Roses in Bloom
A four-year labor of love results in one couple’s dream home on Lake Hamilton.
When Kathy and Michael Rose first met, there was excitement in the air: it was opening day at Oaklawn Park.
Michael, originally from Lexington, Kentucky, arrived as part of a horse-training team. “I met Kathy,” he says with a smile. “The horses left, and I stayed.” The couple still keeps and trains Thoroughbreds; their Lake Hamilton home provides a backdrop for equestrian-themed art, from bronze sculpture to photographs and paintings.
Upon arrival, the first thing one notices in the gated forecourt is a fountain – and not just any sort of fountain. Decorated with lions’ heads, this superlative water feature — seemingly transported from some faraway piazza — gives a hint of architectural delights to come.
The Roses’ adorable standard poodle, Paris (named for the heiress, not the city) greets visitors with pure-puppy enthusiasm. Once inside the foyer, the great room’s vertically paned, seamless windows angle to curve outward, allowing a panoramic view of the lake beyond the silky-smooth infinity pool. The opposite shore encompasses Garvan Woodland Gardens, a postcard-perfect scene. A gourmet outdoor kitchen and generous seating areas around the pool make the Roses’ home ideal for summertime entertaining. Whether a fundraiser for a worthy cause, or an opportunity for Michael to demonstrate his culinary skills, the perfect backdrop exists indoors and out.
Floors of Turkish marble and elegant columns evoke an old-world palazzo, an air heightened by the use of trompe l’oeil accents on upper walls and ceilings. A pastoral mural by Tracy Rivers of Little Rock’s Angelfish Studios complements a stunning Austrian cut crystal chandelier in a reception area adjacent to the kitchen. The room’s barrel ceiling of gold leaf was inspired by a trip to Chicago’s Palmer House, a 50th birthday present for Michael.
The kitchen itself is a chef’s dream, with a wood-burning fireplace set into brick amid furniture-style cabinetry. A large granite island features double sinks under another distinctive chandelier, which in turn is eclipsed by a magnificent chandelier of black Murano glass that crowns the stairwell’s upper landing. Before we ascend, however, Michael gestures to several doors along the hallway: one opens to a wine room, the next to a well-stocked, walk-in humidor of Spanish Cedar. Opposite, Michael’s cigar room is paneled in maple with a cognac stain that echoes chestnut-colored veins in the curved bar of polished onyx. In keeping with such classic surroundings, a photograph of the Roses’ winning racehorse, “Oh What a Classic,” is prominently displayed. “He was our very first horse,” says Michael.
Kathy and Michael spent two years designing their home together, and it took another 24 months before construction was complete – but even before all of that, Kathy had dreamed of this place for quite some time. “For years we had a condo on the lake,” Kathy recalls. “I would always come by and admire this point…but it was [part of] a huge estate.” Kathy never forgot the place – later, after the hundred-plus acres were sold and divided, “I was talking to [realtor] Bobbie Rushing and she said it just came up for sale!” Thus began the Roses’ journey, and they’ve loved every step. As we proceed upstairs, scrolled ironwork balustrades display flowing shapes of leaves and vines. Many of the home’s architectural features are curvilinear, from columns and archways to actual walls. “We wanted round walls instead of square,” Michael explains.
At the top of the landing, a monumental oil painting of a zebra’s face in deep shadow makes a bold statement, while to the right lies the Roses’ theatre room, all deep reds, gold accents, and curved archways. Another onyx bar, lit from beneath, glows like a jewel. The walls are adorned with memorabilia from auctions to benefit Levi Hospital (Michael is a board member): a guitar signed by Eric Clapton; a framed set of photographs autographed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Family memorabilia occupies space in the Roses’ home as well: Michael’s sister is expert at calligraphy, and they treasure several of her framed, hand-lettered poems. The upstairs also features the Roses’ study along with several guest bedrooms and baths. Handsome antiques, including exquisite armoires, all have stories behind them – the Roses enjoy attending auctions and have an eye for unique pieces. One of the guest bedrooms, decorated in shades of chocolate against pale blue walls with a Venetian finish, offers a bird’s-eye-view of the lake and a comfortable seating area with a Japanese lacquer table as its centerpiece. As we relax before a fireplace of dark brown African marble, Kathy tells the story of the delicately carved mouldings found throughout the home, some painted in a flat finish and others with interesting faux-finish accents.
“I was looking in a magazine and ran across this moulding,” she recalls. “We ended up becoming the distributor for the company – we were our first customer!” She and Michael flew to Miami, toured the plant, and set about showcasing the architectural mouldings in nearly every room. As a boat pulls away into the lake far below, Michael promises Kathy that this season they will go out on the lake more often. “There’s just such peace when you get out on the lake,” he sighs. “We stay so busy,” Kathy says of their medical equipment company that requires constant attention and travel throughout Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. “We do home medical equipment so that people can remain in their homes and help to better patients’ care,” Michael explains. But the Roses successfully mix business and fun, hosting opening parties for Levi Hospital’s annual Baron’s Ball fundraiser as well as recent campaign-related events for local candidates. Kathy is an ambassador for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, while Michael is also on the board of MidAmerica Science Museum. Although the two have no children of their own, they love kids. “Nick [the Roses’ personal assistant] has been in our lives for three years,” Kathy explains. “His children – little Kathy is three and Antonio is almost five – are like our own grandchildren.”
As we make our way back to the stairway, we pass a tiny corner room with a frosted glass window set high into the cream-colored wall – Kathy’s massage room, where serenity takes center stage. There is also a convenient elevator next to the stairway, so we ride down in high style. In the tradition of saving the best for last, the ground floor’s master bedroom and bath await description. But first, to the right is a lovely guestroom that showcases rare beauty in the form of a photographic portrait of Kathy’s mother, Dottie. An ornate Maitland Smith bedroom suite and windows to the lake make for a peaceful setting.
Another family member’s room is tucked away in the ground floor guest wing, past a stunning portrait of legendary racehorse Cigar, painted by esteemed local artist Michael Finnell. It is Casper, the white umbrella cockatoo. He has a reputation for singing along with certain talented vocal artists at dignified receptions! Today, though, the mellow bird sits by the window, staring inscrutably at the azure lake.
The master bedroom and bath, on the opposite side of the ground floor, feature expansive windows that let the outside in. With doors that open to the patio and pool area, the room seems to float slightly above the water. Photographs from their beachside wedding in Jamaica are displayed – Michael and Kathy standing in a grotto with the waves crashing beyond; saying their wedding vows overlooking the ocean. The master bath’s shower and steam room take spa living to new heights: Brazilian marble floors and walls showcase a delicate chandelier over the columned bath. The room has no sharp corners or jarring angles – custom cabinetry is curved and hand-carved, while his-and-her spaces include ample walk-in closets. A large mirror is actually a two-way flatscreen television that doubles as a mirror, as Michael playfully demonstrates with the touch of a button.
The Roses have enjoyed the entire process of designing, building, and decorating their dream home – but then, they seem to enjoy life, period. Over their bed hangs an antique painting, a work of obscure, unsigned folk art found on one of their many explorations — it may offer a clue to the Roses’ geniality. The painting shows two ladies in full-skirted gowns riding horseback… but upon closer examination, the fine ladies are actually little monkeys! “We married ten years ago this June 10th,” says Kathy, smiling. Happy Anniversary, Roses!