Before and After: See This 848-Square-Foot Apartment's Charming Transformation
McMinnville, Tennessee, native Traci Jones fell in love online—with an 848-square-foot apartment built in 1921 and located in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood of Nashville. "It needed work, but I've always had a thing for older buildings," Jones says. "My dad had renovated houses my entire life, so I learned to recognize potential early." Instead of seeing the deferred maintenance and dated interiors, including the rolls and rolls of wallpaper plastered on nearly every surface of the apartment, she saw high ceilings, original trim, solid architecture, and large windows that flooded the space with natural light.
Jones enlisted the help of her father (who tackled demo, plumbing, electrical, and the bulk of the trim and floor work) and also brought in Nashville-based interior designer Jessica Stambaugh. The trio spent the better part of a year rescuing the apartment's charm from the effects of a shoddy 1990s renovation while maximizing every inch of the floor plan to fit Jones' contemporary needs.
Find Beauty in the Mix
Jones was drawn to this Nashville apartment's historic architecture, but for core pieces (like the living room sofa), Stambaugh recommends buying new. "Then you can fill in the gaps with vintage end tables and coffee tables and maybe an antique accent chair," she says. "Finding different marriage points of old pieces with things that are a little newer keeps the space from feeling too theatrical."
Let Rooms Be Flexible
"Think about how you're going to live in your space, and then consider what areas could do double duty," Stambaugh says. For Jones, who is a freelance talent manager, a home office took precedence over a spare bedroom. She also craved a designated dining spot, which the current apartment lacked. To satisfy both of those needs, the designer turned the guest bedroom into an office/dining area, which became a haven during the pandemic.
Get Creative with Built-Ins
For the office meets dining room, Stambaugh designed a sleek floor-to-ceiling unit with plenty of desk space and cabinets, where Jones stows everything from office supplies to dinnerware. On the opposite wall, Stambaugh added an over-sized window seat with deep drawers, where Jones' 11-year-old miniature Pinscher, Indiana, likes to perch. "Whenever you can justify built-ins in your budget, go for it," the designer says. "And that's not just for storage. There's so much functionality you can bring [to a space] that way." She painted the shelving Mizzle (No. 266) by Farrow & Ball.
"Traci travels a lot for work, so she doesn't cook much," Stambaugh says. Instead of crowding the kitchen with a large range or massive refrigerator, Stambaugh designed an efficient galley kitchen with minimalist Shaker-style cabinets and apartment-size appliances. "You don't put a thirtysomething-inch refrigerator in this kind of space," Stambaugh says. "It just doesn't work." The bright white color palette (Benjamin Moore's White Heron, OC-57) keeps the small room airy.
Make a Statement with Color
Because Jones and Stambaugh chose not to open-up the apartment, they were able to preserve this original area adjacent to the kitchen. "It's little jewel box moment," Stambaugh says of the small pass-through space, which she painted a bold teal (Benjamin Moore's Mayo Teal, CW-570), a rich hue she pulled from the avian-inspired John Derian wallpaper Jones selected for the foyer. "It really makes the space feel younger in spirit."
Add Visual Contrast
Moody floral curtains and a romantic color palette of muted creams (the walls are painted in Elmira White (HC-84) by Benjamin Moore) and dusty pinks anchor Jones' sunny bedroom. Stambaugh created layers of interest using standout elements such as bold Moroccan textiles in eye-catching patterns and a modern Italian-inspired reading chair, giving the bright, feminine retreat a bit of an edge.
Take an Updated Approach to Classic
"Traci really wanted to emphasize that traditional prewar feeling in the bath," says Stambaugh, who added fixtures, plumbing, and a tub-shower combo that would have been typical of the era when the apartment was built. More modern touches like polished nickel finishes (rather than antique brass) and a hexagonal floor tile in a surprising powder blue marble keep the space feeling fresh.