of our social pages) letting us know if you tried the game. What do you think??? Will you play along??? Sarah, you ready for this?!?!?!

I am! Quick question…Do you whistle while you work or give a little whistle and have someone else clean for you? Whatever your preferred method to get the chores done, one thing is for sure, our fairy godmothers are sheltering in (a far off) place and we are left to gaze lovingly into the faces of the beautiful but messy people and pets we share our homes with…indefinitely.

Completely confused but also curious? Keep reading…

If you’re like most of the modern world, you’re accustomed to a tight, busy, if not completely filled but fulfilling schedule. Sometimes working from home but mostly, on location. If you have precious cherubs at home, they are most likely at childcare or school during the day and your evenings are filled with practices and various commitments. Then, a global pandemic invades the kingdom, giving you a bad case of whiplash. Said pandemic brings all things involving groups and gatherings to a screeching halt and forces us to hunker down in our homes. It’s fine for a few days but then, you notice that the space you’re all sharing is dirty…really dirty. Significantly increased time at home is making you hyper aware of everything. All the people. All the clutter. All the towels and clothes in the floor. The shoes at the back door. Dishes in the sink. Pet hair everywhere because Spring. It is endless. You make a bold but feeble attempt to wave the Xbox controller like a magic wand to clean up the place but alas, it doesn’t quite work that way for you. You resist the urge to play a solo game of Just Dance to avoid the inevitable. Instead, you hide the controllers and you call your people to you. They come running. Ha…another bold but ineffective attempt. You scream louder like the house is on fire and they trickle in slowly. They’re now staring at you like you’ve lost your mind (because indeed, you have)…so now what?

Still curious?

I’m glad you asked. Allow me to open a different kind of storybook for you, Storybook Homes fans. I have observed firsthand how our favorite designer, the fabulous Niki Thompson, crafts the most creative games for herself when she’s cleaning her own gorgeously renovated home. I will reveal to you a few secrets from our fave and hopefully, to coax all the people under our roof to pitch in with the housework. Share the load with a smile (fingers crossed, it could happen?). Over the next few weeks, or until we are able to leave our cozy homes, join me for a series of time-tested and perfected cleaning games appropriate for ALL ages. These games are sure to make a dreaded task fun and challenging under the craziest of circumstances. Believe me, some days, a roll of the dice or the flip of a card with the promise of a reward is the only motivation to get the job done. The game possibilities are endless and it has taken Niki years to develop, test and refine the games featured in this series*. However, I asked her to choose only the best of the best to film and roll out for you good people (Because honestly, she has enough material to last months beyond this quarantine.). We are kicking off this series with a Thompson classic …C-L-E-A-N Bingo. Print out the card, label each square with a task, choose your rewards and let’s get to work!

*This Storybook Homes series is filmed, produced and edited by Colby’s Productions.

Sponsored by “comfy socks”, stretchy pants and the cozy sweatshirt/t-shirt combo.

Cross Street before and afters

Just wrapped up what could be my last flip for a long while (more on that in a minute) and thanks to the recent ice storm, I’ve got a little extra time on my hands so I thought I would knock out a quick before and after post for this poor neglected blog. To keep it “quick”, I vow to go heavy on the pictures (why you’re really here) and light on the written word. But before I give you your first picture let me tell you the short story of how I came to adopt this old town gem.

Back in late September of 2020 when I was nearing the end of my Briersprings project, I got a call from a gentleman telling me he had recently purchased the house across the street from his own home at an auction. He said the house had been neglected for years (I’m talking previous owner lived here with NO utilities kind of neglected) and had become unsafe and an eyesore for the neighborhood. He purchased the home so he could make sure the home would be well taken care of in the future. By the time he called me he had shown the house to several investors who all came to the same conclusion- “the value is in the land not the house- the house should be torn down.” This evaluation did not sit well with this neighbor because he purchased this home NOT with the intention of making a quick buck but rather with the goal of salvaging what he felt was a historic landmark to his neighborhood. Lucky for me, another neighbor suggested he reach out to Storybook Homes.

Honestly, I was not in a position to purchase another project when he called- I had just started the Caldwell project and it looked like I might be taking on a huge client project- beaglefork (I know I still owe you after pictures of that one). But when I pulled up and saw those clerestory windows in that front room it was all over for me- I was in love.

