How can you update an old home without doing away with its classic charm? Jenny and Dave Marrs of “Fixer to Fabulous” attempt to answer this question with their latest renovation.
In the Season 2 episode “A Home to Love,” these Arkansas-based renovators meet a young couple, Elly and Philip Elliot, who recently bought a home built in 1902. While Elly loves the house, Philip isn’t impressed.
He explains that Elly put in an offer on the home—before he even saw it! Now, he’s got a long list of must-haves to bring it up to his standards. They paid $205,000 for the home, and have a $155,000 renovation budget to make it feel like a home fit for a modern family.
Here’s how Jenny and Dave update an old house without throwing its rich history out the window—and some fresh design inspiration for your own home, too. (Bonus: They add a hidden room that’s a fun surprise.)
Stick to classic paint colors
Elly loves almost everything about her home, but Philip isn’t so sure about the exterior. So Jenny and Dave suggest removing the carport and refreshing the house’s style.
“I really think painting the house and adding in new landscaping will just completely transform this home,” Jenny says.
They take down the carport (which allows room to re-create the original wraparound porch), add some grass to the lawn, and choose a sage-green paint for the exterior. The green is subtle, but Jenny knows the shade will bring out the home’s classic allure.
“This is going to really freshen things up but keep with the historic charm of this home,” Jenny says of the color.
When Elly and Philip finally see the house, they’re impressed by the exterior.
“It is a different house,” Elly exclaims.
A primary bedroom should have some privacy
Philip and Elly’s house is nice, but the layout is all wrong. With the primary bedroom right off the kitchen and family room, Elly and Philip hate how guests can walk into the house and see where they sleep. So Elly suggests switching the kitchen and the guest bedroom, which will give the primary bedroom more privacy and the house a better flow.
Jenny loves the idea, and gets to work designing the new kitchen, focusing on classic looks that will keep this new space looking era-appropriate.
She chooses simple white cabinets and traditional chrome hardware, and fixes up the original wood flooring. She also installs black countertops on the perimeter cabinets. These counters bring some depth and interest to the space, while still keeping that old-fashioned look.
“I love black countertops in a kitchen. I just feel like they’re very classic, but they’re also so durable,” Jenny says.
Bring in classic charm with a tin ceiling
One of Elly’s favorite parts of the house is the kitchen’s tin ceiling. She loves the classic look, and although she knows the kitchen will be moved to another part of the house, she wants the tin to be in the new kitchen, too.
However, when Dave and the team start renovations, they realize that the ceiling can’t be moved.
So Jenny orders some new tin to cover the new kitchen ceiling. While these squares don’t look exactly like the original, they still lend a classic look.
“They’re going to add texture and a vintage feel,” Jenny says.
“It’s gorgeous,” says Elly when she sees it.
Hide a room with a secret door
Before renovations, there was not a lot of room on the main floor, so these homeowners are forced to go down to the basement whenever they want to do laundry or need to access the dog crates.
Jenny sees how inconvenient this is, so she borrows space from a bedroom and makes a small laundry room that can double as a dog kennel. She does her best to make sure the dog crates look great, with stylish white doors and a dark counter on top to match the kitchen. Still, she and Dave know that a modern laundry room probably won’t complement this old-fashioned house.
So they decide that these modern looks will probably do best hidden away, behind a secret door.
Jenny and Dave build a swinging bookcase door (with a doggie door below), which hides the laundry room. The new bookcase has a classic style, but also adds an element of surprise and fun to this young couple’s home.
When the room is finished, Elly is thrilled with the classic look and the convenient laundry space. She also loves that there’s a spot on the main floor for the dogs.
Add a closet next to a big bathroom
While Dave and Jenny work hard to preserve this historic home’s charm, there’s one space they know will need some modern comforts: the bathroom.
When they first see the master bathroom, they’re impressed by the size, but they hate the old features. This is the one place in the house that looks dated rather than classic.
Jenny and Dave want to use this space wisely, so they split up this large bathroom and use part of the space as a closet for Elly. They then add a black vanity, a modern glass shower door, and modern hexagonal floor tiles. These changes make this space look updated, but elegant.
The homeowners love the new look. Elly even points out one modern detail she especially likes.
“I love the neutral tone of the tile,” she says. “I love the geometric shape.”
Does this fixer end up fabulous?
Jenny and Dave make wise use of Elly and Philip’s renovation budget. With their updates, the house looks great and functions even better.
“This home, although it’s now more modern,” Jenny says, “we also restored it to its original look and feel, and the original character is very much intact.”
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