Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Designer Kevin Walsh helps clients lighten and refresh a family home with a palette that includes two favorite hues.

Text: Tiffany Adams
Photos: Rett Peek

After living in it for close to two decades, a central Arkansas couple still loved their home’s charm, neighborhood, and floor plan. However, they were ready for a few style updates.

“It was just a different look 20 years ago,” says designer Kevin Walsh of Little Rock’s Bear Hill Interiors, who worked to refresh the house for a new phase of life. A palette of warm browns and rich wood had served them well, but the pair was ready to infuse new life into the space with the addition of cool colors set against a lighter backdrop. “She is drawn to blues and greens, and she really wanted this to carry throughout the home,” he says.

While the majority of the home’s public spaces received attention during the makeover, nothing is unrecognizable, and many beloved pieces are still in place alongside some new finds. “We tried to use as many of their existing pieces as possible while making it all lighter and brighter,” says Walsh.

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

Merry & Bright by Kevin Walsh

“This house had a real French Country flavor—and it still does to some extent.” For example, the barstools in the kitchen remained but received cushions in a lively new fabric. In the den, the existing fireplace surround and coffee table were mixed with new lighting and upholstered pieces, and in the dining room, the table and chairs kept their place while updated draperies, a new chandelier, and an antique Oushak rug ushered in the new palette.

In fact, the Schuyler Samperton fabric seen on the drapes was the starting point for not only the dining room, but much of the house. “I do a lot of blue-and-white, but I really wanted to bring in the green the homeowner likes so much here,” says Walsh.

As with many cosmetic refreshes, paint also played a major role. In the kitchen, dark brown beams were given a lighter treatment at the brush of a local decorative painter who also reinvented the island with a vivid turquoise hue.

Similarly, in the den and dining room, planked ceilings previously stained in the same aforementioned brown, were refreshed with a white and light blue. The effect resulted in spaces that both look and feel larger and more open. In the dining room, a breakfront cabinet was also painted a sky-blue hue that plays off the color of the ceiling and the upholstered dining chairs.

Walsh, who is known for his deftness in mixing old with new, not only brought in contemporary pieces to update the look but also purchased a few older antiques and modified some of the couple’s existing furniture.

For example, an antique marble-topped pastry table plays to the home’s original French Country flair, while a piece that had residence in the foyer was decoratively painted to have the appearance of a Biedermeier chest.

For the holiday season, the new palette and furnishings are complemented with a layer of natural Christmas décor. With direction from Bear Hill Interiors, Cindy Esbaner, owner of Flower Power, created flowing garlands and trim with a fresh-from-the-forest feel.

“Our client loves a traditional Christmas. She does one tree in the house, and she goes big with it,” says Walsh of the fresh Christmas tree that reaches to the family room’s 12-foot ceiling. It is decorated with baubles and balls collected over the years, which add to the traditional appeal. “The feeling is more festive rather than being overly holiday,” says Walsh of the scheme.