Meet the Kalvakotas

Introducing the Kalvakota family, our dear friends and next project!

Dark + moody living room before getting a big bright + cheery facelift! | via Yellow Brick Home

How Does Your Space Make You Feel?

How does your space make you feel? That was the first question I asked Nithin and Rachel Kalvakota, our dear friends, neighbors and every-day-hangout buddies. They have two young girls – one close in age to Lucy – and from the start, our friendship has always left us feeling fulfilled, happy and inspired. For years, they’ve lived in a home that was designed for the previous homeowner, someone with design tastes and sensibilities other than their own. When I asked how that made them feel, they both agreed: Bummed. Heavy.

Meet the Kalvakotas!

Follow along as we help Nithin and Rachel transform their first floor from dark + heavy into a space that’s a reflection of who they are. Let’s give them the freedom to love the place they call home.

How Do You Want Your Space to Feel?

Then came the harder question. How do you want your space to feel? After a beat, Rachel replied: Calm. And joyful. Can you do that? Yes! Yes, we can!

Nithin and Rachel are bright, thoughtful and light-hearted. Their home is a reflection of someone else entirely, and they’ve consistently felt paralyzed with where to start! While I’ve helped them with one-off dilemmas from time to time, they recently came to me with a budget and a white flag. Their ask was modest – just a little help to get them started – but in typical Kim fashion, I want to see them through from start to finish. My goal is to help them achieve a home that tells their story, complete with vintage artwork (painted by Rachel’s grandmother!), smart storage solutions (toys, toys, toys!), and a playfulness that gives them the freedom to love the place they call home.

The Space

They live in a style of Chicago homes we’ve nicknamed the ‘eco-box,’ meaning that the home maximizes its city footprint with modern efficiencies, tall ceilings and a street-facing wall of windows. These homes are long and narrow, coming in at about 20′ wide. This makes the living space about 15′ wide, once you account for the staircase. Fellow Chicagoans, you are probably familiar with this exact style of housing!

Striped entryway | via Yellow Brick Home

The previous homeowner used shades of beige, raisin and charcoal to show off the open floor plan, and they even painted black and white stripes in the entryway:

Striped entryway (before) | via Yellow Brick Home

The Design Goals

We love a moody paint color (and fully believe that dark paint can still feel calming and joyful), but the color palette and application doesn’t match their personalities. I think I see what the former homeowner was doing – dark paint in the living room, with softer taupe in the kitchen and dining room (beyond) to create a sense of separation. We actually have plans to reverse that thought and welcome the open floor plan with one consistent color! At the same time, we have a few fun ideas to still create zones and nooks to create the coziness they’re craving.

Dark and moody open floor plan gets an upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home
Dark and moody open floor plan gets an upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home

In fact, we’ve already painted since I took these photos! Every single wall – the living room, kitchen, dining room, up the staircase and down to the basement – were painted in the prettiest, creamiest white, Sherwin-Williams Greek Villa. In the mornings, the light filtering through the trees offers hints of green, while in the evenings, soft lamp lighting brings warmth.

Cabinetry for music and toy storage will be getting a big upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home

We have some exciting plans in the works for the cabinet storage area! It was initially picked by – you guessed it! – the people before Nithin and Rachel. It’s nice, but it’s too short to maximize storage for larger toys, and the cabinet above serves little purpose. This is where they play albums on their turntable, and we want to highlight that!

We also want to give them cubbies for toys, books and grab-n-go supplies (such as diapers, wipes and baby essentials). This dead zone in the middle of the floor is where the girls (and Lucy!) play, spread out and dizzy themselves in circles. We’ll lean into this by defining the zone.

Dark and moody open floor plan gets an upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home
Dark and moody open floor plan, kitchen in center, gets an upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home

The dining room is at the back of the house, and I personally love how it’s a part of the open floor plan, but it still feels somewhat secluded (in the most special way). We’ve enjoyed countless dinners around this table, and it’s already at a great starting point!

Sparse dining room gets an upgrade! | via Yellow Brick Home

For example, the wall of white cabinetry is perfect for hiding away dining and kitchen overflow, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m not sure what’s behind all those doors. Storage is only as good as the way it’s organized. Meaning, a whole wall of cabinetry serves little purpose if each door is hiding chaos. Luckily, we have a plan in place for this area, too!

