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In an Arkansas Farmhouse, a Growing Family Enriches Their Community

by Kelli Kehler

In 1910 business man and conservationist, Roscoe C. Hobbs, built a home in Rogers, AR — just 10 miles from what is now Hobbs State Park, over 12,000 acres of sprawling Ozark landscape. Old newspaper articles say that two years later the home caught fire in the middle of winter, burning slowly enough in frigid temperatures that neighbors, working together, helped salvage furnishings, original windows, a tub, light fixtures and many other items from the home for the Hobbs family. More than 100 years later, the people that now live in that since-rebuilt house are exactly the kind of neighbors who would do the same to support their community as well.

Sahid and Ashley Kamara, and their kids Joanna, Sunny, Leo and Jordan, have lived in their 3,700-square-foot home for two years now, all the while working to make a difference in the revitalization of a community they feel so fortunate to be a part of.

“My husband and I, along with one of our best friends, host meetings in our home where we try to help educate [others] on local politics and the importance of knowing your districts and your representatives,” Ashley shares. “We’ve hosted a couple of meetings to help educate [others] and hear voices of DACA recipients [and] also have an immigration attorney [answer] questions with [the] intention to take away the stigma and the title of ‘illegal.’ My husband, Sahid, was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He and his family fled the country in the late 1990s due to their civil war. After spending several months in a refugee camp in Guinea, his family relocated to the United States and settled in Iowa (they were granted political asylum and later became citizens). He’s a proud alumni of University of Northern Iowa where he received his graduate degree. He’s been an employee of Walmart for almost 15 years starting his career as a cashier. Through advancement and various career opportunities he relocated to Rogers, AR to work at the world headquarters of Walmart.”

Ashley, born and raised in Muskogee, OK, is a photographer, activist, and pre-law student at Arkansas State University. She, as Sahid describes, is deeply embedded in the community, “She is co-founder of United Progressives (UP), a grassroots organization that focuses on civic engagement and community efforts to drive awareness to social injustices of disenfranchised populations,” he says. “Ashley is passionate about reinforcing the idea that ‘all politics is local.’ She serves on the Education and Spiritual Growth Committee at First United Methodist Church and was recently appointed by the Mayor to serve on the Public Arts Commission.”

With all their involvement in giving back to their community, Sahid and Ashley have four children at home and a baby girl due later this spring. Their spirit of altruism and gratitude for their richness of life is palpable throughout their home, a lively refuge of their own where creativity is encouraged, toys are enjoyed, and things are in a realistic but beautiful state of flux — a season of life where a home inhales and exhales with the milestones of growing children. The family’s design style takes this very realness that others tend to bemoan — the chaos of child-rearing — and celebrates it to a level of sophistication, elevating the belongings of their little ones to showcase their distinct personalities in all glories.

“We all feel that walking into our home begins our daily process of renewal,” Ashley begins. “Regardless of the to-do list, the dishes, uncooked food to [be] made, and dust on the stairs there’s always time to appreciate the liveliness and loudness of our home life.”

And appreciate it they do. Through the rooms echoing with laughter, you’ll find cherished exhibits that show the Kamara family was here: a doorframe etched with markings measuring the height of each child, treasured trinkets for little hands, artwork and photos throughout depicting powerful Black leaders, and a swing hanging from the ceiling of the top floor. “We decided, after trial and error, to live in the space before we decorated it or started any type of remodel process,” Ashley says. “We need to get a feel of the purpose of the room, the energy of the space and what functionality it can bring to our family. I never feel obligated to keep something where it’s at if it doesn’t feel right just because I screwed a hole in the plaster to put it there.”

Since they purchased the home — “we decided within minutes of walking through (while the real estate agent held our baby) that we wanted to make an offer” — Ashley and Sahid have done extensive DIY work to remodel the home themselves, including replacing the living room’s pink-on-pink walls and trim. Throughout the home they preserved existing hardwood floors, removed countless sheets of wallpaper, painted walls and trim and demo’d and retiled bathrooms. But these improvements are just icing on the cake for the couple, as their true prize is the area in which they live and the people in their lives.

