Unique property design ideas...

14 Replies

Hi everyone & thanks in advance for any and all suggestions here;

Usually I'm on the answering side of things, so this is out of pattern for me, I'll admit = ) In design ideas for flips and rehab work, I've never encountered an issue with design ideas and what end users will find appealing- thankfully. Now however, I'm looking at some design ideas for a property that I'm just not certain on, and it's due to the fact that it's simply not like any other property I've dealt with before. 

This is a Class A+ area, ARV of $800K. Now here's the question; All of the woodwork in the house is custom oak. The kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, crown molding, baseboards, banisters, wainscoting, chair rails, built in book cases on each side of the hearth, closet doors (solid oak), bedroom doors (solid oak), window sills, overhead exposed beams, EVERYTHING - down to the spindles in decorative ornamental design, newel posts, even the attic access doors ha- all custom made for the house from solid oak. Absolutely none of it is is disrepair and it's truly one of a kind.

The issue is it seems outdated in design - again never an issue before in flipping as it's very easy to give a 'modern/fresh' look that's so appealing to end users. In this case however, it seems like it would be easier to install stained glass windows in the kitchen to match the custom stone backsplash, wood floors, Tiffany style light fixtures,  and overall more Victorian/gothic feel than to try and make it look 'modern'.  If you can imagine the feel to the B. Harley Bradley House in design by Frank Lloyd Wright, this is what I working with. 

Some of the homes in the area have tried to update and look more modern, painting similar looking (yet not solid/custom oak) wood styles white, adding in more modern looking light fixtures, accent work etc - but it seems 'cheap' looking to me. Maybe this is due however to knowing how much it would cost to have something like all of this made in today's market. 

Do I bite the bullet and try to make it look modern, comprising custom, vintage, one of a kind quality to appeal more to end users,  or truly play up the custom elements by adding in more period design elements such as stained glass, hammered bronze sinks to kitchen & vanities etc. One will appeal to only a few end users, while the other would appeal to a more broad base end user pool it seems. 

If this property were in Chicago (like Oak Park) and not Indianapolis, it might seem more clear to me to stick with the original design concept and truly embrace the more 'old world' feel, for Indianapolis however where modern looking flips are in steady/constant supply, it's more questionable. 

Thanks so much- sorry this was long! 


@Michael Plante

Hi Michael! 

Yes- have run those and they aren't as high as those that have finished the wood off/modern looks, but none of the wood was at a baseline start in quality of this current property to begin with - if that makes sense. What was painted and 'updated' wasn't solid oak (more big box style in quality at a lesser initial cost), it was placed to lesser extent throughout the homes, and in some cases is was in disrepair - to which this is still in near original state. 

Maybe I'm too hung up on the quality of the wood and craftsmanship vs what is more common knowledge in end use buyers - how many of them will know it's value and appreciate the overall style of the property in design vs how many want modern/light and what's currently popular. 

Comps & level of finish I'm clear on, just not the clearest path to take in terms of what would be more sought after for end users. I suppose finding a trim carpenter as a buyer (who would appreciate all of the oak) might be like finding a needle in a haystack ha. 

Maybe it's best then to hop on the 'modern look' bandwagon an appeal to more buyers...  

Appreciate your input! 

@Anna Laud , is this an architectural significant house?  My wife and I painted all the original trim and doors in a 1930s property to give it a more modern look (white walls, grey trim).  See below images.  This was not a $800+k, or A+ area/property.  

I will say that far more buyers will want something more modern feeling.  Wood these days goes on floating shelves, floors, and faux exposed beams.  But if this is a true MCM, where demand is placed on originality, then keep it and clean it.  Michael's suggestion is a good hedge, but personally I try to steer clear of this approach.  People by flips because they don't want to do anything.  They want to move in and enjoy the house.

@Evan 

@Evan Polaski

Thanks for including the pictures - this is actually very helpful. No, not a true MCM property, only in appearance. I think perhaps you're right, and with that in mind there's seems to be the 'happy marriage' of  a modern look, with original design elements to combine. You and your wife did an outstanding job of this it seems! 

Yes, I think that Michael had a valid suggestion for some markets, but it seems like end users -  in the market of the property- are probably more into move in ready product. 

Thanks to you both for the input! 

A picture of what your dealing with would really make it an easier decision. Im a carpenter turned flipper/investor so I can appreciate both sides. Im all for the modern painted trim look but some wood you just dont paint... you know it when you see it, at least I do.

@Seth Larson

Hi Seth! Great to know you see both sides here too- not too much to see right now with flooring being done etc. but I have some before pics. All 'honey oak' all carpeting being replaced with flooring to match woodwork (some done, pic included- but no carpet to remain), stone flooring will wrap up in kitchen and baths, etc. Up-close pics of cabinets are in all three baths to the same extent/finish level. 'Popcorn' ceiling being replaced as well, but have left beams 'as is' for now. As noted in a couple pics, all window trim is of the same finish, spindles between sunken family room and kitchen are matching to top of kitchen cabinets and run floor to chair rail level. Hearth remains unpainted at this point as well so this would be factored in if repainting woodwork. Would love your input as well & thanks! 

