Brushes With Fame, HGTV Style

Showcasing Austin one flip at a time

If you watch much HGTV at all (true confession: I do, LOADS) you may have noticed that Austin is not an infrequent locale used for shooting.  I’m guessing it’s partly because we have decent weather most of the year, (making it easier to shoot), our real estate prices are still largely reasonable (at least compared to other currently hot real estate markets, so we have a lot more folks flipping houses here), and because Austin is just an incredibly telegenic city with lots of exciting stuff happening — we are kinda the belle of the ball at the moment!

With all that, you can imagine how excited we were at JB Goodwin when when of our own agents, the amazing Erin Jones, was tapped to do a pilot for HGTV along with her husband Paul. It’s called “Texas Turnaround” and the episode centered on a local condo they flipped over the winter.  As with all their flips, they did an absolutely outstanding job on this renovation; we got to tour it in person before the episode aired on June 10th and it was every bit as gorgeous in person as it was on TV!

We don’t know yet if Texas Turnaround will be picked up by HGTV as a series or not, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.  Meanwhile, hats off to Erin and Paul and their amazing flips!

Worst Thing in the World: The Dread Popcorn Ceiling

Only slightly more beloved than Hitler

In the real estate business you come across all manner of things that can be a turn-off to buyers — things like pet stains, garden gnomes, and shag carpet — but I’ve found nothing is so universally despised and scorned as the ubiquitous popcorn ceiling.  How this EVER became a such a hot home-building trend I’ll never understand!  When I walk into a home and look up to see that mottled, cottage-cheesy looking surface staring down at me… well, a tiny part of my soul up and dies on the spot.  I can see the enthusiasm of my buyers, previously so buoyed up by the home’s great curb appeal, turn to dismay and disillusionment as they reflect upon the looming expanse of ceiling covered in a texture not dissimilar to curdled milk.

Popcorn ceiling: Oh, the humanity!

Ugh.  Hit the dislike button!

In its earlier iterations, just to add injury to insult, asbestos fibers were commonly used as part of the textured ceiling mix — because nothing says “Welcome home!” like toxic, whitish-gray curdles attached to the ceiling you sleep and eat under.  Even after the Clean Air Act of 1978 banned asbestos use for textured ceilings in residential dwellings, legacy stores containing it were still in use in a lot construction well into the 1980s.

So, what do you do when you encounter the ghastly stuff?  To start with, if your home was built anywhere before or around that mid-80s time frame, it’s a good idea to have it tested for asbestos before thinking about getting rid of it (you can buy testing kits online for less than $50).

If it does test positive, do have it professionally remediated.  It costs a bit, but better to be safe than sorry and leave it to the professionals.  And honestly, even if there is no sign of asbestos after testing, I think I’d personally still recommend paying to have it removed rather than trying to take care of it myself — popcorn ceiling scraping is NOBODY’S idea of a good time!  (But if I haven’t dissuaded you, I’ll let the fine folks at This Old House walk you through the removal process.)

Now, about that garden gnome removal… 😉

 

 

 

To Stage or Not to Stage

Is this even a question?

I’ve taken around enough buyers to know: it can be really difficult to show a home which is messy or overly cluttered, or even one that is just decorated poorly.  It becomes distracting, and not in a good way.  (I guess that’s not news; I think we’ve all watched enough HGTV to know that!)  In those instances I find myself needing to remind buyers not to focus on the home’s furnishings, but rather on the bones of the home itself.

Now that’s not to say that I’m totally above making the occasional snarky comment on certain decorating choices — I’ll admit it!  Sometimes you just have to!  Things like what in the name of all that is holy were they thinking with this rug?! or I guess they were aiming for ‘mausoleum chic’ with this living room set!  have been known to fall from my lips from time to time.  But honestly, unless it’s nailed to the floor, focusing on furniture which will be gone after the deal closes is pretty pointless.

That said, empty spaces don’t necessarily fare that well either.  Even without the distractions of ugly or uninspiring décor, sometimes it’s difficult for buyers to imagine themselves and their furnishings in a totally blank space, especially if it’s a small or oddly-shaped room.  I often hear buyers say, “But what would you do with this room?” or “I can’t even see how my furniture would fit in this space!”

And all of this is where staging comes in!

