6 FREE Places to Get Design Inspiration for Awesome-Looking, On-Trend House Flips

by | BiggerPockets.com

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” — Steve Jobs
“All ideas are secondhand.” — Mark Twain
“The bad artists imitate, the great artists steal.” — Pablo Picasso

Ever hear the phrase “champagne taste on a beer budget”? That is basically what we are talking about here this week — how to take ideas from much more expensive designs and incorporate them into your median price projects. Where to get inspiration and then how to implement those ideas into your projects.

I am a fix and flip investor in Denver, CO, and I actually work mainly in the below-median home price market here. For Denver, that is $344,000 and below! You might be in a market where that is twice your median home price or a market where that is one third of your typical house price. Working in this price range used to mean cookie cutter suburban rehabs, with the same beige vomited carpet, espresso cabinets, tan tile, and, well, you know the rest. We did it for years, just slogging along the same color palate, same generic templates, and tired, worn out ideas. Like a strange factory that churned out baked scone houses as our product. And we weren’t alone; many flippers are still doing the same things from 5-6 years ago.

Well, that got really boring. Sure, I’d get to expend creativity in marketing and negotiation, but there was something lacking.  Our projects were selling, but I wasn’t happy with spitting out the same crap everyone else was, in my market and beyond.

It was time for a change, and in order to change, we had to get inspired. After we got inspired, we saw the cost of some of those things and said, “WOAH, maybe we could do these things for cheaper.” We wanted a buyer to walk into our below-median priced houses and feel like there was attention to detail. We wanted them to see things that you could only find in much more expensive houses. Well, and the same stuff that is pushed on the masses on the television networks that show drama-filled rehab shows, Waco-residing house flippers in disguise, and showcase homes, both tiny and ginormous.

Related: 5 Highly Actionable Tips From the #1 Book I’d Recommend on House Flipping

But we are cheap, so we aren’t doing $10 a sq ft shiplap, custom woodwork, or rare hand-quarried marble from the distant mines of wherever.

First, we had to get some serious inspiration — our templates and our color scheme, carpet choices, counters, cabinets and tile all needed to get thrown out the window (look out below!). Thankfully, the world has moved on from baked scone, and there are a ton of options out there. Then we needed to search for alternative ways to get these high-end details into our average homes and not break the budget.

This week, I’ll talk about how we go about looking for inspiration. By we, of course, I mean my wife Stacy (Chief Executive Designer and Financial Officer) and me. Next week, I’ll talk about implementing some design into your projects on a budget.


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6 FREE Places to Get Design Inspiration for Awesome-Looking, On-Trend House Flips


I’m not shy. I’m a 37-year-old red blooded American man, and I have a Pinterest account. It’s pretty amazing for design and color ideas, and I have no shame in saying that I love it. Pinterest might be 99.99% women (citation needed?), but guess who typically makes the gut home-buying choices in a relationship? You guessed it.

Pinterest is like eavesdropping on what everyone really wants to see in a house. Not everyone lives in Cape Cod villas, so why not bring some colors and details down to the average neighborhoods? Since Pinterest is image-based, just start browsing design and home décor ideas. I start pinning designs I like to my “STEP UP YOUR DESIGN GAME” board that I share with my wife and have collected enough ideas for the next 100 projects at least.


Houzz is very similar to Pinterest in that it is image based. But instead of mainly average user-generated content, Houzz has contractors and home builders showcasing their awesome designs (and even the option to detail how to buy individual fixtures in the bathroom pictures, etc). This makes for a great way to browse and find where the trends are going, what colors everyone is using, and finishes that people are loving. The best part is you can search by room (kitchen, bathroom, etc.), then by style (modern, traditional, etc.), by budget, by size, layout, cabinet type, and everything in between. You can also filter your search by the most popular today or all time. This ensures you see exactly what the people like the most.

HGTV and its Ilk

My go-to joke with other investors is, “I just make my houses look like what HGTV programmed buyers to like.” You couldn’t throw a rock and not hit someone who has watched Fixer Upper and could tell you the intimate details of Chip and Joanna’s life. I even have distressed sellers who say, “Oooooh, you do what Chip and Joanna or Nicole from that one show do!” Sigh, yep, that’s what I do as far as you know. The good part of having a big selection of house design and remodel shows and their skyrocketing popularity is an abundant well of design that is programmed into buyers. I didn’t even know what shiplap was a year ago. I also wouldn’t have contemplated going with a farm sink. But if you go with the trends, you have to drink from the same well, and that is the HGTV and DIY network these days.

Model Homes

Oh, tract builders. They used to get a really bad reputation when it came to design, but I feel like they have seriously stepped up their game. Stacy and I go check out new model homes whenever we can since many buyers in the area are also checking these out. We are so exciting; we go visit model homes on a weekend for fun. But really, we are spying on them and taking detailed notes on and pictures of their design choices.

