Our Most Inspiring Before & After Makeovers
Before: One-Day Porch Makeover
When homeowners Kelly and Walker Burley moved in to their farmhouse in Cullman, AL, they focused on the interior of the home. As a result, the outside became a collecting ground for a hodgepodge of furniture that was the wrong scale and size for the space.
After: One-Day Porch Makeover
With a few easy and cheerful touches, this porch went from drab to fab. Furnishings with an interior influence like the rug, sofa, and lamps look great in an outdoor room too. Colorful blooming containers in varying sizes create a garden setting.
Before: Drab & Dark Kitchen
Have you recently bought an older house with “good bones” that’s sorely in need of a remodel? Or has your tiny, isolated kitchen bothered you for years? Whether you’re just starting to dream or ready to bring in the wrecking ball, these stories of renovation and remodeling will fill you with inspiration. Our editors have compiled this collection of our most creative and clever makeovers—loaded with ideas and advice from some of the South’s best designers and architects. Get ready to let the dust fly!
Here, in our first "before" kitchen, the old, dark wood cabinetry; a heavy island; and a dark brick stove enclosure made the large room feel cramped.See more of this Lighten Up Kitchen Update
After: Lightened Up Kitchen
Designer Suzanne Kasler painted everything white for a serene feel and replaced the cabinetry to strengthen its architectural envelope. With Design Galleria’s Matthew Quinn, she designed the floor-to-ceiling cabinets and a handsome, furniture-like island. Glass door fronts lighten the main wall. Alabama white marble countertops, a white tile backsplash, and neutral barstools add texture to the monochromatic look.
Before: An Entertainer's Kitchen
Nadia NeJamie, a real estate agent in Washington, D.C., sees kitchens all the time. So when she decided to update the one in her 1914 Foursquare Colonial, she knew exactly how to relay her wishes to her interior designer, Christopher Patrick. “You can always tell a seventies or eighties kitchen,” says Nejaime, whose kitchen was last renovated in 2000. “What I craved was something classic—nothing super trendy that would go out of style in 10 years. And I wanted white. If you can see the dirt, you know it’s time to clean it!”
After: An Entertainer's Kitchen
A new island serves as a buffet when entertaining. The bold color of the base cabinets (Blue Lagoon; omegacabinetry.com) and warm walnut top make it the focal point of the room. Nejaime wanted the kitchen to feel inspired by the history of the house,” says Patrick. Handmade glazed subway tile, marble countertops, and more traditional cabinet doors—Shaker style with bead detailing—all feel classic. “Even the hardware has a vintage feel: The flair on the edges is inspired by 1920s materials. Hiding the fridge, dishwasher, and vent hood behind cabinetry gives the kitchen a seamless look and disguises modern amenities.
Before: Not-Too-Bad Den
Walls of windows made this room architecturally pleasing, but a blank white canvas screamed for a little color.
After: Colorful & Cozy Den
An all-white palette spills over from the kitchen to the family room for a light-filled and timeless look. With its walls of windows, the room didn’t need much architecturally, so Suzanne strategically layered in color and patterns. Dark accents in small doses, such as the newly refinished dark wood floors and wooden coffee table, contrast with the white backdrop without overwhelming it. Suzanne softened the look with a floral pattern upholstered onto slipper chairs, which is repeated for emphasis in adjacent spaces.
Before: Stark Seating Area
Before, the breakfast nook was a light-filled space, but it lacked warmth.
After: Sunny Breakfast Nook
Suzanne transformed the existing windowed corner into a cozy eating area with substantial built-in benches that mimic the kitchen cabinetry and provide extra storage. To make the space intimate, she placed slipcovered armchairs on one side of the metal bistro table and colorful draperies above the pillowed benches on the other side.
Before: Claustrophobic Water Closet
The existing bath was overly decorated, a bit claustrophobic, and without adequate closet space.
After: Elegant Master Bath
The room was stripped down to the studs, leaving only the windows intact. Valuable floorspace was saved with narrow vanities. Just above, recessed niches with inset mirrors offer the feeling of more space. Pavers made of white marble further the airy feel underfoot.
Before: Lake House Living Room
When Southern Living Style Director Heather Chadduck Hillegas got the call from a childhood friend to renovate and decorate a cottage on Arkasas' Greers Ferry Lake, she didn't have to think twice.
