Interior designer Ally Whalen transforms a dark home


February 8, 2019

Todd and Valerie Cubbage were feeling disheartened. The Dallas-based couple had just spent days looking at homes in Charlotte only to come up with nothing that caught their attention. “I was really getting depressed because we hadn’t found anything,” says Valerie. “We had sort of resigned ourselves to renting something temporarily instead when we relocated to Charlotte.”

Two days before the Cubbages flew back to Texas, though, Todd pulled up a home on his computer and showed it to Valerie. At first, she wasn’t impressed. “It was hard to really see anything from the photos except that it was really dark,” she says. “I really wasn’t looking forward to seeing it at all.”

But the next day, the couple pulled up to the traditional, two-story home in SouthPark and went inside. It was indeed dark, but Valerie also saw potential. All the space really needed was a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture.

The Cubbages were sold.

Wanting to brighten the home and start fresh with brand-new furniture, artwork, and accessories, the couple knew they needed the help of an interior designer. So, after looking at Houzz and other online portfolios, they both pulled together a list of three Charlotte designers that they both liked. Only one name popped up on both of their lists: Ally Whalen of Simplicity Interiors. “The minute we saw that, we knew we had to hire Ally,” says Valerie.

Whalen’s aesthetic—neutrals layered with organic texture and pattern in an approachable and comfortable way—was exactly what the Cubbages were looking for. “Our styles really meshed well,” says Whalen.

First on the project’s to-do list: lighten the home throughout. The dining and living rooms, which were open to the entryway, had been painted black, and the flooring in the foyer was also black marble. “It really set the tone for the home, which was simply dark,” says Whalen. So she tore up the black marble and added stunning oak wood flooring throughout the foyer and downstairs living spaces.

The walls throughout the home were painted in a neutral tone to serve as a blank canvas for the designer’s vision, which included pops of greyish blue in accessories such as throw pillows, artwork, and upholstery. In lieu of plantation shutters, which darkened the living spaces, Whalen added natural fiber Roman shades, which allow filtered, natural light to pour in.

With such a light color palette coupled with two kids and a small dog, the Cubbages needed furniture and upholstery that was durable and stain resistant. Whalen strategically chose performance fabric for much of the Cubbages’ new furniture, and what was not swathed in stylish indoor/outdoor fabric, Whalen had stain treated. “They wanted their home to be sophisticated,” says Whalen, “but it also had to be practical and comfortable, which meant pieces that could withstand just about anything.”

Though the Cubbages still want to update their kitchen at some point as well as a few other rooms with Whalen, they’re thrilled with what they’ve done so far. “Before we started the project, I sent Ally my Pinterest board of all the things we wanted in our new home,” says Valerie. “But she never even saw it until after the project was done. Everything she picked was so spot on from what we had pinned. It’s as if she had read our minds.”

Photos by Ally Whalen Design

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