Sparse dining room gets an upgrade! (before)| via Yellow Brick Home

The Plans

We’ll be implementing a work-with-what-you-have attitude, while also incorporating a handful of upgrades (paint! lighting!). Most importantly, we’ll be reimagining better laid storage solutions so that everything has a place. Here’s a breakdown of the steps to get from A to B to Z:


  • Purge, donate and sell underutilized items
  • Remove gloss brown wall cabinets and replace with a nook of cabinetry (more on this in a later post!)
  • Count, measure and assess what needs to be stored, and make a list
  • Shop for baskets, bins and dividers and give them purpose


  • Paint all the walls one color – DONE!
  • Wallpaper the dining room and entryway

Lighting + Electrical

  • Swap every last light switch to a dimmer
  • Swap all bulbs for warm LED bulbs (2700-3000K for calm, welcoming light)
  • Add lamps to tabletops and floor lamps to dim corners
  • Replace the 3 main fixtures with large pendants (living room, kitchen island and dining)

Furniture + Accessories

  • Order a modular sectional to invite more comfortable seating – DONE!
  • Replace coffee table with a trio of storage ottomans that double as a place to set a drink + snacks
  • Add large area rugs to define the different zones within this one large room
  • Add greenery, textiles and artwork
Open floor plan gets an upgrade! (before) | via Yellow Brick Home

We’re excited to dive in and transform this open floor plan with simple upgrades and smart choices. We’ll be sharing so much more in Stories today, so be sure to follow along with us on Instagram @yellowbrickhome!

PS: Here are a few other makeovers for friends, if you’d like to see! Family room | kids room | small den | rental living room | vintage bathroom charm | rooftop pergola

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  • Maggie9.10.21 - 8:07 AM

    Ha!  We were under contract for this home for a hot second in December 2012. I am super excited to see what you guys do with it!  If you feel the urge to polish up another “eco-box” in the future, I got one for you.ReplyCancel

  • Megan9.10.21 - 8:25 AM

    So excited to follow along!ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Gylov9.10.21 - 8:48 AM

    What a fun project!! Can’t wait to see what you do.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa9.10.21 - 9:10 AM

    I’m excited to see this project come to life! for their family, but also as we delve into our basement family hang space/adjacent playroom for 2 under 6yo! always inspired by carefree and fun with bonus toy storage!!ReplyCancel

  • Danielle9.10.21 - 9:55 AM

    Love following projects involving your friends and family! Is this the same house you helped with a basement music room situation? ReplyCancel

  • Julie Marquez9.10.21 - 11:24 AM

    No sneak peak of the front door yet?
    I actually love the black and white cabana strips in the entry, but I understand that they are looking for something warmer and more cohesive. I can’t wait to see what you guys do and thanks for breaking it down with a list (I love lists).ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.10.21 - 12:58 PM

      Waiting on approval from the brand, hoping it won’t be much longer, so sorry!ReplyCancel

  • Ella9.10.21 - 11:37 AM

    All too familiar with this layout as our Chicago home is the same and SURPRISE, we’ve had the same struggles (right down to the walls that we haven’t painted for 3 years :D).  Excited to follow along! ReplyCancel

  • Susan9.11.21 - 8:51 AM

    Love the breakdown of tasks here and the well laid plan. You go!ReplyCancel

  • Blanca9.12.21 - 7:53 PM

    Yay!!! I saw the words SW Greek Villa and felt like my “renovator/designer” self found their soulmate at last ???? 
    We’ve been painting all the common areas of our house in that color as we tackle them. It is the best color for our space, makes it feel so much lighter and bigger.
     I completely understand the heartache it is to live in a house someone else customized. There was a wall filled with grey triangles, hand painted without stencil, and very crooked that started in our entry and covered the TV wall and around the kitchen peninsula, a continuous wall. I was finally able to paint it in SW Greek Villa to match the rest of the areas I had previously tackled and I have never looked back. My husband breathed a sigh of relief since it validated the fact that he did not hang the TV crooked, even though several levels saying it was straight should have been enough ????ReplyCancel

  • kari9.13.21 - 7:46 AM

    Just wondering if they’ve ever considered making the back space a playroom with the already built in wall of storage which might grow with them as the kids age and putting the dining room in that central space where they have their turntable and albums?  ReplyCancel

    • Scott9.13.21 - 10:23 AM

      The way the house is set up, the back portion really does make the most sense as the dining room, but it’s something they considered!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle9.14.21 - 7:49 AM

      I love this idea as well – keep the clutter in the back of the room and save yourself a few evenings of putting things away. For  entertaining it would also create a zone for the kids in the back of the room while adults can still lounge and chat nearby, just out of the thick of it. I’m sure whatever you do will look lovely for this home. Also, love that another reader nearly bought this home too! Too funny – you’ve created a small world here! :-) ReplyCancel

  • Brittany10.13.21 - 7:10 PM

    Is there any chance you know where the dining table is from? It’s EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for! Or know of any good dupes? Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.14.21 - 9:13 AM

      Hi Brittany! It’s from our friends at Schoolhouse, but it doesn’t look like they make it anymore. West Elm has some very similar bolster pillow options as well. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

    • Scott10.14.21 - 9:24 AM

      We’re working on sourcing some dupes as we speak! Keep an eye on IG and we’ll post what we find!ReplyCancel

      • Brittany10.14.21 - 3:12 PM

        Amazing!! The only one I found so far is the Ease at EQ3! :)ReplyCancel


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