The story of how an '80s canopy bed led me into the former home of renowned Little Rock architect Rick Redden
By Rebekah Hall Scott
In early 2022, I picked up a copy of "At Home with Southern Living" from a thrift store. At the time, my husband and I were in between homes and had recently moved in with my parents, so I was devouring interior design content to scratch my (insatiable) decorating itch. The book, published in 1984, is an impressive effort by the magazine to compile beautiful homes from across the South and educate readers on different elements of home décor, renovation, building, and creative solutions for comfortable and elegant living. Many of the homes belonged to architects and their families. While some of the featured homes' furnishings are reasonably outdated, much of the book's content has stood the test of time or come back around to being en vogue. I'm thrilled by the variation in decorating style across the homes featured in the book — none of the homogenous takes on gray and white found in many mainstream "designed" homes of today. The book is rich with inspiration and information, but one particular story about a home in Little Rock lodged itself in my brain.
The story kicks off the last chapter of the book, the chapter on "Personal Style," and it's a fitting introduction to this theme. When I turned to this page for the first time, I felt instantly welcomed by the warmth of the living room, with its glowing pine beams, walls of built-in bookshelves, and the evidence of a loved home that is well lived in: stacks of books and records, family photos, paintings and knick-knacks. When I read the home was in Little Rock, I couldn't believe my luck.
Turning the page to the second set of photos in the spread, my jaw dropped. The entire second level of the home was devoted to one of the dreamiest master bedrooms I've ever seen. Open and airy with high ceilings, and the creme de la creme: a simple but dramatic canopy bed, which featured the genius use of PVC plastic pipe hung from the ceiling as the rods for the long, crisp white curtains.
I think this is such a smart and effective way of making a statement and highlighting the verticality of the space. It's so chic and dreamy. Combined with the balconies on either end of the room and the skylight above the middle stair core, the effect of the room is that of a treehouse. I bookmarked this page both literally and mentally, and from the book's index, I got the name of the homeowner and architect, Rick Redden.
Rick was one of the founding partners of Allison Moses Redden (or AMR Architects, Inc.), a renowned Little Rock firm responsible for the River Market pavilion, the Museum of Discovery, the Mullins Library on the University of Arkansas campus, and many more projects in Arkansas. Rick died of cancer in 2012, leaving an incredible legacy. I always wondered where in Little Rock his former home was and kept an eye out for it since.
Fast forward to August 2023. I'm browsing Zillow one afternoon at work, as I'm wont to do, and come across a listing for a house on Lookout Road in Little Rock. Keep in mind the outside of Rick's home was not featured in the book, so I don't recognize it from the outside. I'm intrigued by the beautifully worn wood of the house's façade and the simple steeply pitched roof. As soon as I click to the first picture of the interior, I recognize the living room's built-in bookshelves immediately. This is the canopy bed house! My wheels start turning and I text my friend Joanna, who's a Realtor with the Janet Jones Company Joanna, angel that she is, immediately responds enthusiastically and schedules us to look at the home two days later. It's currently listed by Casey Jones with the Janet Jones Company.
Pulling up to the home, it is not lost on me that I spent over a year thinking about a house in a book and now I'm seeing it in person. While the home has seen plenty of changes since it was built in 1981, its gravitas remains — it was clearly built by someone who took great care in its proportions, angles, sources of light, and aura: how it makes people feel.
Above: The tiered stone terrace greets visitors in front of the home, which is entered through an alley. Looking up at the house from below, the crispness of the roofline feels especially dramatic.
In the original Southern Living Magazine article that Rick's home was featured in, author Louis Joyner writes, "The half-century-old houses of the neighborhood and the barns of Arkansas inspired the simple form and steep roof slope of the house." Kate East, daughter of Rick and Laura Redden, told me her parents were also heavily inspired by their time spent living in Switzerland after Rick graduated from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas.
"They both just loved the chalets in Switzerland," Kate said. "They wanted so badly to recreate that. Living over there as young people was extremely influential for them. They had never really traveled out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is mind-blowing."