Meh, Paint it. if it was a darker or lighter tone I may say save it but that old, yellowed finish just looks tired. it will look 10x better with an offwhite, smooth finish. Get someone who can spray a quality finish, no brushing. 

Originally posted by @Anna Laud :

Hi everyone & thanks in advance for any and all suggestions here;

Usually I'm on the answering side of things, so this is out of pattern for me, I'll admit = ) In design ideas for flips and rehab work, I've never encountered an issue with design ideas and what end users will find appealing- thankfully. Now however, I'm looking at some design ideas for a property that I'm just not certain on, and it's due to the fact that it's simply not like any other property I've dealt with before. 

This is a Class A+ area, ARV of $800K. Now here's the question; All of the woodwork in the house is custom oak. The kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, crown molding, baseboards, banisters, wainscoting, chair rails, built in book cases on each side of the hearth, closet doors (solid oak), bedroom doors (solid oak), window sills, overhead exposed beams, EVERYTHING - down to the spindles in decorative ornamental design, newel posts, even the attic access doors ha- all custom made for the house from solid oak. Absolutely none of it is is disrepair and it's truly one of a kind.

The issue is it seems outdated in design - again never an issue before in flipping as it's very easy to give a 'modern/fresh' look that's so appealing to end users. In this case however, it seems like it would be easier to install stained glass windows in the kitchen to match the custom stone backsplash, wood floors, Tiffany style light fixtures,  and overall more Victorian/gothic feel than to try and make it look 'modern'.  If you can imagine the feel to the B. Harley Bradley House in design by Frank Lloyd Wright, this is what I working with. 

Some of the homes in the area have tried to update and look more modern, painting similar looking (yet not solid/custom oak) wood styles white, adding in more modern looking light fixtures, accent work etc - but it seems 'cheap' looking to me. Maybe this is due however to knowing how much it would cost to have something like all of this made in today's market. 

Do I bite the bullet and try to make it look modern, comprising custom, vintage, one of a kind quality to appeal more to end users,  or truly play up the custom elements by adding in more period design elements such as stained glass, hammered bronze sinks to kitchen & vanities etc. One will appeal to only a few end users, while the other would appeal to a more broad base end user pool it seems. 

If this property were in Chicago (like Oak Park) and not Indianapolis, it might seem more clear to me to stick with the original design concept and truly embrace the more 'old world' feel, for Indianapolis however where modern looking flips are in steady/constant supply, it's more questionable. 

Thanks so much- sorry this was long! 


My 1st thought- What are the homes like that support the $800K ARV and how long were they on the market? If those homes are the same, decor and feature wise and sold relatively quickly, then just do what's required to match those homes features and decor.

2nd thought- Combine the old vintage with the new. Tech Enable as much as you can in the home; i.e. make it a smart home. Then you can market it as a home with old world charm but the modern tech convienances.

@Anna Laud door, window, and base trim and the faux beams get painted, chair rails get pulled off and patched, cabinets get burned in a bon fire, never to be spoken of again.  Those are HIDEOUS, and no amount of paint can hide the bead board paneled doors or the doily trim pieces.

I am curious what the outside looks like, because the inside screams 80s, and not hipster cool neon and fanny pack 80's cool.

This was a fun one to read through!  I'm with Scott Larson on this one with "Meh, paint it".  When you were first describing I was picturing my first home, which was a 1920 bungalow with all original white oak trim and in my head I was saying Nooooooo!  Don't touch it!  But yeah, after seeing the pictures, I'd paint it.  

The oak trim can be grainy sometimes when it gets painted, so I'd check with a reputable painter that knows painting oak, and maybe a grain fill on areas where it will be noticed like a stair handrail for example. 

Also, that brick, I'd be looking at painting it or whitewashing it or something too.

Hey @Anna Laud ! What a fun project. And one I can identify with, as we are 95% done with a gut rehab of a 1915 home in NW Chicago which, like yours, came with a ton of original woodwork. 

Unfortunately, we were not able to save the trim or casings because retrofitting them to all the new items & upgrades would have been cost prohibitive. However, we did salvage many of the original 7ft oak doors, floors, and the entire staircase. Now, that being said, our wood was absolutely beautiful.  :) Your wood? I'm SO glad you posted pictures because I, three, was envisioning a totally different type of wood. 

In case you needed more feedback (LOL), I'm 100% with @Seth Larson  & @Aaron Schrader --PAINT THAT WOOD and modernize it the best you can! Even though our wood was gorgeous, I decided to paint our doors and staircase (combo of sanding/staining the treads and painting the balusters & handrail) because I felt leaving them the original darker color would have completely dated the house. As a compromise--because people in Chicago do love & appreciate some old world charm--we have gone with design fixtures and finishes that are modern/deco inspired. We're not totally done but below are some progress pictures.

I'd like to see your 'AFTER' shots when you complete this project, if you don't mind sharing. Good luck!

Jennie Berger, Property People

I’m with @Evan Polaski , burn those cabinets and bury the ashes. Painting them might seem like an easy fix, but it will scream cheap makeover on a house that, according to your ARV, deserves a much higher quality of finish.