Before & After: A Cozy and Sophisticated Bungalow for Dad

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In addition to running interior design and lifestyle blog Thou Swell, high school senior Kevin O’Gara decorated a historic home for his dad in Atlanta, GA, all while navigating the college application scene. Inspired by “a mix of traditional and contemporary design,” Kevin set out to create a modern and sophisticated vibe that also felt lived-in and homey. The 1920s bungalow graciously allows for entertaining, which happens often as Kevin and his two sisters come to spend time with their father. Kevin’s dad gave his son total freedom with the decorating – he just had to approve it and stay within budget! As an homage to dad’s time in San Francisco as a young man, Kevin made his collected photographs from that era take center stage in the entry hall, and then designed the room around them, including a painted checkerboard-patterned floor. They also inspired the rest of the house with their moody and sophisticated aesthetic. Kevin had so much fun with this project because his dad gave him the freedom to explore, but also because it was his first multi-room endeavor. He was dealing with a very realistic budget and a substantial amount of space, so he mixed high and low to put all the rooms together. It was also exciting to carve out functional spaces for himself and his sisters when the family spends weekends together, with the girls in the front bedroom and Kevin taking his spot on the living room sleeper sofa. They also have a proper dining room now so dad can entertain again, which he loves doing – Kevin says he’s a fabulous cook!

In eight months of hard work, the house received a total transformation. The dark color of the entry walls makes that space feel distinct. The most intense part of the entry design was the floor – Kevin didn’t want a runner and felt the room was too empty without any floor treatment, so he found inspiration in a wood-and-black checkered pattern spotted on Pinterest. After trying to replicate it themselves and succeeding through the sanding stage, the family finally outsourced the end of the project because the squares needed to be exact and not chip with wear. Unlike the floors, Kevin was not able to paint the back room as his dad is renting, so instead he hung white IKEA curtains to set up a sunroom or greenhouse scenario in that section. Though the terracotta tiles on the floor were hard to play down, Kevin kept the rest of his color palette cool to balance out the warm tiles. With those undeniable designer instincts and a compelling passion for homes, we can’t wait to see how Kevin plans his education and career from here. —Annie

Photography by Kevin O’Gara

  1. Melissa says:

    Wow. LOVE it. I’d live here in a heartbeat.

    I find it odd though that painting the floor and the fireplace of the rental was ok, but not the back room.

    1. VF says:

      There was a faux finished wall treatment the owner wanted to retain.

  2. Jenny says:

    Love this! The color in the entry is so great.

  3. Britt says:

    I saw Kevin tackle the back room for the One Room Challenge last May. I almost fell over when I realized he was just in high school. It’s great to see the rest of the home and pretty neat that his whole family gets to enjoy his talents. I had to smile reading about him navigating his sisters’ different tastes. I’d imagine that took a range of skills besides just a good eye. :) Bravo, Kevin!

  4. This is great! Lots of great fabric choices (especially on the sofas) and great paint colors too (dining room and entry). I might have to rethink my entry…

  5. Mollie says:

    I’m completely amazed. A high school senior? Man, do I feel like a slacker! Ha! The house is gorgeously decorated. Very cool.

  6. VH says:

    I am gobsmacked that this was designed by a HS senior! Great things in his future…

    such a well thought out space and beautifully done.

  7. Krista says:

    What an incredibly sweet gift from son to father! I am very touched by this. The result is wonderful!

  8. Jane Dagmi says:

    What a happy thiughtful place to come home to! Kevin,I remember you well from Design Bloggers Conference. Thought then, ” this boy’s got something special going on” and you continue to prove that and up it still!

  9. Rita Tocta says:

    I would like to say something more substancial than this but the only thing I have to comment is:


    Great job!

  10. PhillyLass says:

    Where are the bookcases in the living and dining rooms from? I’ve been looking for classic, clean-lined white bookcases for ages.

    1. Kevin O'Gara says:

      They are the Hemnes bookcases from Ikea :)

  11. Doug says:


  12. Julie says:

    High school senior, whaaaaat??? Incredible talent! Nice job!

  13. isabel says:

    Kevin, you are amazing. Kudos to you for this fantastic job. I love seeing the transformation of this bungalow from an okay duckling to a beautiful swan.

  14. Lee Harmon Waters says:

    Perfection! It feels realistic, lovely, and liveable. Job well done. And such a wise eye for such a young person!!! Oh my goodness!

  15. Jillian Borden says:

    I have never left a comment before on D*S but I felt the need to let Kevin know what an incredible home he has created for his family.

  16. Margot says:

    Just fantastic! Great house, great story.

  17. Vanessa says:

    Very cohesive Kevin! It’s something I am still working on and I graduated from HS a long time ago.

  18. Dre says:

    Awesome work. Cozy, modern, storied, beautiful!


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