When deciding on improvements to make to a home prior to putting it on the market (after decluttering), new paint and lighting fixtures are two of the least expensive and most effective changes that sellers can make to bump up their home’s appeal.  But if you’re dealing with empty spaces, sometimes you need a little extra oomph, you know?  A case in point: I sold a really lovely home where the sellers had already made some excellent improvements with new paint, flooring, and removal of some outdated window coverings, but to really show off the home’s full potential we needed some staging to bring it fully to life.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

At first the living room was an almost TOO blank, blank slate…
Now with some staging (and the lights on) it becomes an inviting space where people can imagine hanging out!
The front room right off the foyer was confusing to folks …what was it supposed to be for?
Staging gives the room a purpose in buyers’ minds — in this case it became a cozy sitting room.
The boring hallway bath appeared small and was totally uninspiring…
With some simple staging it looked bright and interesting; even while still small, its size became less of a focus for buyers!
The master bath got the same type of simple makeover, just a few tweaks to make it look less drab…
The result is a master bath that looks like a room you would enjoy using!
An empty dining area and kitchen didn’t really inspire thoughts of lavish dinner parties…
But a dressed up dining table and some simple kitchen staging can inspire Martha Stewart-like entertaining visions!

The purpose of staging is to show your home at its best and to help people imagine themselves living in that space.  Too much stuff (or too much ugly) makes it hard for them to do that, as does too little — plus, big empty spaces draw the eye to every little flaw, which is not what you want your buyers to be focusing on. You want them to be picturing their new life in your home, imagining all its possibilities!

I like to think of staging like I think of dressing up for a first date with someone: you want to look your best so potential mates are impressed and want to stick around and find out more about you…and hopefully fall in love with the whole package!

Your house just wants that too… 😉

Mid-Century Modern in Austin

A rare gem designed by Austin architect and builder, A.D. Stenger

On a property tour this week I had the uncommon opportunity check out an absolutely stunning, mid-century modern home designed by famed local architect and builder, A.D. Stenger.  Although each one of the 100 or so homes built by Stenger from the 1940s to 1990s was unique, they share a few common characteristics in addition to their simple, modern lines, such as low pitch gable roofs, the use of clerestory windows and expansive stonework both inside and out.

2302 Rundell Place

Stenger homes are mainly found in the Austin neighborhoods of Rollingwood, Zilker and Barton Hills.  Because they were built in some of the most prized (and expensive) areas for Austin real estate, many have been torn down over the years by folks looking to build larger, more contemporary and/or functional homes, though this has led to conflicts with the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.  (Not to mention earning the ire of Stenger enthusiasts; Stenger homes enjoy an almost cult-like following among Austin architecture buffs, and with good reason!)

With only a few dozen or so of them left standing, these homes don’t often come on the market — so when they do it tends to make kind of a splash.  The one I toured this week was just listed by one of our top agents and sales manager, Dorothy Palmore.  It has been thoroughly and thoughtfully renovated very much in keeping with its mid-century modern aesthetic, but with contemporary conveniences and design touches added.  It’s listed at a cool $1.5 million, and to my eye worth every penny — it’s out-and-out gorgeous!

Although I only had my iPhone camera with me and my limited photography skills, I think this home’s unique beauty and style still shines through:

Stenger home hallmarks: fireplace and rock wall, with clerestory windows
Bringing outside in — notice how the rock wall continues from exterior to interior?

Although not original to the home, I love the dining room light fixture and the cool pattern it casts on the ceiling:

Another stylish lighting fixture in the bright and airy kitchen, and more clerestory windows:

High ceilings and clean lines, and awesome marble counters with waterfall edge

In the center of the home is a private zen-like atrium, open to the live oak trees above.

Tranquility abounds

Or if you’re feeling more like entertaining than meditating, the home features a wet bar nestled in between the kitchen and living room:

This property really is sublime.  If you’d like more information about it or to schedule a showing, please contact Dorothy Palmore at 512-925-0045.

Kitchen Renovation

Curse you, HGTV!

You know that feeling when you’ve been watching too much HGTV and you suddenly find yourself in the mood to undertake some major home renovations?  Well, that was me this past weekend.

While my husband has since talked me down from that particular ledge (for the time being anyway), I find I’m still craving a little bit of that fix.  So after fondly perusing a bunch of the before and after pictures from our home renovation projects last winter, I decided I’d at least blog some more about it and recreate a little of that feeling of “Look!  It’s so shiny and new!”  It’s obviously not the same, of course, but it helps placate the reno beast a little bit.

For now.

So, to that end…

In addition to making over our living room and fireplace as I wrote about previously, we did a full renovation of our kitchen and dining rooms, as well as installing new flooring throughout the whole living area.

We started out by opening up the kitchen to the rest of the living space.  Our house was built in 1979 and featured a closed-off galley kitchen, which was cute its own awkward and dysfunctional way, and came complete with washer and dryer (because who doesn’t love having their linens and towels smell like last night’s dinner?), upper cabinets that didn’t fully close (and were topped by an ugly bulkhead looming pointlessly above them) and an awkward and shallow ceramic sink not big enough to wash my pots in.  Oh, and faux wood vinyl flooring — because 1979!

Step one was actually relocating the laundry out to the garage.  We did that project first, then left the space as-was for a few months, keeping the fabulous accordion doors in place and creating a makeshift pantry/mop closet behind them.

