You won't believe how beautiful this place looks now.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated February 16, 2018
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Before Callahan reimagined the kitchen area, the space felt small and dim. Dark wood cabinets, linoleum floor, and old-fashioned wallpaper joined forces to make the space feel much more cramped than it is. The original home also had several walls and doors that divided the space into smaller rooms.
Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

When Homepolish designer Carly Callahan of Callahan Interiors and her husband bought a 1928 home in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, they knew they'd have to work hard to make this diamond in the rough shine. The process of renovating the 90-year-old home was a balancing act between modernizing the outdated furnishing (and all that wood paneling), while preserving the charm and character that makes an older home special. After admiring the dramatic before-and-afters and asking Callahan for the inside scoop on the reno, these three design lessons stood out. Whether you're planning a complete home makeover this year or just want to update a room that could use some sprucing, let these three takeaways guide your makeover.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

1
Before: Dark and Outdated Kitchen

Before Callahan reimagined the kitchen area, the space felt small and dim. Dark wood cabinets, linoleum floor, and old-fashioned wallpaper joined forces to make the space feel much more cramped than it is. The original home also had several walls and doors that divided the space into smaller rooms.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

2
The Lesson: Open It Up

During the renovation, Callahan's plan to open up the cramped kitchen was two-fold: she removed the door separating the dining room from the kitchen, and she lightened up the cabinets and floor. She said that opening up the room was "a huge change that really speaks to a more current way of living." But even if you're not planning to tear down walls anytime soon, you can still use color to make your kitchen feel more spacious. If you currently have dark cabinets (whether wood or paint), consider painting them a lighter shade to open up the room.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

3
Before: So Much Wood Paneling

In the original office, an entire wall of wood cabinetry dates the space. Along with carpeting and a plaid couch, this room was calling for a modern makeover.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

4
The Lesson: Paint Can Modernize Almost Anything

At first glance, the shelving behind the desk might look as though it's brand-new. But look again and you'll recognize the dated wood bookcase has been completely transformed with a sleek coat of black paint. The takeaway: the easiest (and cheapest) way to transform a vintage piece of furniture is to paint it a modern hue. If you have an outdated wooden bed frame, chair, or dresser, sanding it and repainting it can be done in a day, but the results will make it look decades younger.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

5
Before: Charming Details, But Out-of-Date Style

Dingy tile and fluorescent lighting give away this bathroom's age. While it may look like there's not much worth keeping, the designer let details in this original bathroom guide the decisions made in the new bathroom added upstairs.

Homepolish/Dustin Halleck

6
The Lesson: Keep the Character Intact

"From the beginning, our main goal was to retain the charm of the house," says Callahan. "In order to do that, we had to look at the small details that made the house unique and then make a conscious decision to retain and enhance those details." One detail she kept throughout was the doors and doorknobs. Then, for the upstairs addition, she matched the hardware as closely as possible. By matching the doorknobs throughout, the designer both preserved the character of the home and made it feel cohesive.