Walker Hall Design: California Cool Meets Texas Warmth
Though their cozy-chic boutique Walker Hall Design is less than five years old, co-owners Carmel Fenves and Deborah Thiras have known each other for what feels like forever. “We met in textile design school when we were twenty,” explains Thiras, who owned a furniture store, Ashland & Hill, for 15 years in Santa Monica, California before moving to Texas.
The two friends like to call themselves displaced Californians. Fenves came to Austin first, about seven years ago, with her husband Gregory L. Fenves. (Yes, that Gregory L. Fenves just named the new president of University of Texas at Austin.) After visiting Austin a few times, Thiras made the leap a year later, leaving behind rising California prices for a cute little house in Clarksville.
Tucked away near the Castle Hill neighborhood, Walker Hall Design feels a lot like what you might imagine from two hip and artistic Californians who now call Austin home. It’s quirky but curated, and the light-filled room has a laid-back vibe. On one shelf sits a crew of miniature, cast-iron dog statues that feel classic, not kitschy. “We’re always trying to find old materials,” Thiras says. The display is also adorably arranged, peeking up at you as you round a corner. “I wanted to put them up like a little pack,” laughs Thiras, “so they’re all looking at you.” From the simple linens to the blue and white plates to the baby clothes, everything in the store emphasizes craftsmanship and quality materials.
It’s that sort of playfulness and thoughtfulness that makes Walker Hall Design stand out. “It’s been a great adventure,” Fenves says. “And we each get different things out of the store.” For example, Fenves, a talented quilter, gets the chance to introduce people to sewing. With an eye for beautiful fabrics, Fenves has devoted an entire plush corner of the store to displaying rolls of carefully chosen fabrics sourced from as far away as Japan.
That sense of artistic community was a driving force for both Fenves and Thiras to open Walker Hall Design. “To reach out and get to know people who were into creative things was an important goal of ours. We wanted to provide raw materials, to give and to have fun.” Almost five years later, the shop’s aesthetic continues to inspire guests and Fenves and Thiras are looking towards the future. “Oh, we always have big plans,” laughs Fenves. “We definitely are always thinking, it’s just part of our little creative brains.”