Designer Meg Kelly rescues a down-on-its-luck Nashville home with her colorful, collected style.
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When I walked in this house, it made me feel like I was at my granny's," says designer Meg Kelly. Her East Nashville ranch-style home had only one previous owner, and the interiors hadn't been redone since it was built in 1963. Outdated features like dark wood paneling and a compact, closed-off floor plan would have scared away many prospective buyers. ("There were doors everywhere!" she says.) But thanks to her professional background in roll-up-your-sleeves renovations, she saw endless potential. "I wanted a fixer-upper so I could put my influence on it," says Kelly, who recently launched her Nashville-based interiors studio, Clella Design (which she named after her Granny Clella, who she says "fancied herself a designer"). Kelly marked projects off her checklist in phases, starting by ripping down a wall to create an open kitchen-and-living area that's prime for entertaining. She also closed off the garage to make an additional bedroom, bath, and laundry room, bringing the home's square footage to around 1,600. Now, she says, "There isn't a single piece of this house that I haven't touched." With bold color combinations, a mix of vintage and modern furniture, and an ever-growing art collection, she infused her dated rancher with new life. Steal her decorating ideas here.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Home Entry Hall with Green Accents
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Add an Element of Surprise 

A home shouldn't give away all its secrets the minute someone steps through the door. To set apart the living room, Kelly put up two faux walls to establish a formal entryway. A graphic pattern (Schumacher's Deconstructed Stripe) dresses up the entryway walls. "It reads as a neutral, so I can layer it with anything," says Kelly. A vintage record cabinet anchors the space. When she's not tackling other projects, Kelly is scouring thrift stores and antiques shops for treasures to fill her home.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Living Room with Leather Sofa
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Lean On Old Favorites

A beloved piece by artist Wayne Pate inspired the colors woven throughout the house. "Green and red is one of my favorite combos. I like to prove that those two can play nicely and won't make it feel like a Christmas space," says Kelly. In the living room, a pair of antique Taoist panels from Etsy ties the palette together. "I buy what I love and will find a space for it," she says. No room of Kelly's is complete without at least one quirky piece, like the funky wooden bench given to her by her mom.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Before
Before: Kelly maintained the kitchen's original layout. Ripping out the heavy upper cabinetry helped the space feel light and open.
| Credit: Courtesy of Meg Kelly
Meg Kelly 1960s Ranch Remodel White Kitchen with Open Floor Plan
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Camouflage Budget Buys

While much of the existing floor plan stayed intact, the dreary kitchen needed a total gut job. "I wanted to maximize its footprint and have a nice island," says Kelly, who customized cabinetry from a big-box store with Carrara marble atop the island and warm butcher block along the perimeter. She painted the original wood-paneled walls bright white (PPG's Delicate White, PPG1001-1). "You can use art to make a kitchen feel a bit more lived-in," she says. She filled an awkward cubby above the refrigerator with her blue-and-white porcelain collection, which she can easily pull down for arrangements.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Dining Room Before
Before: Dark wood paneling made the dining area feel even smaller. Kelly accentuated the room's natural light by painting it white.
| Credit: Courtesy of Meg Kelly
Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch White Dining Room
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Reimagine the Open Floor Plan

A vintage rug from Etsy helps distinguish the dining area within the open-concept layout. "It was also important to drop a light fixture here so it feels like its own little room," she adds. The designer balanced the modern black pendant and Wishbone chairs with a vintage glass-top table. "If you have a small space with light coming in from outside, take advantage of that and paint it white," says Kelly. Salvaged doors open to the porch.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Bedroom Before
Before: Kelly relied on the power of paint to give the sleepy 1960s bedroom a modern refresh.
| Credit: Courtesy of Meg Kelly
Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Remodel Green Bedroom
Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Remodel Green Bedroom Desk Area
Left: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason
Right: Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Create a Cozy Haven

"A bedroom is where you can be playful," says Kelly. Here, she skipped the main living areas' airy scheme and chose a moodier tone, covering the ceiling, trim, and doors in her signature green (Sherwin-Williams' Arugula, SW 6446). "It's important to be surrounded by pieces that I love in my bedroom," says Kelly, who's using her evolving art collection to "wallpaper" the space. She chose a rattan bed for warmth, an ikat quilt for pattern, and a fur blanket for texture. A trio of accent pillows brings the entryway's print into the bedroom.

Meg Kelly's 1960s Ranch Bathroom
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Think Big in Small Spaces

"Bathrooms give you the opportunity to add even more personality," says Kelly, who brought in the existing palette with a whimsical Brunschwig & Fils wallcovering. "I love how wallpaper can completely transform a space." The designer balanced the simple tile wainscot with patterned marble flooring to elevate the look. Removing a bulky vanity and replacing it with a sleeker pedestal sink helped give this compact bath a little more breathing room.

1960s Ranch Remodel Pink Bedroom
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason
Pink Bedroom Builtin Wardrobe with Window Seat
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Fine-tune the Details

Kelly renovated the old garage to create a new main bedroom, bath, and laundry room. To maximize space in the bedroom, she opted for a built-in wardrobe (made by Louisville Kitchen & Millwork) set along one wall instead of a traditional walk-in closet. Raising the floors helped the addition feel like an extension of the original house and raising the ceiling helped the room feel larger. "For me, design is in the details," says Kelly, who scaled back on the red-and-green scheme here so the pink walls (Pink Ground, No. 202, by Farrow & Ball) could shine. She says the Restoration Hardware pendant looks like "a huge pearlescent moon at night."

Green Bathroom with Pink Vanity
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Go Bold

To help the new bath feel like an original part of the home, Kelly added paneled walls that mimic the look of the kitchen. She brought in her signature palette, of course, swathing the room in Farrow & Ball's Breakfast Room Green (No. 81) and painting the cabinetry Farrow & Ball's bold Blazer (No. 212). Geometric black-and-white tile flooring, which she carried over to the shower, adds another playful element. "When you can keep tiling consistent, it makes a space feel larger," she says.

Red Laundry Room with Stacked Washer and Dryer
Credit: Alison Gootee; Design: Meg Kelly; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Play with Pattern

"This is a happy space. Because there's no natural light, I wanted to play with color, patterns, and my favorite palette," says Kelly of the laundry room. She used the whimsical wallpaper (Goa by Thibaut) as her jumping off point. She paired powder blue cabinetry with a "cheap and cheerful" green-and-white check print from a local fabric store. "I love gathered fabric details. It's an inexpensive way to add personality to the space," she says. Here, she added a skirt below the countertop to hide her cat's litter box. A blue-and-white-stripe lampshade was converted into a pendant.

1960s Ranch Remodel Screened Porch
Credit: Alison Gootee; Styling: Matthew Gleason

Build a Breezy Outdoor Room

After a pecan tree fell on her house during the March 2020 tornados in Nashville, Kelly turned the damage into an opportunity the build the screened porch she'd always wanted. The wicker furniture's striped cushions (a Facebook Marketplace find) inspired the palette for the painted floors. A pitched tongue-and-groove ceiling keeps the space feeling airy. "I wanted to take full advantage of all viewpoints," says Kelly, who extended the screens all the way to the floor so nothing would inhibit her sightline (and bugs would be kept out). A large pendant from Serena & Lily polishes off the look.