Bold update in stone
The architectural firm of Lewis, Elliott and Studer was called in from the beginning, helping the owner to decide that he could successfully create a whole new look by renovating the existing structure. "The building had sentimental value to the owner, but he wanted to dress it up," said John McMorran of Lewis, Elliott and Studer. "Before we began construction, the building was a nondescript white box. It had a flat roof and no real detail of any sort."
This renovation project included much more than just refinishing the interior, since the owner wanted the building to be seen from the street. "We started by putting a pitched metal roof on the structure," McMorran said. "This was necessary for people to see it from a distance because it is set back from the road and there are buildings on each side of it that are set near the street front."
Making the building noticeable from the street was only the first task confronted; the architects also had to work out a plan to make the rest of the building more inviting. "The building's entrances were remote and difficult to locate," McMorran said. "We were asked to create a main entrance, since there wasn't one previously."
According to the architect, the owner had expressed the desire for an elegant look. "Inside, he wanted to use strong materials that would dress it up, while giving it a feeling that it's been there for years," McMorran said. "Whenever we think of something that has been there for years and gives a feeling of strength and longevity, we think of stone; and when we think of stone in an elegant setting, we think of marble."
Marble, however, is a common material chosen for flooring in such a setting, and the owner wanted something unique. "We picked Rojo Alicante for the walls," McMorran said. "The red color was bold and out-of-the-ordinary, especially when you're talking about that much stone. We felt the owner wanted to make a statement, so rather than gray and beige, we wanted color." In addition to the Rojo Alicante, Hualien Jade, Breccia Oniciata marble and Mountain Green granite were used as accents.
Marble highlights the floors of all three lobbies and can even be found on the floor of the elevator. "On the lower level of the building, there are full height marble walls," McMorran said. "On the upper two levels, there is a wainscot of slab marble, which we highlighted with cove lighting. The marble was detailed with a honed base, then a polished wainscot, and a honed band to give the wall a chair rail effect and then polished up to the ceiling."
A vinyl wall covering was installed above the marble wainscot on the upper two levels, and wood trim was added around the doorframes there. "We wanted to keep some wood to give the building a warmth and human feel," McMorran said. "We chose a wood stain color to complement the red color of the marble walls."
The installation of the marble was quite a project for Little Rock Tile and Marble, Inc. of Little Rock, AR. "The marble floors selected were mainly installed at night and covered during the day for foot traffic because the tenants were to remain in the building during construction," said Darrin Meeks, vice president of Little Rock Tile and Marble. "The existing slab was in terrible shape so all of the floors had to be leveled with Laticrete 4237/211 and the structural cracks prepared with Laticrete 9235.
"The Rojo Alicante marble walls were 3/4-inch slabs adhered to the walls with molding plaster and copper wiring," Meeks said. "Most of this work was performed during the day with the areas roped off, including the full height marble walls of the first floor main lobby as well as the three-foot wainscot of the remaining floors throughout the elevator lobby and corridors."
Despite the challenges, the project ran according to schedule. It was started in November of 1999 and completed in March of 2000.