“Sahid and I find ourselves very fortunate to be surrounded by our community,” Ashley shares. “We have close friends that volunteer passionately for our PTO, church, political campaigns, keeping our trails clean, and city employees that are consistently working for the responsible growth of our area. Our pastor who leads our downtown church calls on us to ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can’.” A call to action not lost on this family. —Kelli

Photography by Ashley Kamara / @geezlouise

Image above: The Kamara home. Ashley tells us, “With the first [immigration] ban that happened under the Trump administration, we had a local nonprofit come [to our home] to help educate [people on] the process of what it’s actually like to apply for asylum or citizenship and the vetting process that that entails.” From that meeting, Ashley and Sahid and their team of 12 went through training and began to navigate the current administration’s new regulations so they can sponsor and support refugees locally.

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Sahid, Ashley, Joanna, Sunny, Leo and Jordan. “I captured this with my camera on a timer on a stack of books after a dozen tries and bribes to the kids,” Ashley jokes.

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A view up the stairs from the living room to the second level, where Sahid and Ashley vaulted the ceilings and added heating and air. A wall with a painted rainbow — an impromptu afternoon DIY — peeks out above the top of the stairs.

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The home’s living room is sectioned off into two areas: one for sitting and gathering, and the other is more open and encourages play. Before the family got their hands on this room, it had light pink walls with a dark pink trim!

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“I can’t imagine having a living room without toys,” Ashley shares. “We use the space beneath the stairs for storage of our linens and unused décor and have contemplated turning it into a powder room for guests.”

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On a living room wall that flanks the fireplace, a gallery of art that Ashley’s collected since high school disguises a TV.

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“I love all the natural light in our home that allows me to place houseplants all throughout,” Ashley shares.

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Under the candle sconce, a piece of art with a newfound meaning to Ashley. “I recently noticed that picture of the silhouette is a mother with two boys and three girls, exactly what I’ll have in a few weeks, something I purchased years ago.”

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In the other section of the living room, a play area for two-year-old Jordan.

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The dining room, bathed in natural light. Ashley shares, “With four children, one on the way, and both of us continuing our education, organization and functionality were key components for decorating. At the same time, I’m a photographer and have a trained eye for aesthetics so I needed both to work to have a sense of flow and achieve the goal of this house becoming our home.”

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“An antique buffet found at a local flea market,” Ashley notes. “It’s full of photos and old camera gear. The blankets in the basket are collected from road trips when we stop at a Love’s gas station.”

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“Two years of documenting the growth of our four children,” Ashley shares. “I look forward to watching it fill in with scribble and overlapping heights of them all.”

We are most thankful to have a roof over our head that allows us to create memories and traditions with each other and our children.

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Sunny, a third grader and the second-oldest child, brushing her hair in her bedroom.

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“Sunny’s nesting collection on top of an old set of books I used when we homeschooled,” Ashley says.

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“A perfect representation of Sunny,” Ashley describes. “Her skateboard, love for animals and her eclectic style. You’ll often find all the kids sleeping here together at night.”

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A sweet moment on one of Sunny’s shelves, showcasing her favorite horse and seashell.

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“I love how Sunny’s room came together with the display of her mostly thrifted collection of things along with a growing collection of stuffed animals.”

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Another fun, whimsical moment in the room of Sunny, a soccer player who, as Ashley describes, is “a true free spirit that makes everyone around her feel loved.”

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Daughter Joanna’s bedroom has abundant natural light and vaulted ceilings (added by Sahid and Ashley in their remodel). “Joanna is a fourth grader, has a passion for decorating and [is] obsessed with Joanna Gaines. In her free time she likes to chat on the phone with friends or play Roblox.”

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Thrifted items combine to make a layered, personal room for a young girl.

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“The desk of Joanna, our super organized, list-making, independent 10-year-old,” Ashley shares. “The ‘Let’s Make Herstory’ sign was made by a local artist, Oliva Trimble, who uses art to repaint hate throughout the area.”

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“Joanna, reading in one of her favorite spots accompanied by ‘Ferndinand,’ a duck she’s had since she was an infant. Her two posters on her bookshelf [are] displayed to remember that time she took vocal lessons, joined a rock band through School of Rock and was lead singer.”

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A space Sahid and Ashley created for their children to exercise their creativity. “We have learned to take our time for each space, each wall, or shelf,” Ashley begins. “We’ve learned through witnessing the children hang their pride on our fridge — whether it’s their latest spelling test, art, letter or photo — if it’s on the fridge it’s a big deal. Financially, we have learned that regardless if decor or an object that adds appeal costs $1 or $1,000, it needs to provoke feeling or have a meaning.”

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This corner’s worktop was created by using leftover IKEA butcher block countertops from the family’s previous home.

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An old medicine cabinet found locally is the perfect place to stow away toys used by two-year-old Jordan.

