Chandler’s Condo Curation

 

Tom Chandler and Tim Ellis have spent the past 10 years curating what is now not only a three-bedroom condo that overlooks the Chenal Country Club golf course in Little Rock but a hidden treasure full of distinct details with an unparalleled display of local artwork rarely observed in one place, a collection they’ve been working on for 44 years. 

 

And it’s not surprising. Chandler, the now 82-year-old interior designer (and often dubbed the “dean of design” around Central Arkansas), has owned his business, Tom Chandler and Associates, Inc., since 1980. Together, the group boasts more than 100 years of experience in the industry. The design firm, located in the Riverdale design section of the city, lends advice to clients all over the country relying on his keen expertise day in and day out. 

 

 

This time it’s “Tom’s turn.” 

 

An Arkansas native who graduated in Oklahoma with a business degree, Chandler quite immediately discovered his love for not only the art of design but also for teaching it. In 1981, after starting out at South Central Career College, he set out on his own and began teaching interior design, and two years later opened the Chandler School of Interior Decorating. He has now taught more than 12,000 students, with a new semester starting this fall on Tuesday nights, and continues to remain humble about the number of top-tier Arkansas designers who started with the class. 

 

“Teaching is an important part of my life,” Chandler says. And once you begin to get to know him, you realize that’s his character and his being — naturally gifted with a definite eye for detail and a spirit full of modest charm, and one who also enjoys passing on his exceptional expertise to others. 

 

Just like fashion, music and culture are constantly evolving, so is this couple’s curated condo. What started as merely a “white box” 10 years ago has developed into an eclectic, ever-evolving “retreat,” as Chandler calls it. The Italian-style villa is complete with two beautiful balconies that add even more interest and luxurious appeal before stepping inside what Chandler describes as a space filled with a “mixture of contemporary, French, Asian and antique pieces” with an impressive art collection.

 

 

He says, “Our condo is and always will be a work in progress, and this brings so much joy.”

 

One of the goals for the condo was to eliminate any exterior responsibilities and, instead, continue to build on an awe-inspiring artwork collection that the duo is quite satisfied with these days, now totaling pieces from 31 Arkansas artists, displayed with delight. 

 

“We are very proud of our art by Arkansas artists,” Chandler says, “including the works of: George Dombeck, Sammy Peters, Kevin Kresse, Scott Carle, Kyle Boswell, James Hayes, Brent Miller, Scott Ashcraft, Denise Ryan, Randy Groden, Gayle Batson, David Bailin, Henri Linton, Judith Hudson, Samuel Gray, Robert McGehee and Karen Harms.” 

 

Most of the firm’s clients have a color preference. But Chandler’s motto is always, “The client’s favorite color is our favorite color!” Ironically, Chandler has used his own favorite paint color, Sherwin-Williams “Stone Lion,” as the perfect backdrop in his last three personal homes for the past 30 years. He believes this “warm and inviting” neutral hue really sets the tone for the striking accessories that play against it. 

 

 

“I love black accents, and they work beautifully with that,” Chandler says. “The details [in our own condo] are a collection of a lifetime, which is hugely important.” 

 

Among those domestic details of Chandler’s is his partner, Tim’s fabulous closet, which he says is “as big of a deal as all of the artwork.” It’s a third bedroom, but he turned it into his “collection of a lifetime,” full of floor-to-ceiling clothing and shoes and an awe-inspiring blown glass light fixture composed of serpentine by artist James Hayes. 

 

And Chandler believes his work goes right along with his love for art. “I have spent my life painting — with books and accessories.”

 

 

Glazed porcelain tile flooring flows throughout the condo, combining with the subtle quartz countertops that mirror concrete. Although Chandler lightheartedly mentions, “The kitchen is not important to me. Tim and I lived in the penthouse at Lakewood House in North Little Rock for years, and when we moved, the instructions were still in the oven.” 

 

What Chandler does believe is always supreme to a space’s design is the lighting — and simple is key. 

 

 

“It’s one of the most important elements of design,” he says. “No lightbulb is bigger than 40 watts here, and the overhead lighting has a dimmer. Plus, I have one halogen floor lamp for reading.”

 

Even after being in the business for more than 40 years, working six days and 50-60 hours a week during this time, Chandler says he’s still proudly available to clients 24/7. And these days, the hard-working designer often gets asked when he will retire. To that, he happily answers, “No, why would I retire? I have the best job in the whole world.” 

 

 

And so perhaps the next 10 years will bring an entirely new addition of artwork we can all look forward to ogling in Chandler’s classic, yet changing world of style. Stay tuned.  

 

 

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