I mean, I already felt like the luckiest flipper in the world getting to work on one of the only true mid-century style homes in Conway (Caldwell) and here was another one staring back at me. How had I never seen this house before?!?! Now, I tell ya, the inside was a different story – very little charm and without a doubt in need of a complete to the studs gut, but honestly it was refreshing knowing what I was getting myself into versus finding out during the renovation. I ran home that day and did some quick math factoring in a) what I thought it would take to do an all-in all-out renovation, b) what I thought I might be able to sell it for – taking into consideration the loss of 300-400 sq feet converting the enclosed garage back into a functioning 2 car garage, and c) factoring in the fact it would be months before I would be able to start the project. I came up with a number and presented the magic number to Mr. Neighbor and after some very agreeable closing terms, 2016 Cross was mine!

I knew this house was a treasure and a gift from the beginning and I wanted to do this neighbor and the neighborhood proud with the renovation but during the months from purchase to when I actually had the time to devote to start the renovation, the housing market changed dramatically. Prices of homes skyrocketed which is awesome if you are a seller but if you are on the buying end it’s a little different. I had been used to purchasing fixer-upper homes for $30 to $60 a square foot and still having a hard time staying within a renovation budget that would allow for a small profit and now those same fixer-uppers are selling for over $100 a sq foot and cost of renovation labor and material are also going up so I know these prices will take me out of the game. So knowing this Cross Street project might be my last flip for a very long time I have intentionally tried to savor it. I’m talking like the last bite of your once-a-year birthday cake kind of savor. If I had an idea, I tried to incorporate it, while at the same time practicing enough restraint that the house did not look like a Pinterest page explosion (there is a fine line I tell ya). Knowing that I would be able to take advantage of the upside of this housing market I also splurged on a ton of extras like all the custom cabinetry beyond the typical kitchen and bathrooms, the upgraded tile, the hardwood flooring throughout, the extra plumbing fixtures like the sink in the butler’s pantry and double shower heads in the master shower, etc., etc., etc. If this was going to be my last flip I wanted to go out with a bang!

It’s almost picture time, just give me one more written paragraph – just enough space to tell you about the story. Although I have not taken the time to write out the full story, I will tell you that the house was designed with a barefoot bohemian gypsy in mind. To be honest, I was influenced by the abandoned story I had started at the Caldwell mid-century home before owner Brad came on board and influenced that story to go a little more tiki funky (no regrets BTW). My goal with this home was to lean more to a laid-back desert pallet with soft cacti greens and terracotta accents. I wanted the home to feel currated like a well-traveled gypsy but in a chill bohemian kind of way. So if you’re curious about what that looks like…. let’s get to the pictures!

As is tradition let’s start with the outside.

Here is the view that first captured my heart. Notice the wood planks between the rocks and the enclosed garage on the left.

It truly had a cool vibe from day 1 so I knew it would not need a complete overhaul on the outside. My main goals were to replace the wood planks with windows, convert the enclosed garage back into a garage and give the front entry a little more pizazz

Oh, and I wanted to highlight the rock patio that was existing off the right of the house.

So here is how those goals played out:

All the rock you see in the landscaping and inside the home was found on the property.

David chipped out all the old mortar in the rock patio and put back new. Now the side patio serves as an extension of the living space- a great space to entertain a large group of people

You ready to go inside? That’s where the real changes occurred.

For those of us who geek out over floorplans… let me show you the before layout.

Oh my goodness – that’s bad. I can barely understand it and I drew it. In my defense, when I was drawing the floorplan out, I was inside what looked like an abandoned horror film set, all by myself, so I was measuring and sketching as fast as I could possibly go so I could get out of there.

Here is the new layout that I was able to sketch in the comfort of my own home:

Still gibberish?…. how about I just show you the pics.

Inside the front door

Before, when you entered that front door you were greeted by a wall of mirrors, you could either 1) turn right into the living room 2) turn left down a narrow hall, or 3) go through the water-damaged foundation.

But now….

When you enter, you are standing on a firm foundation with a peek into the heart of the home- the kitchen. The pony wall gives a nice separation and helps hide any cooking mess that might be going on.

