Family Treasures and Bold Colors Fill This 1940s Cottage With Personality

A Birmingham home gets a vibrant face-lift for a young couple with an eye for color and a soft spot for nostalgia.

1940s Birmingham, AL White Cottage Remodel by Hundley Hilton Interiors and Anna Evans
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

They say going through a renovation can test a relationship's resilience, but when Chelsey and Kyle Heslop set out to revamp a Birmingham home for their family, they actually found kumbaya quickly. "You don't often have a couple who agree right off the bat on a favorite color," says Janie Jones, who was hired along with her partner, Elizabeth Miles, to redo the interiors. "And if you do have a consensus, it's not usually purple." The Heslops had their reasons—for Chelsey the shade has been a beloved hue since childhood; for Kyle it is a tribute to his alma mater, Kansas State University. But luckily, while the two may have played favorites, they weren't averse to the rest of the rainbow. "We wanted people to come into our home and feel warm and welcomed, which is very much what I feel when I'm surrounded by color," says Chelsey.

Working with that as their guide, Jones and Miles, who helm Birmingham-based Hundley Hilton Interiors, dreamed up a palette that felt fresh and fun but seemed at home against the more traditional backdrop. As a 1940s build, the cottage had an understated charm that appealed to the Heslops from the beginning. So, after snatching up the house, they worked with Birmingham architect Anna Evans to preserve its historic spirit while updating and expanding to accommodate their growing family. (The couple welcomed their first child in the midst of the renovation.) "We basically went up and out with it," says Chelsey, nodding to the refinished attic that now holds a pair of bedrooms and the sizable addition to the rear. "But the front remained the same."

Inside, Jones and Miles played up the past-meets-present vibes by performing a delicate dance between antique and contemporary. "Anna did a remarkable job of making all the new seem like it'd been there from the very beginning," says Jones. "So our job was to come in and give it those unexpected elements." Modern accessories, like the dining room's statement chandelier, cozy up to vintage silhouettes and throwback finds—including sentimental pieces salvaged from Chelsey's childhood home. Meanwhile, surprising bursts of bold hues—from deep teal to every shade of purple under the sun—showcase the cherished antiques in a whole new light. "It feels very fresh and youthful," says Miles, "which is the perfect embodiment of our clients." Here's how the designers used color to invigorate the space for a modern family.

Save the Best from Before

In renovating this 1940s cottage, the charming facade was among the keepers. The team updated it simply with a new door, hardware, and a fresh coat of paint (Farrow & Ball James White, No. 2010). A small round window—an original feature lost from the back of the house in the renovation—was preserved and relocated to the right of the front door.

Make a First Impression

Just beyond the front door, an entry vignette (left) provides a preview of what's to come inside: heirloom pieces (the marble-topped table), antiques displayed in modern ways (a grid of 19th-century lithographs), and—of course—the couple's beloved purple (an amethyst Murano glass lamp). "We wanted this to be a modern cottage while incorporating elements from the time when the home was built," says Miles. In an opposite corner (right), a vintage Baker chest grounds a display of sophisticated yet funky finds, including an antique gold mirror and a porcelain bust vase. It also houses the room's bar. "It feels very Mad Men," says Chelsey of the living room.

Off White Formal Living Room With Pops of Teal
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Start with Art

Playing off the Heslops' love of photography, the designers found a classic Slim Aarons print with a summery feel, leading to a formal living space grounded in blue. Jones and Miles went heavy on pigment when choosing the room's sofas, opting for upholstery in rich teal velvet. Mid-century modern chairs and a Lucite coffee table add toned-down neutrals and vintage appeal that connect back to the room's artistic focal point. "The title of the piece is Poolside Gossip," says Chelsey, "and I just loved the idea of this being a space where you could catch up with friends over a cocktail."

Open Kitchen and Dining Room with Round Table and Pops of Purple and Green
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Go with the Flow

With the living room's bold palette already established, the designers selected a less electric color scheme for the open-plan kitchen and dining space, which included an island painted a more subdued aqua (Farrow & Ball's Green Blue, No. 84). This also allowed the room's star details to speak for themselves. "The light fixture is really the showstopper," says Miles of the Italian Murano bubble glass chandelier. Just beneath, a custom white lacquered table serves as the ideal canvas for any gathering. "The homeowners have amazing china and colored glassware. Whatever they put down pops," says Jones.

Dark blue den with purple sectional
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Expand Your Palette

The homeowners requested a dark and moody space, so the designers transformed a former bedroom at the back of the house into a comfortable den where the family can kick back and relax. Here, bold hues reign supreme with a modern purple sectional sharing the spotlight with a pink leather ottoman, vintage burnt umber Egg chair, and marigold draperies. "We love mixing unexpected colors together, but it's important that they also play well with one another," says Jones. A custom deep teal paint color in a high-gloss finish upped the room's refinement. "We wanted this area to feel like a little jewel box," says Miles.

Screened porch with woven furniture and concrete coffee table
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Mirror Your Surroundings

Among the fruits of the renovation was the addition of a screened-in porch, which sits perched up on a hill and "feels almost like you're in a treehouse," says Miles. With such natural beauty as a backdrop, the designers kept it simple when furnishing the space, pairing woven furniture from Summer Classics with soothing blue hues. Modern accents, like a concrete coffee table from CB2, and tiny pops of yellow connect the room back to the indoors.

Formal Sitting Area with Blue Chaise Lounge and Pink Mural Wallpaper
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Give Small Spaces the Spotlight

A tiny pass-through nook (formerly a sunroom) connecting the living area and main bedroom may have been a mere fraction of the home's floor plan, but that didn't diminish its potential. "You can see it from so many places in the home and it just gives everything around it the cheeriest feel," says Chelsey. A chinoiserie mural wallpaper from Schumacher kicked off the designers' vision, paving the way for a palette of rosy hues and a lineup of luxurious textures (high-gloss ceilings in Farrow & Ball's Pink Ground and a sumptuous vintage mohair chaise). "It's the kind of place where you want to go in and kick your shoes off, put on a fancy robe, and read a book," says Miles.

Main Bedroom with Blue and Green Linens
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Kick Into Neutral

While bold color may have been the owners' love language when it came to decorating much of the house, the main bedroom was the exception. "We wanted a space that was peaceful, calm, and welcoming after a long day," says Chelsey. The designers took this as an opportunity to pull in softer shades of surrounding hues, including light aquas and dusty blues. Bedding from Leontine Linens and vintage lamps bring in hints of brighter colors.

Pink Nursery
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Something Old, Something New

When it came to fashioning a nursery, the designers didn't have to search far for inspiration. In Chelsey's arsenal of heirlooms were special mementos from her own childhood bedroom, including a chandelier and printed lavender-and-pink drapes that they had restitched to make Roman shades. "That was what we used to design the entire nursery," says Jones. On the walls, an enveloping coat of Benjamin Moore's Paisley Pink (1261) played off this feminine look.

Pale Green Playroom with Builtin Shelving
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Kathleen Varner

Get Creative with Paint

In designing a space that's all about play, Jones and Miles opted to have fun with color, applying an ombré effect to the built-in shelving, ranging from yellowy green (Farrow & Ball Churlish Green, No. 251) to dusty aqua (Farrow & Ball Dix Blue, No. 82). Rays of sunshine from a brightly hued table and a buffalo check chair pull shades straight from the artwork adorning the walls.

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