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Fresh Face for a Classic Home

Interior designer Kevin Walsh lightens up a historic house to reflect its vibrant homeowner and her family.

Written by Ashley Hotham

After Kristen Lee and her husband, Cliff, bought an English revival home in the Prospect Terrace neighborhood of Little Rock, Arkansas, they were ready to shed the dark, heavy interiors from 83 years’ worth of homeowners past. Kristen wanted their new house to be casual and reflect the family’s present and future. She envisioned light and lively spaces geared to the active lifestyle of a young family with two kids and a dog. 


Designer Kevin Walsh had the walls and groin-vault ceiling painted in Sherwin-Williams’s “Rhinestone” to add an airy vibe. The carved doors were stripped and cerused to lighten this formerly dark and heavy space.

What she wanted to do with the house was no small task. Kristen enlisted interior designer Kevin Walsh, owner of Bear Hill Interiors in Little Rock. She knew Walsh’s ability to create simple, pared-down rooms with clean lines and beautifully finished details would go a long way toward transforming their new space into an echo of their casual sensibility.


The vivid pink, turquoise, and sea-glass green palette is paired with the living room’s classic details. A painting by artist Mallory Page hangs above the original mantel. The ottoman is upholstered in Manuel Canovas’s “Bastide.”

Built in 1927 by Max F. Mayer, a prominent Little Rock architect in the 1920s and ’30s, the house featured interiors that felt very serious with their dark wood flooring and walls. “It was a completely different look before,” Walsh says. “It had a Tudor-esque kind of look—much darker, heavier, and thicker. And the client wanted white and airy. She wanted to brighten it all up.” 


A Blanchard spool-frame chair by Julian Chichester was upholstered in hot pink fabric from Pierre Frey. The same fabric was used for custom banding on the curtains. 

Because of the house’s historic nature, Walsh strove to preserve its architectural integrity but brighten it throughout so it would have the freshness of a new home. He bathed the dark living room paneling in white paint. The somber faux-finished hallway with dark gray floors received similar treatment. White walls, ceilings, and floors now gleam. 


Only minor changes were made to the kitchen, which now features Barbara Barry’s beaded tile for Ann Sacks on the backsplash, cabinets painted Sherwin-Williams’s “Creamy,” and new Carrara marble countertops. A custom hood was crafted by Chuck Hamilton Construction.


The custom-made table features a pale turquoise base and a cerused top to reintroduce the cerused oak detail on the hallway doors.

Kristen also opted for airy fixtures above. “She wanted a much lighter look, so we went with these clean, clear, traditional light fixtures,” Walsh says. 


“Beth” console tables by Bradley and Oly Studio side chairs punctuate the sleek space.  

With the lighter, neutral backdrop in place, Walsh introduced lively pops of color throughout the house. From the living room, home office, and sunroom to the bedrooms and baths upstairs, a vibrant palette of pinks, turquoise, and sea-glass green emerges, along with airy, pastel touches for good measure.   


Walsh removed the original gold ceiling and replaced it by re-creating the detail on the room’s stained glass windows, but in a larger scale. “I wanted people to notice the ceiling, but I wanted the strongest point in the room to be the windows,” Walsh says. “It is such a spectacular application.” 


The Lee Industries pink tufted sofa provides the room’s focal point. A Louis Vuitton trunk serves as a coffee table. Striped walls are painted Sherwin-Williams’s “Frostwork” and “Creamy.” 


A 1920s Venetian mirror and damask wallpaper by Farrow & Ball adorn the powder room.

“Kristen was the driving force in the overall feeling of the house,” the designer says. “She has a happy and colorful personality—you definitely know when she enters a room. It’s all about color, life, fun, and just having a good time. I think that’s really the part that embodies her.” 


Sherwin-Williams’s “Misty” paint provides a serene setting. A pair of Venetian lamps by Jan Showers rest upon matching mirrored Belvedere chests by Hickory Chair. 


Sconces from Visual Comfort and an Arteriors shield mirror infuse a sense of romanticism while vintage Murano glass pieces add splashes of pretty color.  


A lilac-and-silver rug by Madeline Weinrib covers the floor in the Lees’ daughter’s room. A Louis XVI-style Bergère chair by Hickory Chair is paired with a vintage secretary with an églomisé glass front.  


Walsh infused a sense of playfulness with Alan Campbell fabric for pillows and a Roman shade. A Lee Industries queen sleeper sofa with Samuel & Sons trim is the perfect addition for a successful sleepover. 


Nestled at the rear of the property, the pool house and its covered porch create a beautiful vista of the main house and lush garden. 


Slipcovered seating by Lee Industries and a sisal rug from Merida keep the room casual and swimsuit-friendly. Pillows upholstered in a playful print by Lilly Pulitzer for Kravet add a punch of color.


The white-lacquered coffee table and bar cart by Oomph and a chandelier from Shine by S.H.O contribute to the room’s breezy atmosphere.  


 

Kevin Walsh shares his ideas for restoring a historic home.

  • Join forces. Three heads are better than one. Hire an architect, an interior designer, and a builder.
  • Communication is key. Have weekly meetings, if possible. Communication and collaboration are key to a successful remodel. 
  • Remember to look up. The ceiling is a huge surface that is often overlooked. Try an interesting paint color, wallpaper, or ceiling treatment.
  • Reuse, recycle, and renew. Instead of throwing out worn hardware, send it to be re-plated. Not only does this save money, it also saves the time looking for a historically correct replacement.

Photography: Nancy Nolan