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

By Jody Garlock
January 24, 2019

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Advertisement


Comments (38)

mrduck2
March 5, 2019
I love reading peoples comments....always interesting! I very much like the style here, modern, current, approachable. It's always "correct" when someone decorates to their liking.
audre.kurowski
February 5, 2019
Illi has great confidence in the bold use of colors, even on ceilings. Good for her!
rdhbug905633
January 29, 2019
I love all of your pictures and tips!
dschreffler1
January 29, 2019
I have painted my master bedroom the same blue/gray and it looks fantastic! I think it would be appreciated if when you show before/after pictures, you show the same directional picture. I find myself looking back and forth trying to figure out where the before/after pictures begin and end.
barbsfar11
January 30, 2019
I agree, we need better directional pictures. Great job on the updates. If you work on a shoestring budget, what type of budget did you set for this job, and what did you end up actually paying?
parrisj
January 29, 2019
Much more was done than paint. Why so much blue and gray anymore? Maybe just to make people spend money to make their home what designers think is "in" right now and will be "out" next year?
kimhaikal
January 29, 2019
Stunnning makeover, but the title is misleading. Much more than paint color was involved in this redo.
jackmcke3
January 28, 2019
went from having color to looking like a sanatorium
bonney8080
February 1, 2019
Agreed! White can be great in moderation but not the stark cold white used here. I grew up with white & the earth colors of brown, tan, etc. Now that I have my own home - give me real color. Make it coordinated, all my rooms are variations of the same colors but in different quantities and adding pattern.
quiltenlad43378
January 29, 2019
But it also brighten up the small spaces and let all the accessories make up the color.Also made it clean feeling.I use to like color on my walls and my husband always wanted white. Now I will paint all our walls in our new home to be built next year creamy WHITE ! Shows up your collectables much better.
Lizzy2387
January 28, 2019
How about sharing the paint names and brands?!
bonney8080
February 1, 2019
That's easy - White - no brand needed.
jeffandchristy1
January 28, 2019
Could you please tell me where to get the wallpaper in the bathroom?
jeffandchristy1
January 29, 2019
Could you please tell me where to get the wallpaper from the powder room picture above?
katfeets
January 28, 2019
Why, when there are side by side before and after photos, are the photos not taken in the exact same position and angle? I find this very annoying.
bonney8080
February 1, 2019
Agreed. It's hard to picture the area when the picture of before & after isn't the same.
barbsfar11
January 30, 2019
Yes.
smkhan16
January 29, 2019
Exactly!
imevrywomn
January 28, 2019
There were some aspects of this I liked, but overall, it was just the same cold, contemporary colors, and designs that I feel are so cliche, these days. When I was growing up, my mother's walls were always plain, stark white, and I hated it. However, I was surprised that I liked the green vanity in the bathroom. And I echo the sentiments of others. I was expecting to see how COLOR transformed blah to fabulous.
ttopoian
January 28, 2019
White and cold meets needs of young buyers but I hated it!!!
jfmelb
January 28, 2019
Proves paint is only a small part of a makeover this extreme. Title misleading. Why I rarely look at these anymore. Beautiful, but not because of the “paint”
beccashire59264
January 28, 2019
I can't believe that someone said the sunroom/dining room is just plain awful. That's not only just plain mean, it's just plain WRONG as far as I'm concerned. That room was my favorite! The gallery wall is stunning.
jmbowersoxcomc
January 28, 2019
I love everything in this makeover. All white is so clean and crisp. Some may call it boring but for me it opens everything up and you can use pops of every color whenever and wherever you want. Great job.
rkeenanr
January 28, 2019
Come on people, you said 'the power of paint', not the power of thousands of dollars worth of up grades. Be true to your headline, show us the power of paint. Period.
audre.kurowski
February 5, 2019
I agree. Lots more was done than just the "power of paint"!!!
bonney8080
February 1, 2019
Yes. She can afford the upgrades - I'm retired and would love to make changes but I can't without taking loans that I can't pay back!
mrppark
January 28, 2019
Absolutely! Was looking for information on how light affects paint colors....and some classic/contemporary schemes for my small bathroom (with no natural light). This was disappointing.
ttopoian
January 28, 2019
I agree with you! Having spent hours on Pinterest looking at fabulous interior desings I was very disappointed. White can be great but this looks painted to sale and not live able white.
bsstover57gmai
January 28, 2019
My thoughts EXACTLY!
eaglegal.km
January 28, 2019
White paint. How original. It's boring. The sunroom/dining room is just plain awful.
bonney8080
February 1, 2019
Agreed. When I read your comment, I went back for a 2nd look. It is boring & way too modern for me. I guess I am a throw-back because I like a light-handed country style with pattern and color. I do have a picture wall planned for the living room but it will be FAMILY pictures, not buildings, maps, etc,.
johnstonlinda7
January 28, 2019
I love light, so for me this is perfect! The old island is the same as I currently have but will soon be changing it out for more space a cleaner look.
lindacorbi6520291
January 28, 2019
Master bedroom needs some kind of light blocking on windows for decent sleep..
sherrellee
January 28, 2019
Wear one of those Wonder Woman eye masks to block out any light! Windows are much too lovely for something that would be rather heavy. Just saying, but I'm that girl that needs the TV on to fall asleep!
pattym68686161136
January 28, 2019
That is a personal preference. I would never put anything so heavy on my windows. I like this light look.
Anonymous
January 28, 2019
I love the kitchen and the master bath makeover-looks great. But I don't like stark white walls in some of the other areas. Everyone has their own likes though.
mikenjanet61409
January 28, 2019
That was a great makeover. Wish I could do the same thing.
denise_tho88160
January 28, 2019
Come on BHG, this was way more than the power of paint. Not only was it new furnishings but new cabinets, islands, light fixtures, the whole bathroom is new cabinets. New appliances and too much more to list. More than just paint. Show me a regular house