When it came time to really tackle the kitchen, I couldn’t wait to knock that wall down and kick the ugly accordion doors to the curb.  I cannot stress enough how frustrating it was to come in from the garage and run smack dab into those doors (if you didn’t shut them just right they would pop back open and then wait there to trap the unsuspecting upon entering).

So those were eliminated first thing, and then the main wall separating the kitchen from the living room went, opening up the whole space.  My husband and I love to entertain, so our primary goal was to have an open floor plan where we (and by “we” I mean “I”) could continue to labor in the kitchen but still chat (and by “chat” I mean “drink”) with our guests.  After that, there was some shifting around of appliances (the stove/oven combo was replaced with a cooktop and the fridge was moved to the opposite wall, allowing for double ovens to be installed in its old spot), a complete cabinet remake, and the installation of a new stainless steel apron sink big enough to accommodate a Labrador Retriever, should we ever so desire.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.  First, the old kitchen:

The old galley kitchen
The old closed off galley kitchen.  At least it was colorful!

Followed by the new, open kitchen:

03-after

And the other side:

Kitchen window, and the hated ceramic sinck
Kitchen window, featuring the hated ceramic sink and treacherous accordion doors.

Which was replaced with this:

New sink, no more accordion doors
Same window, but new sink, cupboards, countertops, backsplash, and no more accordion doors.

The view of the kitchen from the living room, previously:

The very old living room, with our fancy plaid couch. Don't be jealous.
The old living room, closed off to the kitchen, with our fancy plaid couch. Don’t be jealous.

Same view, including new couch, the tea table we brought back from China, and an updated color scheme:

Seriously, is this even the same room?
Seriously, is this even the same room?

And then there is the dining room.  We went from this:

We had already started renovations when this picture was taken, so the clutter was a bit more than normal
We had already started renovations when this picture was taken, so the clutter was a bit more than normal. But still.

To this:

08-after-08
Built-in buffet, bar area, wine rack and wine fridge. We are seriously set up for entertaining!  Not to mention we have curtains now.

Among the other little gems from the redo was our idea for open appliance shelves.  They are located next to the garage door so access is quite easy, but they aren’t visible from the living room.  I LOVE them! Not having to dig out the Cuisinart or my CrockPot from the very back of the lower cabinets every time I want to use them is such a blessing for my poor, put-upon lower back!

07-after
Open shelving for our large appliances = happiness!

Taking in the whole space, from the living room area:

01-after
Looking at the newly open kitchen, including the new vent hood and pendant lights over the bar top counter.

Taking it all in

fp6

We are delighted with how the project turned out, and I have to give a shout out again to our contractor, Karl Hanson at H & H Design & Construction.  It took about 11 weeks start to finish and it came out almost exactly like the plans we drew up beforehand. (We did our own drawings, picked our own design and finishes and did some of our own demo, but Karl and his team did all the hard work.)  It was a royal pain to live in a construction zone for close to 3 months and we went a little bit over our original budget, but for us it was well worth it in the end!

Now if I can just stop watching “Fixer Upper” we should be good for a while…

🙂

 

 

The Fireplace Project

1970s flagstone no more!

We’ve had dark and stormy skies in Austin these last few days.  Even though it hasn’t exactly turned cold, I’ve still been tempted to start a fire in the fireplace just to make the living room a little more cozy feeling… which then reminded me I need to post pictures of the fireplace renovation we did last winter, because it’s so AWESOME (if I do say so myself)!

Here’s what it started out like, our 1979 Texas flagstone fireplace and hearth, along with adjoining dark brown wood veneer built-ins:

fp1

After yanking out the built-ins and hammering away all the rock facade and the bulky hearth (which was some heavy, dusty work) we got down to the brick firebox:

fp2

Our next step was to frame out the fireplace surround with flame retardant cement board. Since our plan was to mount the TV over it, we ran the TV’s power cord and the built-in sound system wires through PVC pipes in the wall so we wouldn’t have any dangling wires:

fp3

Once that was done and the drywall replaced, textured and painted, it was time to apply the covering, a gorgeous stacked stone product called RealStone, in honed white birch.  Isn’t it so, so PRETTY?  I’m obsessed with it!  (And I have to give props to our contractor, Karl Hanson at H & H Design & Construction — he and his crew did an amazing job of getting this laid out perfectly!)

fp5

The final step was to paint the grate and the interior brick a neat black, and then we were ready for the new floors to go in, the TV to go up, and the decorating to begin.  Here’s how it all turned out in the end:

fp6

Cozy, no?  We were absolutely thrilled with how it came out!  It’s about as far away from its original look as can possible be, and we don’t miss that a bit.  We wanted it to look sleek and contemporary, but still feel warm and inviting.

Speaking of inviting, I believe it’s calling me now.  I’m gonna go light a fire, pour a lovely glass of wine, and ride out the rest of this stormy evening.  Y’all enjoy yours!