Get to Know Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson of Terracotta Design Build

The Atlanta designer has a knack for creating spaces that are as functional as they are pretty.

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You might remember Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson from the HGTV Faces of Design competition in 2017. She won an editors’ choice award not for just any home design, but specifically for her own townhouse in Atlanta. Two years later, the principal designer of Terracotta Design Build has stayed on our design radar as she continues to produce trendy-yet-functional spaces that just feel like home. We recently chatted with the designer about her creative process, her inspiration, her Hispanic heritage and even designing her own award-winning home. Read on to learn a few handy home design tips and tricks from this seasoned pro.

What inspired you to pursue design?

My father and my maternal grandmother, so I get it from both sides of the equation! Dad is a structural engineer and spent his life working closely with architects and developers. I would tag along to his office and tour job sites for as long as I can remember. From him I learned to embrace creative thought first and then use logic and function to make them real. My grandmother was a master gardener and from her I learned the importance of careful and thoughtful planning. How to create balance and layer textures. How to frame views and use color to a desired effect.

What’s your favorite space in a home to design?

I love all of it, but rooms that blur the lines between indoor and outdoor, and multi-use rooms are my favorite.

What’s your favorite stage in the design process?

The beginning of the design. When ideas are abundant and they have not yet been reined-in by time and cost.

How do you approach how rooms are used (like space-planning and layout) when designing?

That is always the goal and the best way to approach any design is to have a clear purpose. In a home, the purpose is to support and enhance the lifestyle of the homeowner and make them feel embraced by their spaces. So, I start by listening and observing. Carefully.

How do you choose colors and materials for a project?

For my townhouse, I treated myself just as I would any client. First, I created a list of functions and spaces, preferred colors and patterns I gravitate to. Then I layered in small mementos that are important to me; small luxuries that speak to my lifestyle and personal sensibilities. In my case, I pulled from the colors and textures that provided the background to my life on a Caribbean island, the patterns of the Spanish roots that ground my family, the mementos that speak to my Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, and lastly the small details that echo my personal sense of style. This is an approach that works for everyone and yields unique and authentic results every time.

New Traditional ATL Townhome 03:06

Tour designer Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson's beautiful Atlanta townhome.

How have your travels inspired your design?

In every possible way! Travel changes everything. Each trip is an opportunity to step out of the comfortable and familiar and see farther and clearer. The impressions and insight gained from each trip allows me to listen and comprehend my clients’ needs with more depth. It allows me to borrow great ideas and solutions from other cultures, to problem solve and think creatively.

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