Adam and Amber Ford took on a big project with outstanding results.

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"We didn't have any expectation of buying," Adam Ford says. He and his wife, Amber, were content in their downtown Knoxville loft. With hopes of eventually finding an older house with character, the couple casually toured a 1940s Tudor, which had off-putting interiors (picture a canary yellow bedroom with a green closet and purple bath) that had scared off other prospective buyers. But Amber saw past the outdated aesthetics, and soon the 1,900-square-foot fixer-upper was theirs. While juggling their day jobs—Adam is a teacher, and Amber works in public health—the Fords meticulously made over each room and cataloged the transformations on their design-and-lifestyle blog, The Happy Tudor. Over the years (they're high school sweethearts), their design perspective has evolved. "Our style is new traditional and a little bit eclectic. We're influenced by art, travel, and British quirkiness," says Amber. To freshen up the Tudor's dark wooden accents, they looked outside to their garden to dream up a light, airy palette. "Listen to what a quirky old house needs. If you can work with those elements, you can make the home even more special," Amber says. Here are a few of their decorating ideas.

Green and white kitchen
Credit: Adam Ford

Do This First

Adam: "Before moving in, we got the bones in order—gutting the kitchen, refinishing the floors, and painting. It's really hard to flesh out a house in the beginning. We created a blank slate that we could work with long-term from year to year."

Breakfast nook with banquet seating
Credit: Adam Ford

Style Functionally

Amber: "Because this is an older house, there are basically no closets. We try to find attractive versions of the things we use frequently and keep them out. Rooms can actually take more furniture than you'd think. Sticking in an extra bookcase or table with a few drawers can make a difference."

Adam and Amber Ford of The Happy Tudor blog in their living room
Credit: Adam Ford

Design for Livability

Adam: "Two things can make such a huge difference—the layout and a properly scaled rug. You can have furniture that isn't the nicest, but it should be arranged in a way that helps people feel comfortable and makes conversation easy."

Give Yourself Time

Adam: "A layered look doesn't happen overnight. Sit with it for a little while, and see what works for the house and what doesn't. Pick up a piece here or there when you travel. That's what makes a home feel lived-in."

White tile main bath with clawfoot tub
White main bath vanity sink
Left: Credit: Adam Ford
Right: Credit: Adam Ford

Imagine Your Dream Room

Amber: "If you have a vision and know what pieces you need to add, you are less likely to redo things. No matter what, doing them twice will be much more expensive."

Invest in What You Love

Adam: "The splurges for us usually end up being the art, fabrics, lighting, and elements that are harder to change, like the permanent or semipermanent fixtures of the home. Anything we really love is worth it because we're more apt to keep it."

Pink themed bedroom with wallpapered walls
“Hanging wallpaper and painting the ceiling light pink made the main bedroom especially cozy,” says Amber. She sewed a bed skirt and headboard cover to give a new look to the tired West Elm frame.
| Credit: Adam Ford

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone 

Adam: "We liked the shade of the wood trim when we moved in, but certain paint colors don't look good with it. The more you try to fight it, the worse it can get. White looks great against wood trim and allows it to shine—it brings out the darker, richer undertones. Warm colors can work well, too, like the pinks used in the main bedroom. That's not something we'd lean toward automatically, but learning to accept what your house can take and what it can't is important."

The Fords' Paint Picks
Kitchen: Pigeon (No. 25) by Farrow & Ball (bottom cabinets); White Dove (OC-17) by Benjamin Moore (upper cabinets).
Breakfast Nook: Distant Gray (OC-68) by Benjamin Moore.
Dining Room Ceiling: Distant Gray (OC-68) by Benjamin Moore.
Main Bedroom Ceiling: Pink Ground (No. 202) by Farrow & Ball.
Main Bath: Simply White (OC-117) by Benjamin Moore