Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

Following a cross-country move, designer Melissa Hall Simmons employs a timeless palette and chic accents to refresh a Northwest Arkansas family home.

Text: Tiffany Adams
Photography: Rett Peek

Relocating from the West Coast to Northwest Arkansas brought new opportunities for this family of five—particularly when it came to their home. Settling into a spacious residence nestled in a Fayetteville neighborhood, word of mouth led them to designer Melissa Hall Simmons, owner and principal designer at Studio MH, to make it fit their needs as well as their style. “They had lived in a modern, ranch-style home in California,” Simmons says. “And this was a very traditional, European-style house, so they wanted to strip it down a bit.”

Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

Studio MH Designs Neutral Northwest Arkansas Home

However, the contemporary bend of the client was anything but sterile; instead, they opted to refresh traditional treatments and intentionally selected eye-catching pieces, ushering in an air of elevated drama in even the most functional of rooms. “She has a modern aesthetic but was very open to our ideas,” Simmons says. “She is drawn to neutrals and doesn’t like a lot of patterns or bold colors; essentially, she wanted it to feel clean and comfortable.”

“This was meant to be a statement room, so everything is a bit more luxurious,” Simmons says, pointing to the formal living room’s striated draperies. Artwork takes center stage against tone-on-tone furnishings in the neutral color scheme. “I’m very attuned to finishes and details when we’re working with a monochromatic palette,” the designer adds.

The dining room’s bones were revived with a fresh coat of paint paired with a Nobilis wallpaper. Exposed-leg walnut chairs in a rich hue command attention around the table. “There’s meant to be a bit of drama here,” Simmons says. “The room has a French, modern-chic feel.” The artwork seen over the fluted console is by contemporary artist Laura Naples.

The biggest transformation came in the kitchen and adjoining family room and breakfast nook. The neutral palette is uninterrupted, allowing the family’s day-to-day activities and conversations to be the focus, yet style was not sacrificed. “These spaces have a bit of a casual, California feel now,” Simmons says, noting the couple’s previous home on the West Coast. The screened porch was updated with informal furnishings that invite the family and their guests to kick back and relax.

Built in the early 2000s, the designer notes the residence had a lot going for it, including a layout conducive to family life and entertaining as well as an abundance of timeless millwork. “When I see a house that has great millwork—with a geometric or grid-like style—I like to stick with those traditional bones and then bring in the more modern touches with the furnishings,” Simmons says.

While most of the home received cosmetic updates, such as fresh paint, new lighting, and updated flooring, the kitchen and its adjoining family room and breakfast nook got a full renovation to create a more continuous communal space. The kitchen was reconfigured to include a large island where homework can happen alongside snack time, while the walls of the family room, formerly covered in a faux stone treatment, were streamlined with drywall and the ceiling was vaulted. This resulted in an open, casual area that has become the family’s main hangout. The breakfast nook adheres to this clean style but not without its own sense of drama, including a built-in bookcase that doubles as a secret door, leading to the family’s garage gym.

The primary bedroom focuses on detail, starting with an understated Phillip Jeffries wallcovering and leading to a canopy bed that is a mix of polished chrome and wood. Plush furnishings and a Holly Hunt fabric on the window treatments signal a luxurious atmosphere.

One neutral paint color covers everything from millwork and trim to the main rooms’ walls, giving uninterrupted flow while also providing a backdrop for furnishings and art—a place where a refined level of chic began to take shape. “We had such a fun time working on the art because they wanted to invest and start a collection of original pieces,” Simmons notes. Throughout the design, regional and up-and-coming artists are mixed with more established, well-known ones, creating a delightful rhythm from room to room. Visual interest is also piqued through furniture selections, notably the French modern chairs in the dining room, which stand out in both form and hue in an otherwise neutral, structured space. “Living in California, they had half the square footage they do now and were ready to make an investment in pieces that would have longevity,” Simmons adds.

The look carries into the home’s more private spaces, including the primary bedroom. “Even though it’s all neutral, we really had a lot of fun playing with color here and finding just the right hues and textures,” the designer says. For example, the canopy bed is an artful mix of stained wood and polished chrome. The statement piece is set against a sateen, champagne-colored wallcovering and accented with quilted bedding and velvet fabrics. “When you deal in monochromatic colors, the combination of subtle details really makes the room,” Simmons says.

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