"Flip This House" – The Enemy of a Transitioning Neighborhood

While surfing the internet Patrick came across one of A&E’s TV shows, “Flip This House”. More specifically a short segment about “Flip Tip – Curb Appeal”. He showed me the video and we both watched in horror of what this “Investment Consultant” Angela Wilford was recommending. Angela and the TV show “Flip This House” reminded me of some of the challenges we’re up against as a transitioning neighborhood: INVESTORS! Bad investor’s freeze the progress transitioning neighborhoods are making – and destroying beautiful houses in the process. (And if you look at the video and see the footage of a boarded up house you know Angela Wilford is working on a house in a transitioning neighborhood because I’m fairly certain you can’t find too many boarded up houses in non-transitioning neighborhoods.)

First of all (and this part doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with harming a transitioning neighborhood), am I the only one that was puzzled by her comments to tear out landscaping? I thought it was common knowledge that landscaping is the only investment that will actually increase in value over time. That kitchen renovation isn’t getting any younger over the years…but that grown in hedge or bushy perennial will awe potential buyers. That’s what always gets me about new subdivisions – they are sooooo boringly bare! (Well, that and the fact that usually new subdivisions mean long drives into the suburbs and cheap cookie cutter construction.) I’m sure in certain cases it doesn’t hurt to remove some plants, but the house she was talking about had no landscaping but the hedges she recommended to tear out. The house would have no plants remaining.

Then the part that really terrified me was seeing those original windows being torn out. As a fellow blogger once commented, there is a special place in hell for people that tear out old windows. (And we’ll make sure there are some extra flames added for showing them being torn out on a TV show.) I know homeowners go the tear-out-historic-windows route as well, but especially investors have a tendency of harming those beautiful treasures. And that’s one of the problems with investors…they tear out absolutely everything. It hurts my heart every time I drive by a dumpster in the neighborhood knowing that some architectural detail was surely torn out. It’s easier to tear out the old woodwork and slap some drywall on the studs instead – our contractor even said so herself! Investors…out go the windows, out goes the butler’s pantry, out goes the wooden plate rail molding, out goes the old fireplace, out goes the character. We fell in love with the houses in this neighborhood because of those details. I’m sure we can’t be the only ones, so who do the investors think they’re doing the neighborhood a favor by tearing that stuff out? Besides, investors are known to put the cheapest of the cheap materials back in the house. NO thank you!

So what are we left with after the investors have come to ravage a house? “For Rent” signs! I have been a renter myself, so it would be hypocritical to be totally against renters, but renters in a transitioning neighborhood don’t exactly help to establish a neighborhood. What is needed are loving, caring homeowners to rebuild the foundation of the neighborhood. Hopefully Patrick and I are helping to do our part in this process for Westview.

As a footnote I’d like to add that even though I mainly think investors are bad, I have witnessed some, or more specifically one, investor that I think has been doing a tremendous job. Two houses over from us was a house that was the shame of the block. It had been sitting empty since we’ve been here and had granite blocks falling out of the foundation, paint peeling, and was generally looking pretty pathetic. When Jim bought the property and said he would rent it we were worried, but he was quick to assure us he cared very much about the historic details. Over the last couple of months the house has gone from the shame of the block to one of the nicest looking houses! He had the granite and brick re-pointed (which is where we got the guys from to re-point our brick), he scraped all the paint off the porch and repainted the whole house, had railing re-installed around the porch, re-paved the driveway and path, cleared out all the kudzu from the backyard, put new grass down, had missing windows custom made to match the rest of the house, replaced the crappy front door with a restored historic Craftsman door, and the list goes on and on. From what I’ve seen I’d say Jim get’s the “Westview Investor’s Award”.


East Ontario Avenue restoration


East Ontario Avenue restoration


East Ontario Avenue restoration

Posted in Before and After, Our Neighborhood, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on "Flip This House" – The Enemy of a Transitioning Neighborhood

Built-in Fairytales

Once upon a time there was a sad butler’s pantry…

But we slaved for hours and hours and hours stripping paint and have almost completely restored it!! The only thing left is to add the doors. (The new hardware has been ordered and is on the way!)

