Our 2023 Photo Contest 1st Place Winner: Terry Thompson
Before the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip became America’s entertainment paradise, Hot Springs, Arkansas was the hottest getaway around. Literally.
Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains around an hour away from the current state capital, Little Rock, the natural hot springs are as warm as they are plentiful, averaging about 143°F and one million gallons of fresh-flowing spring water each day. The Native Americans nicknamed the area “The Valley of the Vapors,” President Andrew Jackson designated them as the first federal reservation, Major League Baseball brought their players here during the offseason, and gangsters like Al Capone loved the area for its safety and seclusion.
While the hot springs were, and still are, the main attraction, the town of Hot Springs itself became its own hot commodity. First, it was the Arlington Hotel, then came the eight historic bathhouses that make up Bathhouse Row, and then the adjacent Grand Promenade walkway that was inspired by the Prado in Havana.
In the years since then, a variety of casinos, Art-Deco-style hotels, and Victorian-style bathhouses continue to pump in the spring water to rejuvenate guests.
All that history caught the eyes of Terry Thompson and his wife, inspiring their own version of a Hot Springs rejuvenation. They acquired a historic building downtown and began planning how to transform what used to be a hotel into a home. The result is the winner of our photo contest.
From Hotel to Home Kitchen
Downtown Hot Springs is like a highlight reel of the best 20th-century architecture. The Thompson’s building is just as impressive, but not too surprising when you learn its history.
“It’s 8,000 square feet, two stories, and the second floor used to be a hotel, which we turned into our personal home,” Terry explained. “The kitchen was originally two hotel rooms, one which was a corner room, and a third room that would have butted up to the kitchen.”
Transforming hotel rooms into a residential kitchen is hard enough. It’s even harder when you’ve got an unusual layout AND your building is over a century old.
“The struggle was real when first trying to lay out a functional kitchen that wrapped around a corner,” Terry said.
The Thompsons ended up turning to Kim Brown of K&J Kitchen & Bath in Panama City, Florida—a friend of Terry’s wife—who helped reconfigure the layout into a “dream kitchen concept.” The result was a modern vintage kitchen that cleverly utilized the building’s past while adding all the amenities.
Copper, Tin, and Timeless Elegance
To bring out the building’s early 20th-century charm, the Thompsons turned to the ceiling and walls.
We knew we wanted something to capture the essence of the 20's time period, and we thought the copper tin ceiling tiles would be perfect,” Terry said.
Terry and his wife turned to American Tin Ceilings, choosing Pattern 28 in Artisan Copper with Burnt Umber for their kitchen ceiling. To pair with their new tin ceiling, the Thompsons also added a single panel of Pattern 29 in Artisan Gold with Burnt Umber behind the sink, plus new cabinet pulls, appliance knobs, and handles in a copper finish.
While the copper tin tile ceiling would take on the “hammered” look of the 20s, the tile backsplash would go in a different direction. “For the backsplash piece, we wanted something that said rich/ elegant/ upscale with more design,” Terry said. The result was a lighter, more ornate-looking tile backsplash.
Contrasting with the backsplash are areas of exposed brick that peek out from underneath white plaster. The Thompsons chose this element because it looked “chipped away,” adding to the vintage aesthetic of the kitchen as a whole.
The Final Touches
A new pantry and the requisite HVAC and plumbing upgrades were the final touches in the Thompson’s modern vintage transformation. Projects this big can intimidate even the seasoned home remodeler, but the Thompsons weren’t phased.
“Besides new heating/air and plumbing, my wife and I did all the other demos and renovations ourselves,” Terry said. “It was challenging to find the time to work on it, but little by little we finished it out.”
As the winner of our photo contest and another example of Hot Springs’ architectural individuality, we’d say the challenge was well worth it.
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