For 30-year-old Little Rock native Sophie McGehee Anthony, her Arkansas roots are deep and so is her passion for art. Inspired by the new Airbnb trend, her love for design and her grandmother’s art studio, Anthony and her husband, Chris, a Texas native, wanted to create “a fun and happy place for people where they would feel welcome in the city.” Enter the Color Block House, a vibrantly creative Airbnb located in the heart of Midtown and decorated room by room with a different pop of color.


“Midtown, to me, is a perfect, central location for anyone visiting,” Anthony said. “My awesome realtor, Margaret Bell Hughes, spotted the house, which is minutes from our home, so it just seemed just right.”


Anthony added, “My Arkansas roots go back several generations, and no matter where I’ve lived, this has been my home.”


The pink bathroom is a nod to the overall retro design feel, with the use of colored grout and patterned wallpaper to really level things up.


A one-level home built in 1965, the Color Block House features 1,075 square feet, two bathrooms and two bedrooms. The space is the ideal staycation for a family with children, a couples retreat, or even a weekend getaway with friends, as it also features an office/workout room which can be used as an extra sleep space with a blowup mattress. It’s certainly both kid- and pet-friendly. “I really tried to make this house appealing for a wide range of people so that anyone feels comfortable here,” Anthony said, adding she wanted to design “a place that might be a little more adventurous in its decor than many people would try in their actual homes.”


Every room is two toned in color, and modern artwork pulls it together and steals the show in the pink room.


Growing up, Sophie was surrounded by art. “As a child I used to think my parents’ design and art choices in our home were so weird and crazy, and now I look back and absolutely love it and realize it was a big part of what first developed my love for art and bold interiors,” she says. “My grandmother, Jane McGehee Wilson, was also a very skilled artist, and I spent a lot of time as a child in her studio learning about art and watching her paint.”


The peaceful blue room is a great spot for relaxing. A major focus was investing in comfortable bedding and mattresses.


Anthony, who has no formal training in art or design, was not quite sure how to make the switch in her career in tech sales, but once she started to notice the trend of “themed Airbnb” in cities across America, she loved the idea and being able to have full creative control of something.


“I always knew I had a love for design, but had no experience in it,” she said. “Strangely enough, my years in tech sales helped a lot with thinking about customer experience and trying to see things through their eyes. It was great when setting up the Airbnb in making sure it had everything it needed and was easy for the guests to navigate.”


Traveling with family and friends also exposed her to lots of ideas about design and different approaches to traveling in different cities. Staying in Airbnbs became more typical for Anthony and her friends when they traveled, often in groups and sometimes with pets. “Creating our Airbnb just made sense, both practically and financially, for the way our generation travels and loves new experiences,” she says.


The checkered wall in the workout room was a labor of love, and Sophie was able to find the most unique workout equipment to fit the fun vibes.


Her own first experience with owning an Airbnb, Anthony started remodeling the home in November of 2021, and used her inspiration from her own travels as well as Pinterest and her favorite online social media accounts. “One of my all-time favorite content creators on TikTok is @taybeepboop, who is famous for her DIYs, Anthony and she gave me the idea for the plant wall that is above my kitchen table (she has a very similar one above her bed).”


So how did Anthony get the “bright idea” to color block the house? “I knew I wanted to do a theme of some sort and initially had about 10 different ideas racing through my head,” she said. “Some ideas I had were a bit more extreme, and I knew since I had no experience with renovating and designing an entire house, I probably needed to tone it down for my first try.”


“I wanted to use a lot of bold and fun colors in this house, and the color blocked rooms were a way for me to turn color into a theme, as well as give myself a bit more of a challenge.”


After the newlyweds bought the house and started the new project, there were a few changes and some delays in materials that pushed out the finish date, including adding a shower and expanding a deck that added time. “The timing for construction wasn’t perfect, but we were able to finish in May 2022, and I began working on the details of the design.”


The outdoor deck keeps the color theme alive with a dining spot just as vibrant as the interior.


Being flexible while working toward a deadline goal is part of any home project, and Anthony had lots of updates in mind for the 1960s home. She began the process by completing an initial walkthrough with contractor Jason Loyed at Mystical Construction. “We went through every update that I wanted, however, a lot of those plans changed and things were added throughout the project,” she says.


“We completely knocked down and rebuilt the back deck, gutted all of the kitchen cabinets and shelves and remodeled them, totally redid both bathrooms – the pink bathroom was only a half-bath and we turned it into a full bath by extending the bathroom into the closet next to it – and, lastly, removed the closet doors in the “yellow room” and turned that closet into a desk.”


