Jonathan Knight might be better known as a member of New Kids On the Block (he still tours with the boy band), but he’s also gaining newfound fame for renovating New England farmhouses on his HGTV series “Farmhouse Fixer.”
On this show, he and designer Kristina Creston restore classic American dwellings, some well over a century old. But in the “East Coast Farmhouse” episode, he diverts from his usual plan, working on a Colonial dwelling in Beverly, MA, that may look like it’s over 100 years old but was actually built in the 1970s. That peeling, chipping paint comes from deep neglect, not age.
It’s still a dream come true for clients Erin and Jason Russell, who, along with their three kids, have been renting for years. They finally found the farmhouse that they knew had the potential to be their forever home—it just needed a little fine-tuning from Knight.
“It’s a good reproduction Colonial,” says Knight. “It obviously needs a paint job.”
It also needs a lot of other work, inside and out. Knight says they can do it for between $270,000 and $290,000. Check out the changes they make, which might inspire a few upgrades around your own abode, too.
Dated and worn pile carpeting has to go
When Knight first steps in the door, he can’t help but notice some classic ’70s pile carpet underfoot.
“We are definitely in a 1970s house,” he says. “The rugs, the newel posts, the wallpaper…”
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While they’ll change the newel posts and the wallpaper, the most egregious feature that really has to go is that wall-to-wall carpeting. It is still surprisingly common yet detested by nearly every homebuyer out there.
“The carpet was just awful,” he says. “It was dirty and stained and it smelled.”
Light oak flooring throughout the first floor does the trick, adding continuity, style, and a new-house smell.
Look for high ceilings above the dropped panels
Homes built in the ’70s often have high, vaulted ceilings—but for some reason, they’re hidden by lower ceiling panels. Knight decides to look beyond the flat drywall overhead and see what’s up there.
“If we opened up this ceiling, we could possibly vault it,” he says. “That’s just going to give the feeling of so much more space in this room.”
Jackpot! He finds plenty of room up there, so he gives Erin and Jason a choice.
“There are a few options with the ceiling, and right now it really just depends on what the Russells want,” he says. He can drywall the vault for $6,000 or put up shiplap there for $9,000.
The Russells think the shiplap might make the ceiling a little too busy. They choose the clean, simple drywall.
Colorful millwork packs a punch
Millwork, the decorative wood that’s been milled by a machine and placed on a wall to add texture and style, is common in farmhouses. Creston has some stylish ideas about adding it to the Russell home.
“There’s a couple of places where we might have millwork on the walls in your house, and I love the idea of painting it a color, instead of white,” she tells the couple.
“To bring in some color to the space,” adds Knight.
“Because if everything is white, at a certain point it gets a little bit boring,” Creston explains. The Russells are thrilled with the result.
Add texture with a light fixture
Most people add texture with pillows, throws, rugs, upholstery fabric, and wall coverings, but Creston has a unique idea that really makes a difference.
In the entryway, there’s an ugly brass and glass hanging light that hits anyone over 6 feet tall in the head.
Creston’s fix: “I bought them this ceramic light fixture, because I want to mix more artisan, tactile materials. It adds some texture without screaming at you,” she says.
Bonus: It prevents cranial injuries!
Kibosh the colored bathroom fixtures
Upstairs, the primary bathroom is unintentionally comical. Not only does it contain a blue toilet and corner sink, but the whole room is also ridiculously cramped.
“This is definitely the smallest bathroom that I have seen,” says Knight.
It’s a good thing there’s extra space at that end of the bedroom, so he can both expand the bath and give the Russells a bigger closet. From there, clean, white fixtures make the bathroom feel more spacious and fresh as well.
How did this old farmhouse turn out?
Once this design duo’s work is done, the Russells are greeted by a brand-new kitchen, living room, and much more.
“It looks amazing! I’m overwhelmed,” says Erin. “It finally feels like home, and that means a lot more to us than you guys could ever know.”
“You just nailed it. You totally nailed it,” says Jason excitedly.
It’s another No. 1 hit for the not-so-new kid on the New England block.