On the new HGTV show “Bargain Block,” Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas are fixing up Detroit, one house at a time. But with slim profit margins, each home is a test of how far they can stretch a budget.
In the episode “White Box and Cottage,” Bynum and Thomas work on two houses, giving each a unique style and an elegant look without spending too much money. Here’s how they pull it off, with before-and-after photos that contain plenty of take-home lessons for anyone who wants to cop a high-end look for a few hundred bucks.
1. Plain wood can look elegant in the right space
Bynum and Thomas buy a three-bedroom house for $15,000, and while they’re accustomed to paying much less for their flips, they’re delighted to find this house in decent shape. They estimate they’ll need to put in just $30,000 to make this half-renovated home look like new.
So Bynum focuses on the design.
“The theme of this house is going to be timber,” he says, “all of our accents, all of our furniture, and all around the house. We’re going to incorporate wood and showcase how amazing it can look. The house, for some reason, it just says, ‘I can handle brown.’”
Bynum gives the kitchen an all-brown look with wood cabinets, wood floors, and even brown terra-cotta tile for the backsplash. Thomas isn’t so sure about the design, but their real estate agent, Shea Hicks-Whitfield, doesn’t mind the look.
“There is a lot of brown, but you got tons of natural light pouring in here,” Hicks-Whitfield says. “You can always go dark when there’s light.”
2. Butcher block counters are cheap, but look chic
While Bynum has a vision for this timber-filled home, he knows the kitchen can’t be all brown. So he incorporates some red wood tones into the space with a unique countertop.
“To give the kitchen a pop of color and avoid an all-brown room, I went with a rich red-toned herringbone butcher block countertop,” Bynum says. “Not only does it create a great accent with the cabinets, the pattern on the block provides the kitchen with a designer look at an entry-level cost.”
These counters cost only $168—and they look fantastic!
3. Use leftover wood for a feature wall
Bynum and Thomas need to stay on budget with this renovation, so Bynum gets creative to make one of the bedrooms look extra special.
“Our budgets are so tight on these homes, we need to create design elements literally out of nothing,” Bynum explains. “And I had a great idea for some leftover two-by-fours that will perfectly highlight the home’s wood theme.”
The leftover lumber is worth just $8.50, but Bynum turns it into a fabulous accent piece.
4. Distress paint to give cabinets character
When the timber house is looking pretty good, Bynum and Thomas shift their attention to a new project.
They buy this house for only $1,000 but estimate it will cost $45,000 to fix it up. They want to give this home a cottage aesthetic, so they aim to give the kitchen a bit of an aged look.
“In the kitchen, we decided to go with a bold black paint for the cabinets,” Bynum says. “But we’re going to distress the paint when it dries, to give it a worn-in look.”
They lightly sand the fresh paint, letting the wood cabinets underneath show through a tiny bit. It gives the cabinets a classic, homey style—and the best part is, it costs next to nothing.
5. Cork can look high-end, too
While the cabinets look great, the kitchen isn’t done yet: Bynum has a great idea to add a built-in banquette in the corner, decorating it with a unique material.
“For the backers above the banquette, I found this really awesome cork fabric,” Bynum says. “It just kind of screams cottage to me, and it’s really high-end-looking. But the best part is, it costs almost nothing.”
Bynum spends just $18 on the cork fabric, but when the backers are finished, it looks like a million bucks.
In the end, both of these houses sell quickly. After spending $15,000 to buy the timber house and fixing it up for $30,000, Bynum and Thomas are able to sell it for $90,900, making a profit of $45,900.
Then, after buying their cottage home for $1,000 and putting $45,000 into the renovation, they sell it for $69,000, making a profit of $23,000. Plus, they’ve added a touch more style to Detroit’s housing scene.
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