Here’s how Skiles Architect combined both to give Brian and Ashley Bailey the kind of home that stops passers-by in their tracks.
I’m walking through Ashley and Brian Bailey’s master suite in south Fayetteville, and even though I should probably be focusing on things like passive-solar techniques as Ashley and architect Lisa Skiles lead me on a nickel tour of the space, I can’t help but gawk at the gleaming midcentury highboy in front of me.
“An estate sale in Rogers,” Ashley says after she spies me ogling her furniture. Busted. “I got it for dirt cheap, too.”
Attempting to conceal my jealousy (the only thing I seem to find at estate sales is disappointment), I pause to admire the dresser’s sculptural handles and polished basketweave doors. That basketweave—I’ve seen it before. I turn to my right. There it is on a credenza. I turn around. Yep, it’s over there on the nightstands, as well. And had it also been downstairs?
Ashley must notice my mental math, because she’s quick to tell me that practically all the furniture in the house is from the same series: “Perception,” designed by Warren Church for Lane in the 1960s. She goes on to say that she’s thrifted each piece independently; a Craigslist steal here, a vintage-market back room find there. Individually, the pieces are showstoppers—I can understand why she’d scour the region for them—but taken together in this circa 2013 home, they’re a testament to Ashley’s dogged commitment to good design, the kind that stands the test of time.
“I love the curved edges,” Lisa says, running a hand over the top of the highboy.
Back downstairs on the low, sleek couch in airy living room, I’m taking notes while listening to the story of how the Baileys ended up in Fayetteville (it was on a short list of midsize Southern cities after the pair finished graduate school) and how they came to open their now 4-year-old store on the Fayetteville Square, The Mustache Goods & Wears (it started with one of those “If you could do anything, what would you do?” conversations on a cross-country road trip). But as I nod and ask questions, my eye again drifts around the room, landing first on the basketweave coffee table. And then again on the matching end table. And then the wire chair in the corner. And then the absolutely gi-normous canvas hanging above the loveseat where Ashley’s currently curled up, her bare feet snuggled beneath her.
“That’s a Matt Miller piece,” Ashley says, turning her cheek over her shoulder to glance above, peering out of tortoise-frame glasses.
(Busted, again.) “He’s a friend of ours, has a studio on the square. Brian called me one day and said, ‘Um, I bought a huge Indian head painting?’ And then he brought this home, and I was like, ‘Whelp, yes you did.’”
Ashley can rattle off similar stories about the majority of pieces in her home, because there’s really nothing—like, not a thing—that doesn’t hold some particular meaning, that doesn’t feel deliberate. The prints over the couch? Made by Springdale artist Stacie Bloomfield. The molded Eames chairs surrounding the dining table? Found with the help of midcentury guru Jay Ward over at 410 Vintage just up the road. Those nutmeg-hued Russel Wright place settings lining the kitchen’s open shelves? Half of her grandmother’s set.
Given Ashley’s love for all things midcentury, modern and, well, Fayetteville, it’s not altogether surprising she and Brian chose Lisa—who’s now perched on the couch to my left, trading tips with Ashley on how to score the best vintage deals—to design the home we’re sitting in. It’s a home that speaks to the couple’s long-curated aesthetic, and one that’s known for stopping passers-by in their tracks. (Ashley knows—she’s caught glimpses of them creeping by as she washes dishes.) Lisa and her husband, Albert Skiles, are the duo behind Skiles Architect, a Fayetteville-based firm known for creating cutting-edge residences that read contemporary and clean-lined while still staying rooted in the local vernacular. It was a tip from another Fayetteville Square shopkeep, Trisha Logan of Shindig Paperie, that sent Ashley and Brian to the Skiles. After their first meeting, they knew the architects could bring their vision to life on their tree-lined South Street lot, the one with the rickety “for sale” sign they’d happened upon during a walk in late 2012.
The lot, which had been on the market for some time, had checked all the boxes: It was close to the square, which meant Brian could walk to work. (He’s at the store full time; Ashley, who buys for the store, still holds a career as a librarian.) And it was close to the trail system, a huge deal in the Bailey household because both Ashley and Brian are avid runners and cyclists. And it was close enough to the university that they could still make the most of that whole college-town-vibe thing, which was one of Fayetteville’s draws for the couple in the first place.
