Nate and Colette

After the tragic events of September 11, Colette and her husband Lee decided to leave their home in Atlanta and move closer to their family in Birmingham, Alabama. They found a 30-year-old fixer-upper right across the street from Colette's parents and settled in. Soon after, they began the extensive renovation process.

"We planned on doing a lot of the work ourselves, but there were so many costs we didn't foresee," says Colette. "We didn't expect to have to rewire the electrical system, change the plumbing, and move heating vents."

Colette and Lee's budget dried up before they could replace the kitchen they had gutted. All they had left was a bare wall and some dangling wires. For more than a year, Colette has been traipsing across the street to prepare meals in her parents' kitchen. After hearing about Colette's desperate conditions, The Oprah Show and O at Home sent Nate down south to investigate.
Nate and Colette

Of all the homes Nate has redecorated for The Oprah Winfrey Show, this is the first he's seen without a kitchen. Why didn't Colette live with an ugly kitchen...instead of no kitchen at all?

She says that during renovations, she and her husband knocked down a wall that separated the kitchen from the family room. With the wall gone, the space was more open and the rooms were more conducive to entertaining. There was one problem—that wall housed their oven.

Down in the basement, Colette and Lee hide their secret solution—a makeshift kitchen complete with a refrigerator, microwave and hot plate. Lee uses this area to prepare breakfast in the mornings. But, Nate points out, there's no sink. So where do Colette and Lee wash dishes? Upstairs in the bathtub, of course!

Nate has seen enough. It's time to get down to business. "We promised only to put in a new kitchen," he confides. "What they don't know is that we're also redoing the foyer, living room, dining room, and den—so it's going to be a big surprise."
Nate and Colette in the foyer

It's love at first sight for Colette when she walks in the door of her "new" house. "It's absolutely gorgeous," she says. "And you did everything I wanted." In the entrance hall, Nate placed a faux-bamboo chest from Ralph Lauren Home, which he painted a high-gloss turquoise. He also created texture and intimacy in the foyer with grass cloth wallpaper.

"I couldn't give you a kitchen without giving people somewhere to sit," Nate explains. "We talk a lot about adding personality to rooms, but, really, it's the people living in the house who bring that."
Colette's kitchen after Nate's makeover

Nate says he gave Colette and Lee a kitchen that was completely timeless so they'll never attempt another disastrous renovation! "This is very classic in design," he says. "You're never going to need to change this."

That said, Nate sticks to his trademark juxtapositions: The white Shaker-style cabinets are timeless, the hardware is modern, and the slate countertops fall right in the middle. Stainless steel GE appliances also add modern flair.

"Colette was leaning toward a very modern kitchen, but in this setting it would have looked like a spaceship had landed," he says. "When a kitchen's adjoining a great room or a den, the best advice is to err on the cleaner, simpler side."

Nate gave Colette the double oven she's always wanted, as well as an island that's ideal for entertaining. The refrigerator and island cooktop hood, by GE Monogram, and the other appliances, by GE profile, are all from Lowe's. The cabinets and counters are by SieMatic Möbelwerke.
Colette's family room before Nate's makeover

During their initial renovation, Colette says she and Lee put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into their home. They replaced old shag carpeting with hardwood floors. They painted over dark, stained wood walls. They even installed molding and recessed lighting...but then they couldn't afford to decorate their new and improved rooms. Look at their TV on a towel on the floor!

Nate also sympathized with Colette and Lee's budget situation. "In any renovation, things come up," says Nate. "Without money set aside for overages, anyone could end up in a bind."
Colette's family room after Nate's makeover

Nate unveils Colette's new family room, which he says is classic, comfortable and great for entertaining. Now, Colette says, "I can entertain people and sit around with my family, and we can cook together." The sofa is from Storehouse, and it's made with completely stain-resistant fabric. The chairs—also from Storehouse—add a pop of color to the room.

The new limestone mantle, which Nate bought from Siteworks, complements the design of Colette's dream kitchen. Nate didn't forget Colette's Southern roots—he added home accessories and floor-to-ceiling plantation blinds to bring a little bit of Birmingham indoors.

"What I love about this is that, this to me, is new Southern style," Nate says. "It's not frilly...chipped wood...lace doilies—all these things that we think of when we think of, like, Scarlett O'Hara. This is modern living now and gracefully in the South."

The artwork is from, and the coffee table with a stone top is from Ralph Lauren Home.
Colette's living room before Nate's makeover

Before Nate arrived in Birmingham, Colette's formal living room housed one plant, one sofa and a TV sitting on a towel. Although Colette says she doesn't like calling this a "formal living room" because she and Lee aren't "formal people," the space could definitely use some sprucing up!

The first step to finishing Colette's living room is filling the blank slate with color. Nate paints the walls in sea blues.
Colette's living room after Nate's makeover

In Colette's living room, Nate creates an open seating area with a couch from Pottery Barn and chairs from Wisteria. Heather Gentile Collins of Gentile Designs embellishes the seats of the chairs with Colette and Lee's monogram.

"It's very easy for people to do that [monogram] at home with a stencil," he explains. "It's just that little touch that makes the space that much more personal."

Next, Nate chooses elements that give the living room an informal look. The oak-framed mirror above the sofa meets a floating-glass coffee table ("much better than wood in an open area, since it takes up less visual space") and a mix of creamy white and taupe upholstery in durable cottons and linens. Nate's favorite finds are zinc pedestals and urns. "I love bringing in objects that are meant to be outside, and the antique finish keeps everything from looking shiny and new."

A side chair from Storehouse, made of twisted banana leaves, enhances the mix of natural textures in the living room. The coffee table is from Pottery Barn, and the Kenya rug is from Nate's collection at Linens 'n Things.
Colette's dining room before Nate's makeover

Before, the empty dining room was completely void of personality. Now, Nate says it's one of his favorite places in the house.
Colette's dining room after Nate's makeover

The dining table from Ralph Lauren Home "has a French '50s feel" while the light fixture, from a company called Lumiere Inc., reminds Nate of a classic French lantern. Once again, Gentile Designs embellishes the seats of the dining chairs with Colette and Lee's monogram and, in a nod to local pride, paints the dining room walls with camellias, Alabama's state flower. "It's a great way to define a space," Nate says, "especially when rooms open onto one another."

It's these kinds of playful touches—along with framed photos of Lee flipping pancakes and Colette snuggling with her niece—that give the space its personal pitch.
Colette and Nate

Credits: Nate and Colette photograph by Tim Evan-Cook

Collette was a "desperate housewife" living in a house with barely any furniture and no kitchen. Now she can be a part of her family's fun while she cooks up a feast. "I was desperate for a kitchen, but you have given me a home now," she tells Nate. "I cannot thank you enough."

We'd like to thank the people and companies who helped make Colette's "Sweet Home Alabama" happen. Get the full list of vendors and products.

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