Good design choices can turn a dump into a dream home

by Patricia Cove
Posted 1/21/22

It is the rare individual who can walk through an available residence and have the ability to see past an unfortunate layout, outdated kitchen and baths, ghastly wallcoverings and linoleum floors - not to mention paint colors that are reflective of the current owner’s taste.  

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Good design choices can turn a dump into a dream home

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From what I hear, real estate is HOT right now.  Whether you are searching for a small apartment, a sleek condominium, or the single home of your dreams, the available stock is limited to say the least. And the issues that were always a challenge in purchasing real estate have become more challenging and stressful than ever. So, looking past the exorbitant prices, the out-bid offers, the neglected landscaping and those eye popping inspections, let’s take a hard look at how that real estate purchase can actually become the home of your dreams.

It is the rare individual who can walk through an available residence and have the ability to see past an unfortunate layout, outdated kitchen and baths, ghastly wallcoverings and linoleum floors - not to mention paint colors that are reflective of the current owner’s taste.  

The good news is, these are things that can be changed. If you truly love the location, the architectural style of the house, and if it fits with other basic amenities that are important to you, here is what you can do to make this house a home.

One of the costliest changes within a residence is the reconfiguration of the floor plan. Many older homes still retain the formal layout of years gone by. Although there are still people, myself included, who love the idea of a real “dining room and living room,” younger buyers are looking for that “open floor plan.”  So, as much as it pains me to recommend the removal of walls within a Colonial home, for example, which could result in considerable renovation costs, it also could allow for a more satisfactory living experience. (A word of warning, losing a traditional interior within a traditional building could be problematic for resale opportunities, but could be worthwhile if the building meets all your other requirements.)

Kitchens and bathrooms are another story.  Although updating these rooms can be expensive, they can add to the value of the home and provide state of the art features that are important to everyday life. The critical question pertains to the current size of these spaces.  Expanding these rooms by removing walls can be accomplished easily within older homes, while still not compromising the original layout. A creative design professional can offer direction on the best way to accomplish this while still retaining the original character of the home, which is important.

Even though wall to wall carpeting has not been popular for years, it can still be found, and there is always the question as to what it is covering. Homes of a certain age may still retain the original hardwood below that carpet. And if it was installed in a way that preserved that hard wood, removing the carpet and refinishing the floors can transform the space.  The same with linoleum, although linoleum’s installation methods may not have been kind to the wood flooring underneath.  Either way, reintroducing hard wood is the way to go.

The aesthetic features are the easiest to remedy, but they are also the features that can present the strongest reaction to a prospective buyer as they can be the hardest to look past.  

Color and pattern are two of the most apparent visuals on which people focus. If they are too jarring or too specific it becomes impossible for almost anyone to see the space without them.  Be not distressed.  Focus instead on the size and shape of the space.  Pay attention to the doorways, the  window openings, and any architectural trim that may be present.  These will become the room’s important features once the busy wallpaper is removed and the paint color becomes more neutral.  

If the size of the room works, and the other features add to its interest, you can be assured the room can be transformed.

Real estate can easily become one of the most significant purchases one can make.  It would be a shame if the home that appears sad and neglected, or even designed as a brothel, is really, underneath, the home of your dreams.  

So don’t be discouraged about how a prospective structure presents itself. Ignore those crazy colors and nightmarish wallpaper, and you just may be able to see the diamond that is just below the surface!

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her website: patriciacove.com.

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