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Classic Character

Modern Updates Make a Southern Home Timeless


The city of Decatur, Georgia, is a suburb of Atlanta that has a traditional small-town atmosphere with tree-lined streets, parks, playing fields, and even a community bandstand in the town square. There are libraries, colleges, and a walkable downtown area with shops and restaurants. Just minutes east of the cultural and economic center of Atlanta, Decatur also offers all the benefits of living in a major metropolitan area.

This 4,000-square-foot home, located on an unusually large one-acre lot about five miles from the heart of Decatur, was built in the 1920s and most recently renovated in the 1980s. “Our client loved the phenomenal location and the lot, but felt the home needed some repairs and significant updating,” says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, principal, architect, interior designer, and project lead of the renovation completed by Decatur-based Terracotta Design Build Co. “We handled both an interior and exterior renovation.”

The property drops off significantly on the left as you’re facing the home, allowing for additional living space below that side of the building. “Because the overall home is not huge, we kept the front simple,” explains Hidalgo-Nilsson. “There was no room for a grand entrance, but we designed an entry with a tailored Spanish-Mission feel and eliminated the overdone Greek-style entrance that was there.” Hidalgo-Nilsson and her team, comprised of Luly Bestard-Melarti, Maurie Hullender, and Scott Madsen, maintained the existing stucco finish and used a clear stained knotty pine wood door, simple columns, and a slate-gray metal roof over the entrance to add some character. “We replaced a bow window to the right of the entry with French doors that lead from the front yard to an office indoors,” she adds.

The entry opens to a formal living room with neutral Front Porch paint by Sherwin-Williams, accented by pops of teal. On either side of the fireplace, custom built-ins, finished in Sherwin-Williams Shoji White gloss, flank the French doors that lead to the hallway. The backs of the shelving units are papered in a bright-teal zigzag pattern by Schumacher. “We picked up the teal in a chair and several accessories in the room,” says Hidalgo-Nilsson. “We simplified the fireplace with clean architectural detail and installed a white-marble surround.”

Glass pocket doors lead from the living room to a completely contrasting office on the right. The entire space, including the built-ins, is painted in Sherwin-Williams Tricorn Black gloss. “This room used to be a sunroom but we converted it to a much-needed office space,” says Hidalgo-Nilsson. “The change from the cool neutrals of the living room to the intense black office is striking.” Wood-toned work tables, white draperies, and a white rug with a black pattern offer a departure from the deep, dark background. The hand-pierced silver pendant light by De-cor adds a touch of panache. Double glass doors open to the yard outside.

The living room leads to a modest dining room on the left with a wood table that was handmade by the homeowner’s uncle. Upholstered chairs by Lee and four Josephine dining chairs by Serena & Lily complete the seating. A nickel chandelier by Jonathan Adler adds the perfect modern touch. Again, clean neutrals create the canvas with Sherwin-Williams Front Porch on the walls.

A large, open kitchen and family area are just off the dining room. The kitchen and family room follow the neutral tones of the rest of the home with Shoji White walls. The white custom cabinets and open shelving are in Sherwin-Williams Incredible White gloss. Exposed shelves keep the space open feeling and provide visual variety, according to Hidalgo- Nilsson. A ten-foot, navy-colored island captures the eye against the warm-white background.

Pendants are from Rejuvenation and the counter chairs are by Serena & Lily. Countertops are HanStone quartz. A spectacular range hood was a custom piece by Vent-A-Hood. To the right of the stove is a black-glass Sub-Zero refrigerator. “The lights slowly go out when you close the door so it glows beautifully in the room,” says Hidalgo-Nilsson. Tricorn Black French doors at the end of the kitchen open to a patio. A white fireplace, wood railings, and an arbor-style cover extend the seasonal use of this outdoor living space.

Hidalgo-Nilsson believes that great materials and simple design make a home welcoming and timeless. This design captures classic elements, uses quality products, and adds an occasional punch of color for interest. It’s the perfect recipe for the lasting enjoyment and satisfaction of the owners.