Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack, the hosts of “Flip or Flop,” are usually all about modernizing dated homes. But in the Season 12 episode “Century Flip,” they buy a 100-year-old home in Santa Ana, CA, and set out to walk a very fine line between modernization and preservation.
From the beginning, it’s clear this $510,000 three-bedroom house needs a lot of work—but it’s filled with historical charm and character. After spending $157,000 on renovations, these flippers manage to bring this old home definitively into the 21st century, while still preserving beautiful vintage features. In the end, El Moussa says it’s his favorite historic house they’ve ever done.
Read on to find out how the duo decide what parts of this old house to save and what to replace. Plus, get tips for how to highlight the classic features in your own home.
Keep old doors but ditch dated colors
When El Moussa and Haack first see this historic house, Haack makes a surprising observation about the exterior.
“It kind of looks like Christmas,” she says. “Green roof, red house.”
Replacing the roof would be prohibitively expensive, so the HGTV stars realize that their only option is to paint the house a neutral white, and the trim, porch, and original front door black. While black and white paint don’t quite match the era of the house, the color choice gives the exterior a clean, bright look that is timeless.
“The paint colors are actually perfect,” Haack says. “I love that we did the white and then all the dark trim—it really pops.”
Don’t paint classic trim
Inside the house, Haack and El Moussa want to keep the molding around the doors and windows, but they want to refresh the color.
“I don’t think we should paint it because it’s real wood and that’s kind of like the character of the house, so I think we should stain it,” El Moussa says.
They have the molding sanded and stained ebony, giving the interior some added dimension.
El Moussa loves the look. “I like it dark,” he says.
While paint can transform a home, stain might be a better option for a more subtle update.
Use new materials that feel classic
Haack wants to replace the kitchen cabinets, but in a way that honors the home’s classic charm.
“I know we’re trying to keep some of the originality of the house, so I love the idea of doing, like, a rich blue,” Haack says. “That’s more kind of with the era.”
El Moussa loves the idea right away: “The blue’s more unique. It’s kind of vintage, so it might work better for this house,” he says.
To finish the look, they add brass hardware, which has a vintage flair.
In the end, it’s clear that Haack and El Moussa made the right choice. The cabinets may be new, but they add character to the kitchen. It proves that while homeowners don’t need to keep every original feature in their old home, they can bring in styles and materials that are era-appropriate.
Have fun with grout colors
Now that the cabinets and hardware are in place, Haack wants to go with a more contemporary backsplash with a unique grout color.
“I would actually love to do gold grout here,” she says. “I’ve seen it before—it looks awesome.”
While this tile and gold grout have a modern flair, they work in this kitchen. The grout matches the brass hardware, marrying the old and new looks.
Use classically inspired tiles
In the living room, Haack and El Moussa find a faux fireplace, which they know will make a great centerpiece for the space. All it needs is a little style refresh.
“We’re going for a vintage look,” Haack says, holding up a simple gray tile. “And I would love to use this tile but not cover the whole fireplace.”
With Haack’s gray tile making a unique pattern around the firebox and a vintage-inspired tile on the hearth, this fireplace looks fresh but classic.
Is this a flip or flop?
After buying this house for $510,000, El Moussa and Haack spend $156,900 on the renovation. After factoring in closing costs and commission, this house has a break-even price of $696,900.
Still, El Moussa isn’t interested in just breaking even.
“No house has sold for $800,000 in this neighborhood, ever,” he says. “I want to be the only house.”
They get 15 offers and are in escrow for $890,000. If the deal goes through, these flippers will make a profit of $193,100. That’s a deal for the ages!