When it came time to create a blueprint for the Arkansas State Veterans Home at North Little Rock, architect Jerry Walleck says the best course of action was to “let the beautiful site influence the design.” Then, after situating the community amid the trees, pond and golf course fairways, they created a wraparound porch for taking in the magnificent views.

Open to veterans and their families since 2016, the community has room for 96 residents spread out among eight dedicated households, called community living centers (CLCs). The 31-acre campus is part of Fort Logan H. Roots, a former military base and current VA hospital on the Arkansas River.

The property is operated by the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs and is dedicated to serving the eldercare needs of veterans in the central part of the state, providing assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care and short-term rehab.

The eight new CLCs are based on a “small house” model of care. Each is fitted with 12 private bedrooms and adjoining private baths. Each household is designed to be an integrated community where caregivers can tend to residents’ needs in a homelike environment.

The small house models are each 10,000 square feet and include a living room, study, dining room, kitchen and den, with wraparound porches on the outside. Walleck, of the Chicago office of Perkins Eastman, says the porches provided the perfect design element.

“We wanted to give the homes a distinctly Southern touch,” he says. “It was clear to us that Southerners spend a lot of time on the porches because they enjoy sitting and socializing outside in rocking chairs and glider benches.”

Walleck, in tandem with Little Rock architect Joe Stanley of Polk Stanley Wilcox, strategically placed each living room, dining room and activity area at one end of the home while the porch wraps around the outside for easy accessibility.

Each of the eight homes has plenty of room for relaxing, cooking, rehabilitation and physical therapy. Not only do the households provide an intimate setting for residents, they also have a versatility advantage.

“They are so flexible,” Walleck says, “that one year a home might be used for skilled nursing residents, the next year for short-term rehab.”

To give residents extra space, the property has a multipurpose community center that can be used for activities and rehab therapy, as well as for hosting holiday ceremonies that may include outside community members.

Administrator Lindsey Clyburn — a veteran himself — attributes the design to the reason there’s “a long waiting list” for admission to the community. Moreover, he says the appealing environment has greatly curtailed staff turnover.

Ultimately, the small home design empowers the residents to live as if they were still in their previous homes, Clyburn says, which “tremendously boosts morale and improves the quality of life for everyone who resides here.”

Lessons Learned

When considering the design of a community, contemplate how to maximize the beauty of the property.

Wraparound porches can provide an attractive aesthetic feature while also  serving a practical purpose.

Household models are not only intimate, they are versatile for switching from one resident care level to another.