When a big time builder has adopted a trendy color scheme (grays these days), or design elements (glass accent tile), you know it’s safe enough to use in your flips. We don’t just visit the national builders; local builders and boutique builders are also great to visit for local design and ideas. Go on a tour of some homes above your flip project price range and see if there are any details you can incorporate or adopt.


Related: 7 Things I Desperately Wish I Had Known When I Started Flipping Houses

The Paint Store

My Behr rep for my Home Depot pro account and my local Sherwin Williams store gave me a detailed rundown when I simply asked, “What are the most popular colors that people are ordering these days?” Who has a better pulse on popular color schemes than the paint store?

I got back a giant list of colors that sound like indie band album names: “Campfire Ash,” “Icing,” and “Agreeable Grey.” Throw in some “Broadway,” “Elephant Skin,” “Oceana,” and “Alabaster,” and you have yourself a party. If you are too lazy to get down to the paint store, simply type into Google “most popular paint colors 2016,” and you should get a good idea of what is going on in the wall pigment category.


Truth be told, Stacy wanted me to add this in here since it’s top of the list for her to find new ideas, up there with Pinterest and Houzz. I didn’t get Instagram when it first came out — just pictures? But now I love it since I can search well with it and also follow trends from some of my favorite designers and builders. From other fix and flip investors to those HGTV celebrities to before and after shots of kitchens, it’s all right there to browse at your leisure.

Throwing out our old designs and starting over has actually been a fun process. We get a fresh overhaul of the face of our business, we keep updated on the trends, and it is a great creative outlet. Even if you hate design, working with someone who is up-to-date to come and make better selections can make your projects sell faster. After all, we are just giving buyers what they are programmed to like, right?

It has been said that “the fastest way to double your money is to fold it in half.” That said, the fastest way to have two weeks of blog posts is to split a long one in half. Tune in next week!

Flippers: Do you update the look of your flips periodically? Where do you gather inspiration?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Anson Young

Anson Young is the owner of Anson Property Group based in Denver, Colorado, which specializes in distressed property purchases, and author of Finding and Funding Great Deals. As a full-time real estate investor and agent for the past 10 years, he has completed over 100 wholesale deals and 75 flips. Anson Property Group is committed to changing communities, helping homeowners, and building long-term wealth. When not working, Anson can be found exploring the wilds of Colorado by hiking the Rocky Mountains with his family, reading favorite books to his son, and attending loud rock concerts.


  1. Nathan Richmond

    Love Houzz and Pintrest. Great ideas on both. Now…..how do I fit them into a tight budget???? I just bought a duplex in which I’m house hacking. The unit I’m living in hasn’t been updated since it was built on 1973. Looking forward to the next post. Thanks!

    • Tony McCargar

      Try contacting retail stores such as cabinet, tile, window and door. You would be surprised as to how many miss orders they can make. Usually these will be non stocking type stores so they don’t just go on the shelf at retail. Check your local homebuilders association to see if they have an annual yard sale. Usually to benefit a non profit. Lumber yards, contractors and retail all donate their items. If you do your own work all the better, that in my opinion is the best savings. I know that some frown upon not figuring your own labor into the budget, I like to refer to it as deferred income when I sell or 1031 into something else. Besides, being retired it gives me some creative things to do.

  2. I am glad you want to up your design game. Many landlords think cheap junk or those left-over orange tiles at a steal are “good enough” for the likes of tenants. However, you will be treading a thin line between a lovely appearance and not neutral enough to coordinate with tenant’s own stuff. I would also avoid trendy for the sake of trendy. Stainless steel appliances, clear glass shower doors and mirrored closet doors come immediately to mind. They are impossible to keep clean and look terrible very quickly. Stay light and bright as much as possible. A tenant can darken a room by turning off the lights or closing the curtains. Much harder for a tenant to lighten up a place with insufficient light. Sometimes even turning on all the lights is not enough.

    • Anson Young

      That would be a great idea! That board is private, I guess there is plenty of value of having a branded pinterest with your own projects or ideas stockpiled for people to see…. I’m looking into this now and will see if I can make that board un-private!

  3. Luka Milicevic

    Awesome post! It was an entertaining read. Great ideas-I don’t have a pintrest account myself but my wife is on there all the time looking at design ideas for our home. It has so much value when it comes to giving design ideas.

  4. Shannon S.

    “Waco residing house flippers in disguise” ….LMAO! Love your article and totally agree. I hate cookie cutter flips. While there is a lot of value in having a standardized set of materials/colors/layouts, there is always room for a little creativity.

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