Before I take you on into the kitchen, let’s turn Right into the Living Room:

Here was how I found her….

Don’t you just love a feature wall?!? What this picture does not adequately show is how terrible the foundation was in this room. A tree limb had fallen on this portion of the house and had suffered quite a bit of water damage before it was patched up.

During the renovation, the subfloor was ripped up and new floor joists were added, the windows were opened back up, and the fireplace got a makeover.

Incendently, my view into my current naked living room situation…

That’s a sign of true love and support from my family that they would help me move all of our living room furniture over to stage for the upcoming open house.

Anyways… back to the tour. Let’s go on into the kitchen….

Before the current kitchen location was one of the 3 bedrooms.

Because the house is on a crawl space and I knew I was replacing all the plumbing lines anyway, I decided to move the kitchen across the hall into this space and open it up to the living room.

I wanted the backside of the fireplace to be a feature so I made it the backdrop of the range and vent hood. And speaking of vent hood…..I found this venthood that reminded me of a mid-century chiminea and I thought it would be perfect for the space. I had Nick’s painting team spray it up a high gloss creamy white to match the rest of the house- and it might just be one of my favorite features.

Check out that custom table. My dad came through again! Cushions for the custom bench coming soon! Although the kitchen has doubled in size from its former spot, she is still on the smaller side so I tried really hard to use every square inch thoughtfully. I even had Jeff Perry make me this pull put counter space, for extra prep or serving.

And to help with storage, I used part of the laundry room as a mud/butler’s pantry. Complete with a large pantry and space for an extra fridge or freezer. I also envision the small sink area as a great place to keep your coffee pot.

Speaking of laundry/mud/butler pantry space, that location use to be the home of the kitchen and guest bathroom. Let me show ya…

to orient you, that window above the new washer and dryer place is the same placement as the old kitchen window. And then behind the cabinets on the left of the window was a guest bathroom.

Here is a pic that shows the space opened up (kinda). This pic was taken in the garage showing where the new garage door leading into the laundry room would be. (just trust me)

Before we go into the master suite let me show you the old master suite:

Because I moved the master suite to the other side of the house and got rid of the guest bath, I created a hall to the former master suite so it could serve as the new guest bath.

Look at those handles! Aren’t they the cutest! I have a new friend, Erica of TS Design Co, who I have discovered can make just about anything. If I had only known of her talents months ago, no telling what else would have happened to this house.

So now let me take you to the new master suite. Remember that pic of the old kitchen? The area I was standing in to take the picture of the kitchen was like a dining/extra living area.

I’m not sure why I didn’t get a better picture of the space but from that room there was a door that lead out to the enclosed garage (seriously how do I not have a picture of this?) and at the back of the enclosed garage was this lean-to shed with doors that led out to the backyard.

During the renovation, I recaptured the garage so I lost livable square footage, so to help offset the loss I converted the lean-to shed into the new master bath/closet.

So past that sliding door would have been where you entered the old enclosed garage. But now..

it leads to a little dressing area/flex space as you pass through to the master bathroom:

And finally, look at that master closet. A nice walk-in closet is something you don’t take for granted in an old town home.

Well, there you have it! Did you feel the boho vibe?!? Whatcha think?!?! I know I say it every time… but I think this might be my new favorite. And I can say things like that and it not be totally prideful because I am personally responsible for so little of it. So as I sign off on this before and after blog let me leave you with a list of the true craftsman responsible for taking this home out of my head and into reality.

Captain of the dream team and guru of all things flooring: DAVID

Painter Extrodinair and longest member of the dream team- Nicks Painting

Cabinet Artist: Jeff Perry

Countertops: Countertop World

Trim: Precision Trim

Specialty Carpentry: Caleb

Roof and Gutters: AR Roofing Kompany

Deck and Fence: Jeff Hill

Specialty knobs and overall maker extrodinaire- TS Design Co.

Welder: Chad

Electician- JD Hall

Plumber: Robert Jones

HVAC: Freyaldenhoven

Framing: Julio

Sheetrock: Tito

Insulation: Mid State

Garage Door: Coney

Landscape: Thessing Lawn

And my friends at the pro desk of Lowes and Rideout.

If I left someone out, it was not intentional – no one made me cry this time!