Welcoming newborn Prince George wasn't the only special project Kate Middleton had in the works for 2013: Prince William's wife has spent the last 18 months renovating Apartment 1A in the famed Kensington Palace, where her new family of three will reside as Prince George grows.
"Their home is beautiful. This is a very exciting time for them," a palace insider tells Us Weekly of the 20-room fixer-upper that Middleton kept tabs on during her pregnancy by scrolling through photos on her phone of antique offerings from the Royal Collection, fabric swatches and potential furniture.
Now that the family's moved into Princess Margaret's former home -- which needed a total overhaul once asbestos was discovered -- Middleton has added her own personal touches to make her husband's childhood digs special for their son. Among the amenities at KP? Central air, encrypted WiFi capabilities, his and hers bathrooms, three kitchens and a panic room. "Kensington Palace is safe and contained, and such a welcoming environment. You feel like you have freedom there," a former resident says.
To dress up her digs, Middleton -- who kept many of the home's original details including crown moldings -- used a subtle color palette of beiges, creams and earth tones, and worked with her mother Carole's designer, Anne Allen, to perfect all details. With the royal accessory collection at her disposal, Middleton selected two 19th century Corinthian lamps for their entrance hall, and an ornate Persian rug worth $50,000. Always a savvy budget shopper, Middleton was mindful to cut costs during the renovation, nabbing two faux-fur, 6 1/2-foot throws for $129 from the Peter Jones department store to help soften their living spaces.
"The baby's going to grow up running in the same gardens and hiding places William and Harry played in," Princess Diana's chef, Darren McGrady, tells Us of George, who has a day and night nursery at his disposal. (The day nursery will later become a playroom for the growing tot.)
New mom Middleton should have no trouble fitting in with KP's fellow residents. Says Victoria Arbiter, who lived there when her father was the queen's press secretary: "It's a bit like Melrose Place. You can knock on a neighbor's door if you need sugar."