Get Inspired By This 848-Square-Foot Apartment's Charming Transformation

A father-daughter duo and Nashville designer Jessica Stambaugh return a small century-old apartment to its glory.

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.

Apartment remodel living room before
Before: Instead of taking a sledgehammer to dividing walls, the team opted to keep the scale of the 1921 layout. Courtesy Jessica Stambaugh
Jessica Stambaugh designed apartment living room with vintage accents
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

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."

Jessica Stambaugh Designed Dining Room with Office Space and Window Seat
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

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.

Apartment remodel spare bedroom closet before
Before: With only 848 square feet to work with, carving out enough storage was a top priority for Stambaugh. Courtesy Jessica Stambaugh
Jessica Stambaugh designed built in desk space in apartment
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

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.

Apartment remodel kitchen before
Before: The compact kitchen was in need of a bright coat of paint. Courtesy Jessica Stambaugh
Jessica Stambaugh designed galley kitchen with apartment-size appliances and white cabinetry
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

Consider Scale

"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.

Jessica Stambaugh designed hall pantry in dark teal
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

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."

Apartment remodel bedroom before
Before: The multiple windows in the bedroom provided lots of light, but the space still needed some help with paint. Courtesy Jessica Stambaugh

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.

Jessica Stambaugh designed apartment bathroom with blue shower curtain
Alison Gootee; Styling: Suzonne Stirling

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.

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