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The home’s library has beautiful exposed brick that Sahid worked to uncover himself.

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On one of the library shelves, “RBG” by local artist Monica Jordan of Paper & Wood Co.

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A geometric print of Frederick Douglass intermixes with greenery, globes, books and wooden objects for an inspiring collection in the library.

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“A little nook in our library where all the plants come during the winter for even sunlight.”

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In the boys’ room, Jordan’s big boy bed sits waiting for him (when he’s ready!).

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Jordan at play at the foot of his future bed. “We bought that rocking horse from an old man down the street,” Ashley says. “It was his son’s and is in perfect condition. He called and asked his wife’s permission first [before selling it to us].”

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A section of the boys’ room dedicated to the family’s second youngest child, Leo. “A mix of Leo’s prized possessions and flea market finds,” Ashley notes.

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“Leo is a kindergartner who is an ambassador of his grade level, plays soccer, loves his friends and Roblox,” Ashley shares. Above his bed hangs a yarn peace sign from Ashley’s college dorm room.

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The upstairs landing outside the bedrooms. Ashley shares, “I love all the foot traffic from the kids in this area. The gallery wall is a display of all the photos I take of our family.”

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“I couldn’t think of any way to fill in that space on the wall so we painted the rainbow one afternoon. Fits in perfect. I go back and forth on whether or not the installation of the swing was a good idea.”

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A proud DIY moment of Ashley and Sahid’s. “We stapled three runners together for this first-time DIY project where we were excited to get to buy some tools!”

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Before the family got their hands on this main bathroom, it had old cream and maroon tiles. They gutted the room and used an antique dresser to create a vanity. Above it hangs a custom-cut mirror by a local company. More of their home, along with before & after shots detailing their reno projects, can be found here.

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The fire pit in the sunroom became a family favorite this past winter, Ashley tells us.

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“Sahid and Leo in our sunroom that’s [to the] right of our living room. We spend a lot of time in here having dance parties. Notice that luxurious keg-orator,” Ashley winks.

SOURCE LIST

Living room

Media console — West Elm
Black round mirror — Urban Outfitters
Large sectional — Franklin Corporation
Play table — Crate & Barrel
White shelf — IKEA
Foyer table under staircase — World Market

Sunny’s room

Canopy bed — Wayfair
Pink rug — Rugs USA
White and yellow striped rug — Magnolia (no longer available)
Lighting — Pottery Barn (no longer available)

Family room upstairs

Red bench under Arkansas map — World Market

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Comments

  • Wow, I love this place! So warm and personal, and you can just /feel/ the sense of family in how they’ve decorated. I appreciate that they’ve embraced the wear and tear that comes with having four children. Nothing looks too perfect; it’s very real and relatable. I also love their story and what they’ve done for their community. These seem like wonderful people I would like to know!

  • How beautiful and personal. I absolutely love the rainbow on the wall, it’s stunning. So bright and happy. This house makes me feel all kinds of happiness. Love how every detail is so personal.

  • As a mother of 4, I love this home! I can actually see my kids living in a place like this when so many home tours make me feel like my kids are kinda in the way of my design dreams! It’s colorful and eclectic and embracing the reality of toys. :)

    • Thank you! I tried a great approach this time around and let them help me decorate their rooms. It was a very neat process and I learned a lot about myself and them and what makes them feel at peace in their rooms. I let Joanna and Sunny play around on Pinterest a little and let them type in key words of things they liked. That’s how we ended up with a stick above Sunny’s bed with animals hot glued to it.

  • Love this space! I’d love to have something like it when I have a family. Also, props to featuring an a Arkansas Family!!

  • What a colorful and family-friendly home! Beautiful family, beautiful home!

    Please tell me where the sunny yellow sofa is from. Although I’m guessing it’s vintage.

  • Gosh, I loved this tour! Ashley (and fam), what you have built- your home, and your family, and your community presence- is so genuinely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing- you’ve given me a case of the feels this afternoon <3

  • I love everything about this home! And I especially love (as a fellow Arkansan) how you have represented our state!

  • Love your home; the personal touches (peace sign from your college dorm), etc. Feels so warm and inviting! Great job!!

  • Beautiful. Just Beautiful. I love the mix of adult and child.
    The overhead light fixture in Joanna’s room had my heart skip a beat. It would be perfect in our dining room.
    Please divulge the maker/store purchased from.
    Many thanks
    Heather

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