By Rebecca Brockman

The act of traveling, of going from one place to another, can be viewed as a natural metaphor for learning. The experiences from traveling increase knowledge. In his epic, The Odyssey, Homer describes Odysseus as "widely traveled" and therefore ingenious: literally as having turned in many directions. The same could be said be said of Marty and Sheri Carley, a couple who recently made Conway their home.
Originally from Oklahoma, the Carleys have traveled many miles before deciding to settle down in a custom built home near the shore of the Beaverfork Lake. Marty and Sheri certainly had many experiences and learned much about the world. The oil and gas business brought Marty to Arkansas, but the state's beauty and outdoor-friendly lifestyle has captured the hearts of the Carleys. They decided to build their European-inspired retirement house here, before they actually retire permanently.
The same business that brought them to the Natural State also afforded Marty with the opportunity to travel around the world. He has been to a total of 53 countries and lived in both Venezuela and West Africa. "I have found good people everywhere," Marty said with a sincere smile. Instead of bringing back the usual souvenirs and tacky trinkets, Marty started collecting art from every country he visited. The only stipulation was that it had to be an oil painting - everything else was fair game. His collection has turned their 4,200 square foot home into a life-size scrapbook.
Although it was easy to dwell on the travels and life of the Carley family, the focus of the interview was their beautiful house. Marty explained that they broke ground in the summer of 2007 and the construction started the following year. While Sheri was in Oklahoma with their college-bound daughter, Marty was "hunting high and low" for a house in Conway. After an extensive search, Marty found the perfect spot to build their retirement house.
Unfortunately, when Sheri visited the site, she was not convinced. "There wasn't anything but weeds and trees," she said. "Sheri had to trust me on this one. I could see it," Marty said with a confident smile. Having a 30-year marital bond made the decision easy for Sheri and she trusted her husband's vision. It also helped that the couple had built a house together once before. Marty was quick to give advice for first-time home builders, "The first thing is find a good builder and secondly, spend money on quality items such as windows and flooring. If you are too strict, you will regret it later." Finding a builder turned out to be easy, but only after Sheri did some sneaky investigation.
A house in Centennial Valley caught her eye and she walked up to the vacant house only to find a no trespassing sign staring her back in the face. Around the same time, a truck drove up and asked her what she was doing. Caught red handed, Sheri confessed to the men, who turned out to work for the builder of the house, Luke Porter. Being in the wrong place at the right time proved beneficial to the Carleys and the same builder that eventually gave them their dream house.
Energy efficiency and conservation were important factors in the construction of the home. Stained concrete floors and concrete walls keeps the energy bill reasonable for the house with 11 rooms, including three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. A sunroom, wine cellar (that doubles as a safe room), and a spacious outside veranda adds character to the lakefront property. Marty said the safe room is built to withstand an F4 tornado. Out of all the rooms in the house, Sheri enjoys the sunroom the most. "It's my room. It's cozy. I can watch TV or read a book," she said. When asked the same question, about a favorite room, Marty looked around his basement, equipped with a pool table, granite countertop bar area, and comfy furniture and said, "Right here."
A month after moving into the house in 2009, Marty and Sheri contacted a designer recommended by Luke. "We knew we had to do something," said Sheri. Luke told them about Gena Turner and Missy Thoelke from Two Trendy Designers in Conway. Sheri explained that the designing duo use items that the homeowner already has, making it very budget friendly. Marty said they had a style in mind when they met with Gena and Missy, and the designers did a great job of fulfilling the vision.
Part of the makeover unveiling meant that Marty and Sheri had to physically leave their house for almost two whole days. The Carleys took the opportunity to visit Eureka Springs. When they returned to their newly designed home, they were amazed. Sheri said it was fun to come in and see what the two designers had done in their absence. One of her favorite parts of the unveiling included a display of her grandmother's quilts in her sunroom.
The Carleys have already utilized the lower level of their home for a New Year's party and hosted Thanksgiving in their spacious dining room on the first level. It's also a place for them to catch up with their grown children. As he looked around his well-decorated home adorned with traveling memories, Marty said the one emotion he feels most is appreciation. "It's almost too good to be true," he said when he thinks of his new home. "It's always good to go home."