“And it’s in a sort of transitional area,” Lisa adds, “which gives you a little more leeway to do some interesting design.”
After all, that’s what the Baileys were after.
Ashley had cut her teeth on midcentury design while living in Phoenix, where she was exposed to the pared-down, post-War ranches designed by Ralph Haver. And Brian—“Well, he has an even more modern aesthetic than I do,” Ashley says. “He’d live in shipping containers if he could!” The pair had amassed a pile of photos of the flat-roofed, minimalist homes they admired, including a handful they’d come across on a trip to Portland, Oregon. They knew they wanted clean lines and a minimal material palette. Flexible outdoor spaces and a stop-you-in-your-tracks exterior.
And the Skiles? They knew they wanted in.
“This style of architecture, it’s more common on the coasts. It’s still pretty rare here,” Lisa says, gesturing toward a neighboring shingle-clad Craftsman. “So when we do get someone who’s showing us the pictures, and we’re as excited as they are, we’re like, we really want to work on this job, And that’s definitely how it was with this project. We knew it could be so original, so crisp.”
She hands me the blueprints and a hand-drawn sketch of the front elevation, and there it is: the house rendered in miniature. I scan the sketch, taking in the flat roof, the covered terraces, the clerestory windows that pull southern light in when it’s needed, and the cantilevered awnings that deflect it when it’s not. On the blueprints, I trace the open layout of the main floor—the living room emptying into the kitchen, the kitchen spilling out onto the terrace beyond—and the cleverly designed second floor, where the Baileys have a guest suite and their master, which opens onto a covered balcony with views of the Boston Mountains. What I’m looking at is more or less what the Skiles first showed the Baileys. Which is to say that they pretty well got it right, right from the start.
“We felt like they could draw out for us what we were envisioning,” Ashley says.
As Brian set to work dreaming up the exterior details—painted metal, floating decks, cement siding, red-trim windows—Ashley was busy planning how they’d finish out the interior. An avid cook (yes, that’s a measuring-spoon tattoo on her forearm), she knew how she wanted the kitchen to function, and sketched it out with Lisa’s guidance. The open shelves, statement-tile backsplash and hardworking island I spy from my seat on the couch were part of the plan. But the main “must” was entertaining space, which Lisa and Ashley accomplished by floating an eight-person, hairpin-legged table off the island. Just opposite, sliding doors lead to more entertaining space on the terrace, which is concealed by a grid of interconnecting cedar slats and a custom cantilevered window that floods the space with light when opened. I spy a sketch for that window in the printouts I’m holding, and it’s a treat to see it on paper and then to look up and see how it all came to fruition.
It’s also a treat to peek into the home’s office, where a wall of riff-cut, white-oak built-ins mirrors the kitchen cabinets and houses a stash of Ashley’s books, of which she has plenty. And it’s fun to climb the bamboo staircase up to the second floor, and to feel the “stack effect” breeze flowing through the cleverly placed windows. And it’s inspiring to see that when every single inch of a space is considered, you can fit plenty of function in a relatively small form.
But it’s also a treat just to sit in the living room, listening to a summer storm beat against the metal roof like fingers on a drum, with Bon Iver drifting out of the surround-sound speakers as the recessed lights softly dim. As austere as the home’s clean, crisp corners may seem from the curb—though “austere” may not be the right word, since the front door’s coated in the happiest of greens and a soft, welcoming light glows through ribbon windows—and as neutral a palette as you may encounter inside, it’s by far one of the most inviting homes I’ve ever visited. I hate to leave. Especially in that driving rain.
Before I leave to wind my way back down Interstate 49, I pick up the stack of blueprints off that Lane “Perception” coffee table and think, maybe there’s a reason these pieces called out to me in the first place. In fact, I’m fine with how many times I was busted for making eyes at Ashley’s furniture because, in the end, it was all in the name of understanding the place better. Eyes on that trademark polished basketweave, it starts to sink in that perhaps it’s emblematic of the house as a whole—of its attention to detail, its intricate weaving of the indoors and out, its fluidity, its deliberateness.
I walk out and take a final look back. Sixty years from now, I think to myself, this home on South Street will still be a showstopper.