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Before and After: Cool Blue Kitchen

A designer’s favorite color meshes with her Spanish roots to drive a splashy kitchen redo in her Atlanta townhouse

Written by Lisa Mowry
  • Jeff Herr

    For architect and designer Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, a builder-bland 1990s kitchen in her own home just wouldn’t do. (See the before on the next slide)

    Bold backsplash tiles from Granada Tile set the tone for architect, designer, and homeowner Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson’s remodeled kitchen. Stainless-steel legs distinguish the island topped with LG Viatera quartz. The Delta faucet has a hands-free feature Ili loves.

    Photography: Jeff Herr  
    Styled by Thea Beasley

    Architect and designer: Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, NCARB, NCIDQ; TerraCotta Properties, Atlanta; 404/377-0906;

    Cabinetry and open shelving custom: Greenwalt & Sons Custom Woodworks, Atlanta; 404/271-5179;
    Dark cabinet paint “Dark Knight” SW6237, light cabinet paint “Rock Candy” SW6231: Sherwin-Williams;
    Cabinet hardware from the Bar series: Lew’s Hardware by Lewis Dolin;
    Shelf brackets: Signature Hardware;
    Wall paint “Oxford White”: Benjamin Moore;
    Range niche tile: Granada Cement Tile;
    White subway tile: The Tile Shop;
    Countertop “Cloud” quartz: LG Viatera;
    Range, hood, refrigerator integrated with cabinets: Thermador;
    Faucets: Delta Faucet Co.; 800/345-3358;
    Stools “Vapor”: CB2; 800/606-6252;

  • Kitchen Before

    The dark space was part of the package when Ili purchased an Atlanta townhouse for its 12-foot ceilings and plentiful windows. 

  • Kitchen Cabinets Before

    But the kitchen was immediately marked for an upgrade inspired by the designer’s Spanish heritage. 

  • Jeff Herr

    Navy Cabinetry

    “The backsplash tiles were the starting point of the design,” says Ili, who spent her childhood in Puerto Rico and has ancestors from Spain in her family tree. She researched dozens of possibilities before deciding on Moorish-look concrete tiles with a navy-and-white color scheme that informs the entire room.

    A 12-foot-tall wall of blue cabinetry echoes the backsplash color and allows a black Thermador steam oven to almost disappear. 

  • Jeff Herr

    Vibrant Backsplash

    Using the backsplash tiles as a focal point, Ili designed the L-shape kitchen to look great from adjacent rooms. She kept the perimeter cabinetry and island neutral, a gray-tinged white, and then went bold on the adjacent wall with a floor-to-ceiling cabinet painted in glossy indigo. “That wall grounds the kitchen,” Ili says. “And blue is my go-to color.” 

  • Jeff Herr

    Open Shelving

    Skinny white tiles behind open shelves keep the kitchen from feeling busy. “I decided not to run the patterned tiles all the way across the wall,” Ili says. “This way the shelves don’t compete.” Iron shelf brackets add a hefty material to break up the white tones.

  • Jeff Herr

    Range Wall

    Sleek quartz countertops and see-through bar stools imbue a contemporary edge, while sculptural turned-wood pendants beside the range hood play off gray-stained wood floors. “I like to include elements that counteract some of the modern,” Ili says. “A mix of contemporary and traditional is what I’m all about.” 

    The custom vent hood above the Thermador range is mostly wood with a band of stainless steel closest to the heat. The patterned concrete backsplash tiles have color that goes all the way through. “They just look like Puerto Rico to me,” Ili says. 

  • Jeff Herr

    Gray Bar

    Ili enlivened an existing butler’s pantry with a coat of Sherwin-Williams “Mink,” a new light fixture, and a mirrored backsplash. “Now it’s glam and jewel-like,” she says.

  • John Bessler and Peter Rymwid