Anthony admits the remodel project was a huge learning process and offers others advice. “The main thing you should keep in mind is that projects like this are typically always going to take longer than you plan, and there are going to be many hiccups along the way,” she says.


Of course, choosing the perfect property takes a lot of planning and makes a huge difference in the success. “I didn’t want something too big and difficult to manage, and when I was searching, I felt this house was the perfect size,” Anthony said. “The rooms are just the right amount of space needed for guests, and while the kitchen is small, it’s great for an Airbnb because I would say the majority of the time guests aren’t doing a lot of cooking. I also love the big backyard. Although I haven’t done anything with it yet (other than the deck), I plan to do something fun with it in the future – and adding a fire pit is definitely top of my list!”


Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the colorful vintage-style abode is that it does feature a variety of paint colors with every room being two toned (including the trim and doors). “My painters definitely thought I was insane at first!” Anthony says with a laugh.


A range of vintage vinyls are displayed against green leaf wallpaper in the living room to tie in perfectly with the “jungle-inspired corner.”


Paint colors are all by Behr with the living room and kitchen walls painted “Nature’s Gift” and the trim, doors and cabinets the hue “Dragonfly.” The blue bedroom walls are the color “Peaceful Blue,” and the door and trim are a contrasting “Yacht Blue.” The pink room walls are “Retro Pink,” while the trim and doors are “Spiced Potpourri.”


The geometric wallpaper in the pink bathroom and kitchen are wallpaper brand “Jupiter 10,” a definite standout in the space, adding that extra retro flair. Anthony found the green leaf wallpaper for the living room and thought it tied in perfectly with the greenery wall and the palm tree pendant light.


A palm tree pendant light coordinates with a fun greenery wall in one corner of the house.


“I’m loving the fridge and the pendant over the table, in particular,” Anthony said. “I incorporated the use of wallpaper for accent walls, which I think really adds to the fun and funky vibe of the house. I was unsure where to put the greenery wall. I was originally going to put it over a bed, however, I came across this palm tree pendant light and thought it would look so cool with the greenery wall, which is how it ended up in the kitchen, creating a sort of ‘jungle-inspired corner,’ ” she says.


A Smeg fridge is the perfect vintage update for the kitchen. McGehee always kept the guest experience in mind, making sure the kitchen has everything needed to navigate it.


Modern elements that actually suggest a vintage feel are a charming white Smeg refrigerator and other new appliances. “I have a turntable for guests to play records and decided to put in shelves to display the vinyls as a form of art,” she adds.


In addition to carefully mapping out the design, Anthony admits she really tried to think about the guest experience. “I made sure the kitchen is stocked with cooking equipment and seasoning,” she says. “I have a box full of coloring books and fun games for both children and adults, plus a wide range of vinyls for guests to sort through and listen to. I have a dedicated workout space with equipment, which I know is really important to some people, and it’s sometimes not always easy to continue a workout routine when traveling,” she adds. “While I had to stick to a pretty tight budget for this project, I knew which things were important to invest a little more money on, such as quality bedding and sheets, comfortable mattresses and a nice sleeper sofa.”


No detail in color is lost in any room, including the orange bathroom walls painted a striking “Nairobi Dusk,” with the trim and doors the perfect warm “Terracotta Clay.” For the subway tiles in the shower, Anthony chose “Glass Peach.” Lastly, the yellow room walls are “Fresh Croissant” with the trim, desk and doors painted “Apple Turnover.” Of course, they’re all colors with names as appealing as their look!


What Would Dolly Do? Much of Sophie’s design inspiration is from her own Airbnb travels to Nashville and beyond.


Original wood floors were refinished, and the existing vinyl floor in the kitchen was replaced with modern vinyl flooring with a concrete look. “One of my favorite things I did was use colored grout!” Anthony said. “In the kitchen, I used square white matte tiles combined with teal grout, and in the pink bathroom, I used matte white tiles and magenta grout,” she says. “I originally wanted to use more bold and colorful tiles, but like I said earlier, this being my first project, I needed to be a little more practical, so colored grout was a perfect compromise.”


Being the owner, it’s always tough top name a favorite with each room feeling like its own treasure, but Anthony does love a challenge. “I might have to say the yellow room,” she said. “Probably because that room was the most challenging for me. Finding a yellow paint color I liked was so much harder than I imagined!


“And figuring out a way to make workout equipment look cool had me stumped for a long time, until I discovered Bala workout equipment. And the checkered wall I painted was a very last-minute idea that took a LOT of patience, but I am very happy with how it turned out!”


To say Anthony feels a big sense of accomplishment might be an understatement. “My goal was to make a place that people enjoyed being in and had a fun and happy vibe, and so far all of my guest feedback has been extremely positive and has made me feel like I accomplished exactly that.”


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