“Absolutely,” says Kevin Walsh, when asked if he considers himself a person with a wide variety of interests.
The seventh of eight children, Walsh opened his interior design business and showroom, Bear-Hill Interiors, in 2000, after a short stint in the banking and mortgage business, followed by cosmetology school and a decade-long career cutting and styling hair.
His evolution into the interior design world was a bit more organic than intentional. “I have always loved design, fashion, interiors, architecture, the arts,” he says, “but I’m not one of those people who is like, ‘I rearranged the furniture when I was three’ or whatever. I would tinker with stuff when I was younger, but I don’t remember ever having any epiphanies about being a designer.”
Instead, the industry more or less discovered him when, 25 years ago, his next-door neighbor asked him to come over and do some decorating for her. “And it just turned into me doing that for people,” he says. “I had a salon and a career and that whole thing going, and I never really thought about it. We’d always talked about having a shop. We found a building and it just sort of came about.”
The “we” Walsh references is Brett Pitts, Walsh’s life and business partner. The store’s namesake is derived from a combination of their mothers’ maiden names: Anita Bear, for Walsh, and Kay Hill, for Pitts.
In addition to Walsh and Pitts, two more members joined the Bear-Hill team in 2000: Kathy Goromboly as office manager and Walsh’s sister, Susan Walsh, as an interior designer.
Born sixth in the lineup of Walsh children, Susan is closest in age to Kevin. But the similarities don’t end there. “I would say if you knew us, we’re the two that are the most alike of the siblings. I’m close to my others, but I don’t know. I can’t explain it,” he says. “We just have the same interests.”
At the beginning of Susan’s career, she worked on the east coast for Ralph Lauren. Eventually though, she obtained her design degree and found her way back to Little Rock, where she took a job at Cobblestone & Vine. “But when I decided to do this, we asked her to come work for us,” says Walsh. “She’d been in retail and she was good at it. I had owned a salon, so I knew how to own a business, but this is a different kind of business.”
In the almost 15 years since Bear-Hill opened, Walsh has continually honed his business acumen to keep the showroom and business successful. “Whenever you deal with the public, a lot of it is about listening and then trying to get clients the best products available. I really think that’s why we’re successful. We try really hard. Anytime you’re successful, you have to work really hard to get that way. It doesn’t just happen,” he says.
Another thing that helps the business thrive is passion, which permeates Walsh’s work. “I don’t ever get sick of what I do. I’m constantly consumed by it. I can go to a flea market or a thrift shop and I’m just constantly looking at things, always working.”
He scours Etsy at eBay at night, looking for unique and vintage finds to bring to his clients. Bear-Hill carries the handmade works of a ceramist Walsh discovered on Etsy and the crystal treasure boxes of an artist originally from Magnolia.
Additionally, Walsh works with other local shops, like About Vase and Tipton & Hurst for flowers, and Chris Clement and Fabulous Finds for vintage pieces. “I’m constantly seeing what’s out there, what’s new, what’s different,” he says.
Here, Walsh shares more about his own personal style and that of the Bear-Hill showroom.
Q: What is a home trend you love and wish would come back in style?
A: Classic everything is always better than trendy anything.
What is your design mantra?
Take your time, buy what you love, invest in quality.
What do you regret not buying when you had the chance?
A cashmere sofa at an auction that sold for $5k. It was worth around $25k.
If you could have dinner with any architect, designer or decorator, who would it be and why?
Interior designer: Windsor Smith. I’m crazy about her rooms; they are edgy and soft, modern yet traditional. Clothing designer: Michael Bastian, an American who creates modern and luxurious clothes with an edge.
- Chair: Louis XVI dining chair — classic!
- Lamp: Always love a Murano glass lamp — it is one of my signatures.
- Designer: Jan Sowers is a wonderful designer/showroom in Dallas. She is a go-to on numerous projects.
- Color: I love blue. I’m currently obsessed with cobalt.
- Trend: Lacquered ceiling
- Pattern: Greek key
- Fabric: Wool sateen