Here, a stained cedar ceiling paired with stone columns give the living room a heavy feel.
After: Lake House Living Room
The juxtaposition of wood-clad walls and ceilings with the original stone columns and concrete floors plays up Heather’s textural, earthy palette and strikes the right balance between cozy rustic and modern industrial. She painted the stained cedar ceiling to brighten the space and then added bench-cushion sofas, a foot-friendly sisal rug, a large overhead light fixture, and a one-of-a-kind coffee table.
Before: Lake House Kitchen
The tucked-away kitchen was dark but had good bones.
After: Lake House Kitchen
Heather brightened the space with a backsplash made of 3- by 6-inch honed Carrara marble subway tiles and installed a grid of 16 flush-mount light fixtures controlled by a dimmer switch to cast even light throughout. To pick up the gray tones in the floor, she selected durable, hand-poured, concrete countertops.
Before: Lake House Dining Room
The dining room had lots of natural light, but heavy beams in the ceiling closed in the space.
After: Lake House Dining Room
Beams were removed to allow more light to enter the room from above. Heather designed a 12-foot wooden table with a beveled zinc top to fit the narrow room. Two giant lanterns lend symmetry and balance and set the area apart from the surrounding spaces. With a skylight overhead and an expansive windowed wall, the room feels at one with nature.
Before: Lake House Guest Room
A soaring ceiling made this space rife with possibilities.
After: Lake House Guest Room
Three space-saving bunk beds stack all the way to the nearly 20-foot ceiling in the guest quarters. Heather opted for an arrangement of four chairs in a circle to facilitate conversation. For a grand yet earthy statement overhead, a 6-foot-tall empire chandelier made of rope fills the space above eye level.
Before: Lake House Screened Porch
A set of cabinets lacks the authority to be a focal point of the space.
After: Lake House Screened Porch
The addition of a large stacked-stone fireplace creates a focal point, adds a heat source, and visually links the porch with the rock columns inside the home. Heather flanked the fireplace with handy storage for stacked wood. The furniture is made with weather-resistant materials (teak, indoor/outdoor textiles, and water-resistant cushion fill).
Before: Neutral Update Living Room
Lindsay Bond Meadows had a lot of listening up to do when she set out to redecorate the home of a young family. To achieve the understated elegance she wanted, Lindsey couldn't wait to rid the rooms of their heavy window coverings and dark walls.
In the living room, dark colors dominated the palette making it a heavy space.
After: Neutral Update Living Room
Losing the dark colors, window headers, and formal draperies, Lindsey created a blank slate. New window shades welcome natural light, and black-and-white geometric prints make the room current. She reupholstered the sofa (formerly pink) in a white outdoor fabric, which resulted in a more up-to-date piece with classic lines.
Before: Neutral Update Breakfast Room
This nook needed a complete overhaul that included banishing the dark furniture and heavy chandelier.
After: Neutral Update Breakfast Room
Creating a sunny nook here meant starting over. Lindsey chose a lacquered table that reflects light and a contemporary take on a traditional candelabra. She surrounded the table with rustic chairs and an upholstered bench, mixing in shades of white in varying textures.
Before: Neutral Update Kitchen
The kitchen layout works, but the color and accessories were in need of an update.
After: Neutral Update Kitchen
Keeping the existing cabinetry, Lindsey looked to finishes and furnishings to give this cookspace a fresh feel. Soft gray paint coats the original olive cabinets, making the kitchen’s palette cohesive with the rest of the house. Lindsey replaced the stainless steel backsplash with subway tile (grouted in dark gray for a graphic look) and gave the existing barstools a face-lift with simple slipcovers made of durable outdoor fabric.
Before: Neutral Update Den
Oversized furniture cluttered and dwarfed the space.
After: Neutral Update Den
Lindsey simplified the seating with a few large yet sleek pieces. A collection of patterned pillows maximizes visual interest. She strategically framed the view by hanging draperies over the walls instead of the windows.
Before: Neutral Update Dining Room
A lack of light was an issue in this dining room, pre-renovation. Brown walls and brown-on-brown furniture made it a dreary space.
