This Before-and-After Townhouse Makeover Proves the Power of Paint

With a tweak here and a splash of paint there, a designer ushers colorful spirit into a nondescript townhouse.

When homeowner and interior designer Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson walked into this Atlanta-area townhouse, she quickly started a to-do list. The rooms were builder bland, but they boasted great volume and light—and potential.

Some projects were big, like gutting the kitchen and master bath—both dated and lacking the pizzazz Ili loves. Others updates were small, such as swapping out nondescript light fixtures for fun ones. But the biggest game changer was a simple palette cleanse achieved by adding crisp white paint to walls and a dark stain to the hardwood floors. The result: a modernized look that brought the home's millwork to the foreground.

weathered bench and entryway carpet runner
Jeff Herr Photography, Inc

Patterns, colors, and items that nod to Ili's Puerto Rican upbringing now dance within the revived rooms. Ili lined the entry with a runner crafted from a piece of leftover stair carpeting. She prides herself on finding easy and creative ways to design a space without spending a lot of money, and using leftover materials from the home is a great example.

A few genius (and budget-friendly) moves relaxed the stairway in the home. Ili cut the finials off the newel posts and had the decorative knobs removed from the spindles. White paint worked wonders on the wood trim, and museum trim on the wall frames a painting, adding detail without a lot of fuss.

home office with gray ceiling and gold wallpaper
Jeff Herr

Ili isn't afraid to repurpose rooms to work the way a family lives. She practiced what she teaches in her own townhouse by turning the dining room into her office. To enhance the room's playfulness, she installed metallic-patterned wallpaper and painted the ceiling a dark gray.

living room before shot with tan walls

The living room fireplace is in an awkward corner location, so Ili went against convention and downplayed it. She streamlined the mantel and toned down the surround, replacing brown marble with gray-and-white rift-cut Carrara marble.

Ili didn't let the traditional exterior of her 15-year-old townhouse dictate the interior, which has Spanish and Colonial Moorish influences. Painting walls the same color as the trim had a soothing effect on the living room. It erased awkward gaps between windows and created a clean backdrop for decorative elements, such as a spideresque overhead light fixture.

open-concept kitchen with island before shot

A bar-style island separated the original kitchen from adjoining rooms. To foster a more open layout and improve traffic flow, Ili brought in a rectangular island.

deep blue cabinets in white modern kitchen
Jeff Herr Photography Inc

Moving the refrigerator to the range wall created room for statement-making navy-blue cabinets that allow small appliances to be tucked away. Navy-and-white tile runs up to the ceiling as a range backsplash to give the kitchen added wow on a budget.

gallery wall in dining room with warm wood tones

Ili created a view into her life with a gallery wall in the sunroom-turned-dining room. The collection includes antique maps of places she has lived and visited, drawings by her dad, and a silhouette of her daughter. Mirrors bring an interactive element to the grouping.

wallpapered bath with bright green vanity
Jeff Herr

Ili added an emerald green vanity to her powder room for a fun and unexpected twist. She also added wallpaper, stopping it 8 feet up on the wall to paint the remaining wall and ceiling jet black.

To give her master suite a distinct feel, Ili departed from her all-white wall palette with a soothing blue-gray hue. She downplayed the ornate tray ceiling by once again painting walls and trim the same color, and she centered the bed between two small windows. But in a trick-of-the-eye, she framed only the outside edge of each window with draperies. The tactic makes the two windows seem like a single unit and downplays the king headboard overlapping the windows.

A dated double vanity that stretched for 12 feet seemed like it was ready for an assembly line—and didn't have much payback for all the square footage it consumed. Ili's solution: Keep the plumbing in place but replace it with two smaller vanities separated by a towering cabinet that provides ample storage and creates private grooming areas on both sides. A freestanding tub gives the room some breathing space, as do a new glass-frame shower and light tile floors.

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