Down a scenic, twisty highway, across a cattle grate and at the end of a gravel driveway in rural Saline County is a barn. Its metal roof extends gracefully over the front porch.
But this isn’t the kind of place you store hay. Inside, Sandy and Steve Landers have made a warm, welcoming family retreat, combining the past, present and future in a home away from home.
Atop a kitchen cabinet rests a milk urn once used by Sandy Landers’ grandfather on his farm in Hickory Ridge and the Stanley thermos her dad would fill with coffee each morning throughout her childhood.
“Daddy loved coffee and just took it everywhere,” she says of the classic green thermos. “A lot of this, in my mind, was thinking of my mom and my grandmother. They’re just little family touches, things that are special to me.”
Sewing machines that belonged to her great-aunt and grandmother, a drawer of one of the sewing machine tables still holding a pair of glasses and an old razor that belonged to someone in the family and her great-aunt’s rocking chair are also among the special pieces of family history Sandy asked interior designer Tom Chandler and his team to incorporate in the home.
Older bits of memorabilia sit juxtaposed against the contemporary track lighting and zinc countertops in the kitchen. This is where Sandy spends time preparing big meals for her extended family and canning tomatoes and tomato juice, blackberry and cranberry jam, pear preserves and orange marmalade — skills she learned from her mother. The pantry is filled with her culinary handiwork. It’s almost effortless to imagine the scent of a big, home-cooked meal dancing alongside the aroma of burning logs on the fire.
The dining room table, made by a family friend from a single piece of sunken cypress, seats 12, next to a wall of windows. Those windows lend a view of the patio and the woods beyond it, where a mammoth rock, collected from somewhere on the 700-acre property, serves as a table.
A life-sized Sasquatch, a gift Sandy bought for her husband from Good Earth Garden Center, appears to have paused in mid-step, gazing through the window to see what’s for dinner.
“He moves around,” quips Landers. “You never know where he might end up.”
Another whimsical touch, an enamel-coated bronze frog christened “Willie Jump,” crafted by Frogman Tim Cotterill, is poised on a beam over the table.
The Landers barn — actually two barns, one considerably smaller than the other — was built from hemlock reclaimed from barns constructed in the 18th century, in Berne, Pennsylavania, and provided by Heritage Restorations of Waco, Texas.
“The Pennsylvania Dutch were known for their craftsmanship,” says Brian Carney, the builder behind the Landers’ barn. “We had the opportunity to watch that structure being reconstructed. It presented numerous challenges in that it was originally constructed as a barn, not as a home. But it’s a great, unique structure.”
The two barns were located on the same Pennsylvania site, but they weren’t connected. They were joined for this project, and Carney says two structural bents were added to the original structures, using a similar vintage wood.
The Rumford fireplace is both indoor and outdoor, making the patio, as well as the cozy sectional in the living room, an inviting place to curl up with a blanket and read or watch TV on cool nights. Ozark-sourced rock is used from floor to ceiling around the fireplace, and includes an Arkansas-shaped stone that Carney surprised the Landers with during construction.
Sandy recently roasted marshmallows on the patio with her youngest granddaughter. Her marshmallow roaster, an unwound coat hanger she says does the job just fine, rests among the handcrafted fireplace tools.
The French sconces, which Chandler and his team found in an antique store, are not far from the Humberto Degarrio painting that serves as backdrop to a one-of-a-kind, Jordan Betten-designed butterfly chair. The chair, which has a cobra skin seat, arms and back, is one of five Betten was commissioned to create for McGuire Furniture.
An 85-pound crystal found on Mount Ida sits on a stand commissioned by John Stoller beneath rough, wooden stairs. The stairs’ iron rails resemble branches, reaching upward to the loft. In the loft, there are shuffleboards and pool tables, comfortable seating and a few special touches for the Landers’ five grandchildren — velvety chairs, sparkly-framed mirrors and a bunk room that sleeps six.
A half-door opens into a nook Sandy had considered using for storage or as a playroom. She ultimately decided to make the room a haven for her eldest granddaughter. Inside is a trundle bed for friends who sleep over, and figurines once belonging to Sandy’s grandmother and aunt are nestled among books and more contemporary pieces of art.
Back downstairs, the master bathroom is concealed by a sliding barn door with hardware made by Eureka Ironworks, the same Eureka Springs-based company that designed the stair railings. Inside, the polished stone used for the bathroom floor book-matches the shower. It was once one piece, cut in half for a matching design in both pieces on the wall. The edges of the stone are rough, adding a contrast of texture to the smoothness of the flat surfaces.
A reading nook in the master bedroom is lit by simple industrial sconces with Edison bulbs. A tablecloth made by a friend tops one of the tables, giving the room a peaceful, relaxed feel.
One of the home’s bathrooms features a claw-footed tub, along with the same stone floor.
The mismatched knobs on drawers and doors throughout the home are antiques, both crystal and enameled. Landers and her friends and family found them especially for the project. In the kitchen, a sink knob marked “hot” operates the dishwasher and one labeled “cold” for the ice maker.
“I love the knobs, and I love how they don’t match,” she says. “I had people looking for those everywhere.”
There is a bowl filled with antique keys on the coffee table in the living room. Landers found those while she was on a trip to Cannes, in the French Riviera.
An amoeba-shaped table, a classic style, holds a Japanese Raku pottery bowl. Both blend the rustic style of the barn with a chic contemporary look, bringing in gold touches to add light to the wood.
The Landers barn is a project Chandler is particularly proud of.
“Certainly, the design team, and particularly Sandy Landers, had a real connection,” he says. “She was lovely to work with and allowed us to be as creative as we are and [she was] very open-minded to any of our suggestions, as we were to hers. Anything she wanted incorporated, we made that work.
“We really appreciate an approach to design where it feels like an evolution, like it evolved, so that helps us get belongings from her past to what would be considered contemporary at this time,” Chandler adds. “It’s just the best of the old and the best of the new.”
Sandy isn’t finished, either. She hopes to put a chapel on the property, behind the home, as well as an actual barn. But for now, this warm, inviting place still draws her family in and makes her reluctant to leave.
It’s not the Landers’ primary residence. And the commute into Little Rock can be a long one. But Sandy and Steve spend as much time in their barn as they can, she says. She always brings knitting, her Bible study materials and plenty of food.
“He loves it out here,” Landers says of her husband, Steve. “We love it out here. When we get out here we don’t want to go home. I’m just in peace.”
Photography by Jamison Mosley