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Among the Treetops

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The great room's enormous arched fireplace complements the home's many arched windows.

A couple’s hilltop home reflects a love of family and reverence for nature.

Sharon and Bill Downhour chose a breathtaking view when, nearly a decade ago, they purchased a two-story brick beauty perched high above Lake Hamilton. Situated seventy feet above the water, the view from their back deck often includes the sight of waterfowl skimming the lake far below.
“We were the second house built in Hunter Heights,” Sharon explains during a tour of their home. With features like a monumental arched Ozark stone fireplace and multiple arched windows, the house possesses classic lines and fine details. The Downhours also conducted a series of renovations over the years, updating the kitchen, changing wall colors, replacing wood floors and decorative mouldings, and adding an additional guest bath upstairs. As a result, the home looks recently built.
“The first year, we built a boardwalk along the lake’s edge,” says Bill. “Sharon and I had built several homes together — I don’t golf or fish – I renovate,” he says with a smile. “The house is our hobby.” Bill, originally from New Orleans, and Sharon, a Pine Bluff native, love the family-friendly lifestyle of Hot Springs. With Hot Springs’ Windows USA (parent company of Window Mart) for 22 years now, Bill states: “They’ve been good to me.”
The kitchen update features two-tiered granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and tumbled marble backsplash with tilework in a diamond pattern. Beautiful tile floors are original and show no passage of time. A breakfast nook overlooks the deck’s inspiring view, which includes a swimming pool two levels down. The formal dining room’s elegant tray ceiling, arched windows framed with sumptuous draperies, and generous natural light showcase a handsome cabinet filled with heirloom china from Sharon’s side of the family. A framed photograph of the Downhour family hangs nearby – the couple’s grown children (two boys and two girls) have blessed Bill and Sharon with beautiful grandchildren – 14 to be exact! This youthful couple stays busy, and their lucky grandkids love summer vacation visits, when it’s tough to choose between the swimming pool, jet skis, and pontoon boat.
The first floor of the home features ceiling heights that rise to more than 20 feet in places, thanks to a design that includes an open landing overlooking the living room and spacious foyer. Oversized leather armchairs and ottomans invite one to sprawl before the fire in winter, or watch the ever-changing play of light upon the lake in summer. Illuminated alcoves and large windows inset over the entryway add architectural detail, while landscapes of rural Arkansas provide elements of Folk Art. Sharon chose a muted earth tone with just a hint of green for the main living area, framed by wide white trim and mouldings. Bill says: “Sharon is real creative – she does all the decorating – our friends are always asking her how she does this or that.” “I’m available for consultations,” Sharon quips.
The master bedroom occupies the main floor, while three guest bedrooms are located upstairs. The master bedroom’s traditional elements – dark-stained furnishings, including a lovely king size four-poster bed and highboy – are complemented by a charming private deck and a spa-style bath. The deck seems to float in the trees, screened by encircling oaks and hickory. During subsequent renovations, the gleaming master bath retained its immaculate tile floors as well as an attractive wall of glass brick over the spa tub. Not so with a bonus room accessed via a staircase off the kitchen: this area underwent renovations to became Bill’s man-cave, housing a large flat-screen television, purple-and-gold memorabilia, and framed photographs of Bill’s beloved LSU Tigers football team. The hideaway, which includes gleaming cherry wood floors and another king-size, classic four-poster bed, received an adjacent bathroom during the remodel, and the Downhours are rightfully proud of their work. Bill and Sharon point to a large panoramic framed photograph of Tiger stadium, filled with players and countless fans: “Way up there – those are our seats!”
They faced a challenge when it came to landscaping their property’s steep slope – all the way down to the water. The results, however, are nothing short of amazing, with multiple landings, pathways, and levels that zig-zag down to the lake. The swimming pool phase of the project, completed last year, features a spacious deck, stone retaining wall, and grouping of miniature Adirondack chairs for the grandchildren. Hanging baskets filled with lavender, marigolds, hibiscus and rockroses decorate different deck levels, sending splashes of color against the wood grain. The ongoing landscaping is proceeding in tiers using huge boulders and native stacked stone from nearby Jessieville; hardy shrubs, flowers, and trees; and lots of gravity-defying work by machines and bare hands.
On either side of the property, a rock-lined drainage flow that resembles a dry creek bed re-directs run-off that once poured over the deck during storms. Azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias, Leland Cypress – the variety of plants has one thing in common: they’re all thriving, even in the summer heat.
One side of the slope features a handy tramcar that carries boaters and swimmers up and down, while opposite, a flight of 120 steps leads from dockside to deck-side. “We’ve got a beaver that lives under the boat dock,” Bill says, as we stare out over the main channel’s azure waves. I look up to see we are directly under the watchful eyes of a tiger, painted by a fellow LSU fan on a plank of Cypress wood. This Folk Art find, purchased at a tail-gate party down in Cajun Country, crowns the Downhours’ sturdy boat dock. The busy beaver is nowhere to be found.
Sharon and Bill have carved a beautiful space for themselves from this Lake Hamilton mountainside, a place that will live forever in the summertime memories of smiling grandchildren pictured in photos scattered about the Downhour home. “We went to Hawaii for the first time last summer,” Bill says, before admitting with a grin, “We were so glad to get back home.”

The formal dining room's elegant tray ceilings and trim showcase a chandelier with an elaborate medallion.

The kitchen received a makeover, with tumbled marble in a diamond pattern on the walls and two-tiered polished granite countertops.

The master bedroom's classic four poster bed with embroidered coverlet takes center stage, while a private deck makes the perfect place to enjoy a book and glass of iced tea.

Beautiful landscaping utilizes native plants and boulders while retaining tall shade trees along the 70-foot slope to Lake Hamilton.

Take the tram to the boat dock or take the steps – all 120 of them!

The Downhours' traditional brick home, situated high above Lake Hamilton, provides everything necessary for a relaxed summertime lifestyle.