Space of the Week: This Designer Transformed Her Beach Retreat From Dark and Dated to Open and Bright

Borrow these tips to brighten your own space.

Beach House Kitchen After, white cabinets

Now that spring has officially sprung, the last thing you want to come home to is a dark space filled with throwback furniture and accessories (and we're not talking the chic, vintage kind, either). The vibrant energy of the season offers just the right push many of us need to modernize and inject life into our interior decor.

One of our favorite examples of this process is a residential rebirth from Toronto designer Tiffany Leigh. The home renovation completely transformed a gloomy beach house into an illuminated, airy oceanside getaway. The results are beyond impressive and show what some serious ingenuity, along with color upgrades, fresh flooring, and updated hardware, can do!

The Beach House Before:

Beach House Before
Tiffany Leigh Design

According to Leigh, the home's prior interior contained design relics that could've come straight off the set of That '70s Show, including shag carpeting and dimly lit rooms, plus some majorly outdated cabinetry, window treatments, and furniture. Under Leigh's direction, the home blossomed into a beautiful beach haven that she now uses as her holiday retreat when it's not serving as an Airbnb rental.

Get the Look:

A Modern Sofa

Beach House Living Room Makeover
Tiffany Leigh Design

The once dull and ordinary living room now looks like a gathering space from one of your favorite beach flicks. Leigh replaced the outdated wallpaper with cool white paint that she also applied to the shiplap ceiling. The inclusion of modern, neutral-toned pieces like this Eddy Feather Gray Sofa from West Elm along with wicker-trimmed chairs and a white coffee table help to make the space feel more open and hangout-friendly.

A Striped Natural-Fiber Rug

Striped Sisal Area Rug
Birch Lane

For a subtle nautical look, choose a large striped area rug, like this handmade, flatweave option from Birch Lane.

Brighten the Kitchen on a Budget

Beach House Kitchen After, white cabinets

As fabulous as the kitchen looks, Leigh managed to pull off the makeover with a combination of budget-friendly and DIY options.

"Every decision was made with the bottom line as a short-term vacation property," she says. "We selected product that is hard-wearing (like strong quartz countertops) but also felt like the nearby beach. I tiled the kitchen backsplash myself!" The floating shelves are another DIY solution.

Leigh installed new white cabinetry from Home Hardware, adorned with bronze pulls and knobs from Hickory Hardware.

Paint the Interior Doors

Beach House Makeover, Pale Blue Paint

To brighten up the kitchen even more, Leigh added a soothing blue pastel hue to the back door. The color is Restful Retreat by KILZ Tribute, a paint and primer in one.

Remove Some Upper Cabinets

Tiffany Leigh Design Kitchen View
Tiffany Leigh Design

"One thing that we did was increase the size of the pass-through opening above the sink (once the exterior window before an addition was put on the cottage in the '90s!)," she explains. "This brought in a lot more natural light."

As for transforming a lifeless kitchen into a light-filled spot, Leigh has advice on accomplishing this by rearranging cabinetry while simultaneously increasing storage capacity. "If you have a dark kitchen, try removing some upper cabinetry, which can feel heavy as well as cast shadows," she explains. "Since this is a short-term rental, we don't need a ton of kitchen items, so we removed all upper cabinets along the long wall. We put a full-height pantry beside the fridge to make up extra storage."

A sleek chrome kitchen faucet with a pull-down spray wand matches the newly modernized kitchen.

A Small, Yet Serene Bathroom

Beach House Bathroom After
Tiffany Leigh Design

The renovation effortlessly carries the bright, airy theme into the bedrooms and bathroom. Before, the spaces were bland and in desperate need of some personalized pizzazz. Accomplishing this feat required Leigh to remove the closet in the bedroom that was infringing on the space for the vanity in the bathroom. Afterwards, she opened up the area by removing the old tub and stained linoleum and adding new brass fixtures and glossy new flooring, similar to these beachy Polished Hexagon Mosaic Tiles from Home Depot. A coat of fresh white paint, in a shade similar to Pure White Matte from Behr, lightens up the room.

Update the Light Fixtures

Brass Bathroom Wall Sconces
Hudson Valley Lighting

Besides white paint and large windows, new light fixtures also work hard to brighten up the beach house. All of the lighting in the home is from Hudson Valley Lighting, including the two aged brass wall sconces in the bathroom.

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