Radical Reno: How One Couple Transformed a Dark and Dingy House Into Their Light and Airy Dream Home
It’s lofty and bright now, but when Abby and David Gordon bought their Nashville house in 2013, it was anything but. Swapping in a softer palette and making some clever spatial switch-ups (think: more master-bath footage and hidden “stroller parking” in the family room), they revamped it spectacularly. Their philosophy was one of openness, airiness, and easy-care materials. Check out the transformation of the 1960s ranch they share with their baby boy, Smith, and find some tricks to try for your own place.
Before the reno: Bulky upper cabinets and heavy Roman shades obstructed the natural light, and the covered cabinetry created obstacles for the family. “Abby told me, ‘I want my everyday dishware to be really accessible,’” says designer Karrie Seaton, originally of Beth Haley Design. “I knew that if we swapped in pretty, open shelves, she could keep her essentials out and let more sunlight in.”
Elevate the Everyday
Design choices that are equal parts elegant and durable make for a gleaming space hardy enough for life with a little one. “We chose standard subway tile for the backsplash but had it laid in a herringbone pattern for a ritzier look,” says Abby, an educator for a girls’ athletic-wear brand. Similarly, the countertop, made of quartz, has marble’s glam gloss minus the tricky upkeep. Not only is the house full of wallet-friendly finds—the stools at right are from World Market ($120 each), and the pendants are from Shades of Light ($139 each)—but it’s also packed with secret strengths, like heavy-duty drawers and built-in cabinet dividers.
What you don’t see: Reinforced drawers near the refrigerator are strong enough to hold heavy cast-iron cookware and support small appliances. (They’re deep enough to hide the microwave!) For the same benefit without investing in custom drawers, replace the glides on existing drawers with glides that are at least 100-pound capacity (available at hardware stores). A handyman can make the switch for you.
Paint on walls (also used in the entryway, dining room, and family room), Collonade Gray (SW7641), $39 a gallon, sherwin-williams.com for info.
Set Up a Serene Entryway
All it takes is a cushy seat and a considered wall display to make a foyer both striking and welcoming. The Gordons created this grid by hanging $25 sketches commissioned from a local artist in identical frames, spaced three inches apart. “Each image depicts something meaningful to us, including our two Labs, Maddie [seen here] and Doc,” says Abby.
Gallery frames in antique silver, $29 each (9 by 11 inches), westelm.com. Karuma wooden cars by Kiko+, $27 each, normanandjules.com.
Before the reno: The space was pretty tight (about eight feet by nine feet), and the bathroom’s colors—red walls, mint green tub—were chaotic. For the makeover, the Gordons envisioned a new lighter, larger version. “We gave up some space in our entry to add square footage in here,” says Abby.
Amp Up the Bath
Quiet colors set the tone for a spa-like master bath. One large mirror would have overpowered the room, so instead the designer chose a matched pair. The double vanity, made with the same Shaker-style cabinets used in the kitchen, has ample room for washing up—and cleaning up, with a pull-out hidden hamper in the middle.
Metal wall mirrors in brushed nickel, $199 each, westelm.com. Possini brushed-steel rectangular wall sconces, $100 each, lampsplus.com.
Dining Room: Before
Before the reno: The Gordons have family members who live nearby, so they needed a bigger table for hosting, along with some comfy seating. “We wanted a dressed-up dining area that’s also comfy for a group,” says Abby, who suggested bringing in a pair of upholstered chairs from their old house to place at the ends of the table. A new light fixture was a must. “It’s the very first thing we picked out,” says Karrie.
Dining Room: After
Play With Shapes and Patterns
A simple way to keep a neutral room from feeling one-note is to mix shapes. In this dining area, a geometric-print rug, X-back chairs, an octagonal-motif sideboard, a boxy pendant, and a teardrop lamp keep the eye moving and the energy up. Grounded by the low-key chunky table, the blend of seating styles feels harmonious.
Inside this closet is desk-height shelving and a small seat: a command center that doesn’t take up kitchen space.
Classique pendant by Stonegate Designs. Jayda linen dining chair, $200, worldmarket.com. Amarillo Sunrise, by Minted for West Elm, $199 (31 by 40 inches), westelm.com.
Family Room: Before
Before the reno: The Gordons’ garage-turned-den was the definition of hodgepodge, and the room’s ultra-dark walls made it feel cave-like and uninviting. And while the converted space had plenty of square footage, not all of it was ideal. “When I was drawing out the plans, I realized there was some awkward space in here that needed a smart solution,” says Karrie.
Family Room: After
Give a cookie-cutter room character
Molding added to the ceiling and painted to blend in “helped make the room feel connected to the rest of the house,” says Abby. Who doesn’t fantasize about a parking lot for things like strollers? Opposite the windows, a nonstructural wall creates a five-foot-wide kiddie-gear storage spot. A built-in media center with a balance of drawers and cabinets keeps electronics hidden below and accessories on display above. For a similar look for less, flank a low TV console with a pair of tall bookshelves and paint it all the same color as the walls.
The barn door was brought over from the Gordons’ old house. To install it, they just added a sliding track ($150, homedepot.com).
Carson sectional sofa in ecru, $4,720, mgbwhome.com. Metallic diamond pouf in flax, $249, westelm.com. Adjustable metal floor lamp in polished nickel, $229, westelm.com. Paint on built-ins, Dorian Gray (SW7017), $39 a gallon, sherwin-williams.com for info.
Laundry Room: Before
Before the reno: Deep, lipstick-red walls weren’t enough to spice up the room’s standard-looking sink and boring, builder-grade white cabinets. The well-worn tile floor needed some freshening up too. “I like to get a little over-the-top with laundry rooms because you spend more time in there than you realize,” says Karrie.
Laundry Room: After
Add Luxe Touches to the Laundry Room
It’s easy for an ultra-functional space to feel frumpy, but with new cabinetry painted a rich olive green (Retreat by Sherwin-Williams), this laundry room looks less utilitarian. The no-frills sink stayed—it’s 30 inches deep (roomy enough to fill buckets for mopping)—but the designer jazzed it up by swapping in a fancier gooseneck faucet. The metal rod installed above is a space-saver for air-drying delicates.
On the opposite wall: Floor-to-ceiling cabinets corral awkward-sized items, like handled cleaning tools and golf clubs.
Master Bedroom: Before
Before the reno: The olive green master bedroom—with an old-fashioned, candelabra-like light fixture front and center—was a far stretch from the modern, streamlined room style that Abby and David, a project manager for a general contractor, are drawn to. “They like things clean and simple—nothing too frou-frou,” says Karrie, who dreamed up a loftier design.
Master Bedroom: After
Suite-n Up Your Sleep Space
With an active toddler on their hands, a calm, restful space was high on the Gordons’ wish list. So they turned their bedroom into a retreat by choosing tranquil accents: dreamy gray and beige hues, a linen-upholstered bed, and a tailored quilted coverlet. Hospital corners show off the bed frame (and make for a hotel-like sleeping spot). It’s topped with the ideal mix for a plush pile: three oversized euros in back, five smaller velvet and cotton pillows in front.
Eskayel Dynasty pillow covers in slate, $135 each (18 inches square), eskayel.com. Louis XVI Closed Nightstand, $595, rh.com. Threshold Ombre Smoked Artisan glass lamp base in shadow, $52, target.com.