After: Neutral Update Dining Room
Light was definitely in order here. Brown walls were painted white, and brown-on-brown furniture was shown the door. Chairs upholstered in off-white leather lend a smooth look. a round, chunky,stone table replaced the oval one, which didn’t suit the room’s dimensions. Lindsey left the existing chandelier for a spot of glamour overhead. Up the wow factor—go with open shelving with distinctive lines for an artful display area.
Before: Historic Single House Front Exterior
Olivia and Walker Brock looked at dozens of Charleston’s iconic Single Houses before they found one with their coveted “Three Ps”—porch, privacy, and parking. Unfortunately, the house lacked a fourth “P”—period authenticity. Olivia, who has a master’s degree in historic preservation, considered every detail, from the shutters to the light switches, to make sure they were appropriate to the home’s era.
At the front of the house, the existing period-discordant, ornate fence and iron gate were hampering the charm.
After: Historic Single House Front Exterior
With the multi-storied porches restored, the couple replaced the existing fence and gate with welcoming wooden ones. Clapboard siding was painted a light green with cream trim, and the fixtures were backdated with reproductions. Not least, the front door was painted a classic navy.
Before: Historic Single House Living Room
Thick, formal moldings and faux plaster fireplace appliqués seemed out of place.
After: Historic Single House Living Room
The homeowners removed the moldings and appliqués and simplified the room’s architecture. They also added bookshelves on either side of the fireplace and replaced louvered plantation shutters with solid panels hinged in three places to perfectly align with the windowpane muntins. They coated the walls in shades of gray for a warm, subtle backdrop and filled the room with accents that lend an English Colonial flavor.
Before: Historic Single House Kitchen
The existing kitchen looked dark and dreary.
After: Historic Single House Kitchen
The owners wanted their existing kitchen to look like it had been added onto the home in the 1920s. That meant shiplap walls, no upper cabinets, mahogany countertops, and unlacquered brass cabinet hardware and sink fixtures. They ripped up the 1950s floor and laid a new pine floor on the diagonal, sealed and primed it, then applied two coats of high-gloss gray paint.
Before: Historic Single House Garden
The air conditioner was placed in the back of the house and compromised the layout of the garden.
After: Historic Single House Garden
Moving the air conditioner to the roof opened up a world of possibilities. The owners removed the too-wide plant beds and fooled the eye with beds running perpendicular to the façade, creating a square that feels like an outdoor room with European leanings.
Before: Family-Friendly Kitchen
When Susan and Jeff Johnson purchased their four-bedroom cottage in Nashville, Tennessee, they wanted to bring it up to speed while making it livable for their growing family. To jazz up the scheme, they teamed with designer Gen Sohr to give the home a stylish look and play up the family-friendly vibe. Pictured here, the pre-renovation kitchen was in need of a complete overhaul.
After: Family-Friendly Kitchen
Removing the wall with a pass-through window opened the room to the adjacent living area. Susan wanted the new kitchen to be sunny, with glass-front doors to counter the lack of natural light. She chose white for custom cabinetry and quartz countertops for a look similar to marble without the price tag or maintenance. A hefty island has ample room for cooking, entertaining, and homework.
Before: Family-Friendly Living Room
The diminuitive den had the potential to be a bigger space thanks to a small bedroom beyond the den wall.
After: Family-Friendly Living Room
Combining the breakfast area, small bedroom, and den allowed ample space for family and friends. Light pours into the added French doors. Gen upped the ante with a mix of fun patterns and a gallery wall of art.
Before: Family-Friendly Breakfast Area
Before the renovation, the breakfast room was actually the family room.
After: Family-Friendly Breakfast Area
The breakfast nook is also used for craft projects. Crisp white paint transformed the fireplace and bookshelves, and the dated mantel was replaced with a mod mirror. Gen enlivened the blank canvas with a graphic chevron rug and Roman shades made from an overscaled, blue-and-white floral print.
Before: Bold Redo Sunroom
What happens when a self-proclaimed “non-beiger” buys a traditional home that’s completely covered in neutrals? In the case of Bailey and Pete McCarthy: major redecorating! Bailey, a decorator, writer of the lifestyle blog Peppermint Bliss (peppermintbliss.com), and owner of the Houston-based bedding company Biscuit, is best known for vibrant spaces.
Before, the sunroom was a colorless room that needed a dose of panache.
