House goals: Rooms so bright and airy that light fixtures are selected more for aesthetics than function. That was what architect Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson was looking for when she stumbled upon a spacious 1990s townhouse. Owner of award-winning Terracotta Design/Build, Ili appreciated the potential of the corner unit’s 12-foot-tall ceilings and many windows. “Most days I don’t need to turn on lights until nighttime,” says the Decatur resident.
Ili also realized the abode was just the right size for her and her 14-year-old daughter, Isabela. “I was able to check all the boxes: charming neighborhood, good schools, close to work, no landscaping to worry about, and a lot of volume inside.”
As a renovation expert, Ili knew all sorts of tricks for freshening up the dated interiors—none more dramatic than painting all walls and trim with high-gloss paint. Every single surface has a sheen, which accentuates natural light and makes the whole house glow.
The Georgia Tech grad is a designer as well as an architect, and her style is classically modern. However, having grown up in Puerto Rico, she loves to infuse her home with references to her heritage. A woven rug in her office is high style but resembles casual versions seen on Caribbean porches. In the kitchen, concrete tile in a geometric navy-and-white design adds a coastal vibe. “The tile backsplash is the first thing I see when I come down the stairs,” says Ili. “It looks like Puerto Rico and feels like home.”
She also explored a more exuberant color palette than she’d used in previous residences. “I decided with this house that I really wanted to have fun with color,” Ili says. Her favorite blues make dramatic appearances in the kitchen and master bath. In other rooms, shades of raspberry and lavender accent a subtle palette of light gray and white.
Ili’s mantra in redoing the house was “edit, edit, edit.” She removed columns and archways, cherry kitchen cabinets, ornate lighting, and other elements that interfered with her goal of simple elegance. The hardwood floors, formerly honey-colored, were stripped and restained a refined gray. Even furnishings were pared down to her favorites—a mix of antiques and contemporary pieces.
The remodel also offered Ili an opportunity to show friends and clients the impact of high-gloss paint, something she’d been wanting to do for a while. “This house definitely has a hint of glam,” says Ili. More than a hint, we’d say.
Architect/designer Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, Terracotta Design/Build, terracottadesignbuild.com
Paints Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com
Stairway Console: CB2, cb2.com
Kitchen Appliances: Thermador, thermador.com
Living room Sofa: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbw.com
Chairs Lee Industries, leeindustries.com
Light Stilnovo, stilnovousa.com
Bar Light Cost Plus World Market, worldmarket.com
Office Furniture West Elm, westelm.com
Lamps Jonathan Adler, jonathanadler.com
Master bedroom pillow Designers Guild, designersguild.com
Master bath art Wisteria, wisteria.com
This article originally appeared in our Fall 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.