July 31st, 2013
I’m not an interior design critic or writer. But show me a beautiful house when I have my camera in-hand and I can play one on the internet.
I wasn’t particularly surprised that P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm home looks like a spread from Traditional Home magazine. After all, he’s firmly rooted in the South, resisting to move his media empire to New York City or Los Angeles. He has that whole Southern elegance thing going on. The house is located on a 650-acre spread overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. And he has developed a certain persona that suggests traditional rather than contemporary.
I was surprised, however, that he opened the doors and let 25 guest bloggers during a recent hosted tour called Garden2Blog 2013 just wander through with their cameras.
Smith kindly provided a welcome and introductory remarks that described his historical research into Southern historic houses and the efforts to build Moss Mountain Farm home in the Greek Revival style four years ago. Because of his research into the characteristics of period houses, his house is almost a study in architecture of the time. It is a three-story structure with high ceilings, deep walls, hidden doors and screened porches extending along the back of the house overlooking the Arkansas River Valley.
The interior is a little crowded by contemporary design standards, filled with stuff chairs, arrangements of collections and stacks of book on tables. It’s all very comfortable and pleasing—the kind of place you would enjoy curling up with a good book and a glass of wine.
I certainly hope Smith gets to do that with all his busy-ness. He seems to be forever launching something, making something, promoting something, talking about something, doing, doing, doing.
In addition to his gardening and cooking activities, Smith is also a talented artist. When he went off to study in England his grandmother asked if his plans were to study painting. Smith demurred, saying he planned to study horticulture. “Well, you’re a damned fool,” she replied. (Grandmothers in the South curse in a very charming way, when necessary.)
The house is so photo perfect that some of the bloggers on the tour whispered, “Do you think he really lives here?” Certainly he must, but I caught more than one peaking in kitchen cabinets. I wish I had the nerve to peak inside the refrigerator for signs of habitation—a carton of milk, some leftover chili, a half-eaten carton of vanilla yogurt. I did spot a loaf of store bought bread (gasp) under a cake dome.
White-on-white rooms have become cliché in the home decorating magazines. In fact, the editor of Architectural Digest recently commented that the majority of the photos she sees cross her desk are white-on-white. People are so afraid of color!
Nevertheless, my favorite room in the house was the white-on-white, sun-filled kitchen. Kitchens get a pass on my judgment against white-on-white because I think the food should take center stage and not get lost in a sea of color. White also seems more sanitary. If you’ve ever had a white-on-white kitchen, you know why that’s the case. You see every little marinara splash and panko bread crumb. Scrub, scrub, wipe, wipe.
A huge, marble-topped center island fills the center of the kitchen. White ceramic ware arrangements are artfully arranged here and there. There are milky white walls, white appliances and white glass pendant lighting.
What’s an elegant farmhouse without a mud room? Well, you haven’t ever seen a mud room like P. Allen Smith’s mud room. I saw no mud. There was evidence that this is a working area since there were bottles of plant fertilizer, rolls of paper towels and a jumble (an elegant jumble) of flower arranging containers.
The upstairs screened-in porch is arranged as a sleeping porch, with a deep, hand-forged, open-air copper tub at one end. Smith still seemed a bit uncertain about the decor.
“I hope it doesn’t look like an infirmary.”
Upstairs a central foyer is cram packed with a central table and a collection of nature-related treasures. There are only two bedrooms on the second floor of the three-story house–a guest room decorated in greys and mauves and the master bedroom.
Smith has created a comfortable and lovely home to go with his beautiful gardens. And speaking of gardens, P. Allen Smith’s expansive gardens will be the subject of another post. Soon.
Posted In: Gardening
July 24th, 2013
Country living can be elegant. P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm is a perfect example.
Back in May I was surprised and pleased to be invited to join a bunch of other bloggers to visit P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, Arkansas, for Garden2Blog13. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you probably recognize his face. P. Allen Smith is the gently-Southern-accented spokesperson for Proven Winners plants, is a television garden celebrity and has a whole slew of books on food and gardening.
Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm is about a 45 minute drive from Little Rock. Although not a public space—after all, it is his home—even the average Joe can tour the farm with reservations and a paid ticket. Smith and his highly professional staff do such a volume of tour business that they have built public restrooms and opened a gift shop. Still, we were welcome to wander not just the gardens, but also his elegant home.
The Greek Revival house at Moss Mountain Farm looks as if it has been there for decades. In fact, it was built just built less than five years ago but with the benefit of meticulous research into historic houses. Like many older houses, the house looks as if it has been expanded here and there over the years. Even the exterior patina of the paint is artfully aged and chipped to resemble a historic home. (I’ll share some photos of inside the home in a separate post.)
Aside from enjoying wandering through the ornamental and vegetable gardens I particularly appreciated the intelligent and interesting presentations from Jobe’s Organics fertilizers and Star Roses and Plants. There was a cool hands-on demonstration from Troy-Bilt of their lawn care products. (I’m still disappointed I didn’t win the big prize of that one). Bonnie Plants, which I didn’t realize I have been buying for years, gave a fun presentation. And Laguna Ponds provided a multi-part, step-by-step demonstration of how to build a pond.
I have lots of photos to share of inside his elegant home and, of course, the gardens. Come back again to see more.
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