After Bold Redo Sunroom
Bailey went for drama in the home’s sunroom, where rich browns and olive greens now dominate the once white-and-gray space. She enveloped the entire room with a dark brown hue in a chic, laquered finish, lending a warm, cozy feel. She redesigned the built-ins to house the television and to provide more closed storage.
Before: Bold Redo Kitchen
Here, the white kitchen didn't appeal to the homeowners' love of color.
After: Bold Redo Kitchen
The McCarthys replaced their lower cabinets and gave the uppers new life with glass doors and brass hardware. Tired of white kitchens, they drenched the space in deep, dark green in a glossy, laquered finish. A collection of white dishes, an impressive La Cornue range, and a white subway-tile backsplash bring balance.
Before: Bold Redo Master Bedroom
This dull space was in need of whimsy, color, and pattern.
After: Bold Redo Master Bedroom
A hand-painted floral wallcovering became just the colorful foundation this room needed. Every other color choice plays off of the wallpaper’s hues: the apple green rug, a pair of chartreuse gourd lamps, the hot pink velvet upholstered bed, and patterned linens. The room’s focal point is a canopy, edged in silky, green tassel trim. For the canopy’s interior, Bailey chose multiple yards of ivory silk for a luxe look.
Before: Bold Redo Master Bath
With an awkward layout, this master bath seemed cramped.
After: Bold Redo Master Bath
Bailey relocated the tub and tucked it into a cozy surround that includes a pair of glass-shelved cabinets and an inset beveled mirror. The mirror adds sparkle and enlarges the space, while the rows of open shelving give the room lots of storage and a vintage-apothecary feel. The millwork’s lacquered finish adds depth and polish, and the traditional marble hexagonal tile is a nod to the home’s 1930s roots. Bailey made sure to save room for a facing pair of marble-topped washstands with polished brass legs.
Before: Cohesive Update Kitchen
Shannon and Ted Holt were faced with a common dilemma: Their kitchen had good space and had been recently updated, but the end result just didn’t suit their style or tastes. The couple called on Birmingham designer Melanie Pounds, who instantly knew that the heart of this home wasn’t in need of a complete renovation—just a few tweaks to make it a more cohesive, functional space for the family. A few minor updates were all this kitchen needed to make it shine.
After: Cohesive Update Kitchen
Melanie gave the kitchen continuity by removing the upper cabinets and installing open limestone shelving to match the countertops flanking the stove. A metallic tile backsplash, updated pendant lights, a sculptural range hood, and some conversation-piece barstools complete the look.
Before: Cohesive Update Breakfast Room
The dining room had great light, but was too formal for the family's needs.
After: Cohesive Update Breakfast Room
The formal dining room was replaced by a more casual, inviting spot for everyday family meals. Melanie added a series of freestanding closets with upholstered doors accented with nailheads. The center one opens to reveal a home office nook with overhead shelving to conceal clutter.
Before: Small Space Rescue Living Room
This 9-foot-deep apartment in New Orleans was living rather small until designer Nathan Drewes came to its rescue with big ideas for taking it back to its 1830s glory.
Before, the narrow living room needed strategic furnishings to make the most of its modest footprint.
After: Small Space Rescue Living Room
To give the eye a rest from the abundant color and pattern of the accessories, Nathan skipped patterned upholstery. He instead opted for tactile velvets and shimmery silks in solid shades of deep pink, mustard, and light blue.
Before: Summer Rancher Living Room
You have to be friendly in this house because it’s so small,” says Kevin Walsh of his lake cottage in Hot Springs, Arkansas. When he and Brett Pitts began searching for a weekend home, they wanted space to relax and entertain. The house that caught their attention was a dreary 1969 rancher. Because it had a vaulted ceiling and a large wall of windows overlooking Lake Hamilton, Kevin knew they could transform it into a fresh, sunny space.
Here, a brick fireplace and dark, raftered ceiling needed to be lightened up.
After: Summer Rancher Living Room
Kevin kept the scheme consistent in the living area, where the brick fireplace surround is painted white. A pair of simple white occasional chairs and a cool, hide-covered ottoman provide a more personal arrangement than large sofas for sitting down for a conversation or checking out the ever-changing assortment of artwork and collectibles on the mantel.
Before: Summer Rancher Kitchen
Dated cabinets and a bulky refrigerator meant this space was in need of a redo.