Kate said the wood used throughout the home — shelves, shutters, beams, the turned column of the staircase, and all the woodwork — were all due to this time spent in Switzerland. She credits her mom with the warm, welcoming atmosphere of the interiors that was so palpable in the Southern Living images.
"My mom is very much an artist and creates the interior spaces really well," she said. "She's always made our homes, interiors wise, what they are. She's not a designer, she just has a great eye. It doesn't mean my dad didn't have strong opinions, but she really knows how to make a house cozy. Like the built-in bookshelves, that's really her type of thing. She's a painter, so she always wanted places to put her artwork."
The original Southern Living article is titled "Designed with Light in Mind," and Kate affirms that lighting was important to both of her parents. "He and my mom have always been very particular about light," she said. "They're particular about getting it on at least two sides, and no overhead lighting." No big light, they said! I feel vindicated!
Inside the home, despite it being many years removed from the original occupants, the play of light remains central to the experience. It is literally central within the home: a large skylight brings light down through the staircase in the middle of the house.
Kate was brought to this home when she was born and lived there with her parents until she was three years old. While she doesn't have many memories of living there, her parents also bought the lot next door to this home, and Rick designed the house next door in 2005 for Kate to live in. During that experience, Kate said her father expanded on choices he made in the first home.
"While working on the more modern house with my dad, he reflected a lot back on [the first house,]" Kate said. "They built that balcony off of what was the master suite, and that was very effective to him. He did use the term treehouse a lot when building my house."
Kate said Rick wanted to put more windows on the side of the house facing Allsopp Park, which he ended up doing in her home next door.
"He was always like, 'You're not going to need any artwork, because it's just a giant green wall,'" Kate said. "Working with him on the new house, it was all the things he liked and wished he'd done more of on the first house."
Across all of the spaces Rick created, Kate said the through-line is making them welcoming and engaging for people.
"He was always trying to figure out how to make spaces for humans," Kate said. "I think a lot of architects, they're more about the shape of the building and getting that cool shot from far away. He was very much like, 'I'll design to any style, as long as it accommodates people, encourages interaction with the building and its occupants, and encourages pedestrian activity.'"
In 2005, Kate joined the firm her father founded, while working on her degree in interior design. She is now a principal at AMR, Inc. I asked Kate how it feels to work in architecture and design in a city where her father's legacy is so present.
"I think it's wonderful because even when he was alive, we were always living, working, going to places that he'd worked on," she said. "We always worked in a building that he had designed. It's been like that my whole life."
Though Kate and her parents moved out of the home on Lookout after a few years and into an apartment in the same building as her dad's office, Kate said her mom still reflects warmly about their time living in the house. "She remembers it very fondly," Kate said. "They loved it."
Above: Snapshots from the home. Joanna tries to sneak out of a shot of the kitchen and staircase; a corner of an upstairs bedroom with parquet floors is flooded in afternoon sunlight (wouldn't that little spot under the eaves be a perfect reading corner or moody nook for a teenager?); kitchen windows look out to the stone garden and terrace in front of the house; a square skylight delights in the Butter Yellow bathroom upstairs; a pine turned column anchors the staircase and the open living room, dining room and kitchen; empty built-in bookshelves in the living room just awaiting the treasures of the next occupants.
I will say again that it feels surreal to have coveted this home in the pages of a book and then be able to step foot inside. What a privilege. If I had a spare $400k, I'd snap up this beauty in a heartbeat. In the right hands, this home could be restored and refreshed in a way that feels true to the creative spirit of its original designer. I would hate to see any of the original woodwork go, and I would love to see the second level opened back up as one large master suite. And, obviously, I think it would be complete with a gorgeous canopy bed stretching towards the stars.
A big huge special thank you to my friend Joanna Fureigh for supporting Butter Yellow Home from its first rumblings in my brain and for her help making this story possible. If you're selling or buying your home in Central Arkansas, I can think of no better advocate. Learn more about her and contact her here.