Check out the short video we made to follow its journey through the restoration process. And yes, we did make some improvements along the way – it’s deeper than the original size to accomodate more food (and alcohol) storage and we added a granite countertop that matches the rest of our kitchen counters.

[jwplayer mediaid=”1668″]

Posted in Our Bungalow, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Built-in Fairytales

Living Room / Guest Room Door

One of the drooling parts about our house has always been the door between the living room and guest bedroom. The design matches the exterior windows, the kitchen butler’s pantry, and the coffered ceilings. And of course beautiful unique window designs like that are hard to come by these days.

Bedroom/Parlor Door

We had worked some on the door in March and April before friends and well as my parents were coming to visit. The fact that there was a door at all was somewhat of a luxury at that point. The fact that the door should be able to close wasn’t even on our minds yet. Well, of course for our visitor’s sake we wish we could have provided a closing door, but we just weren’t at that point yet. We have thought about what to put there since, and for a while were intrigued by the Eastlake door set. Though at $182 after shipping we haven’t exactly jumped on the “deal” and I’ve told Patrick we should ask for it for Christmas or something. The exciting part about the Eastlake set from Rejuvenation was also that they offered it for modern “holed” doors. Though our door is anything but modern it has sadly been badly butchered over the years. When we bought the house someone had removed the original mortise door set and carved out a hole to fit a modern door set in it.

Bedroom/Parlor Door Mortise

When we were in Chicago over the weekend we stayed with a friend in a cute old apartment in Rogers Park. The apartment had some really cool door knobs that we hadn’t seen before, but the design seemed perfect for our door and the style in the remainder of the house. Though the Eastlake design is very cool it also seems to lean towards the late Victorian-era style. The design of our friend’s door handles just seemed to fit better with the lines of the windows in our house. (Just to note: our friend didn’t paint the door.)

Historic Door Handle

We joked with her that she would come back from work one day and she would find a cheap door set on one of her doors. Now that we’re back home we’re on a mission to find this style door knob! The unfortunate part is that we don’t know what the name of the style is – which doesn’t exactly help. I found one style on Rejuvenation that is kind of cool but not really that close: Bevel Edge Plate. Though they don’t offer it as a set so we’d have to piece it together ourselves. After that I finally got a little bit closer to what we’re looking for: the Quincy Set where at least the handle is heading in the right direction, and the Heritage Set that seems to be the closest one yet. It’s close, but not entirely there yet. The line seems to be more defined on the plate of our friend’s door knob than the Heritage knob. I wish I could see the Heritage knob from some different angles so I could better determine the resemblance. So I guess that’s where we’re at with our living room/guest room door knob. If anyone reading this happens to stumble across my friend’s door knob, or perhaps recalls the name of the style please, please, please let us know! We would love to get this style for our door – without having to kidnap our friend’s! ;-) And if someone doesn’t feel comfortable leaving a comment we can also be reached via email – info [at]

On a side note, and perhaps reflecting back to my previous entry, we had a great time in Chicago. One thing we were bummed about was that we figured out that we would miss the “Historic Chicago Bungalow Expo” this coming up weekend. (Maybe we could have found our door knob there!) Bungalows aside, one of the first things I noticed was the amazing lawns from the airplane. Then arriving at our friend’s house and walking around town I was only reaffirmed how amazing these lawns were. Growing up as a child in Germany I remember these lush, green, soft lawns. With the Atlanta summer heat the common grass varieties are Zoysia and Bermuda, both of which have never felt as inviting and soft to me. I was starting to think my childhood memories were just false illusions until I saw my dream lawns up in Chicago. How I envy thee! And to answer some Oak Park questions – yes, it was a very friendly and inviting neighborhood. The lady at Caribou was very bubbly and friendly, as was everyone else we encountered there (so don’t let my grouchy tour lady story hold anyone back from visiting). The neighborhood was beautiful and the houses are so huge! We’re definitely looking forward to visiting again sometime (perhaps for next year’s Expo?), and when we do we’ll have to see about getting together with some of you Chicago house bloggers so you can show us what your town is all about! And perhaps share some more funny renovation stories… :)

Posted in Our Bungalow, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Living Room / Guest Room Door