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Do These 12 Things to Make Your Fixer-Upper Fabulous

By Becky Harris, Houzz

When a developer asked for his help in making this compact fixer-upper more appealing for resale, interior designer Carl Mattison immediately began imagining its next owner. Perhaps a young couple, or a single person. “Let’s call him a bachelor named Lenny, who has a dog named Kerby — Kerby with an ‘e,’” he says with a laugh. The designer then got to work changing the layout to reflect modern life and adding quality details that didn’t bust the budget.

Before Photo, original photo on Houzz

“After” photos by Home Tour America

Houzz at a Glance

Location: East Atlanta neighborhood in Atlanta

Size: 1,001 square feet (93 square meters); two bedrooms, two bathrooms

Designer: Carl Mattison

The house, shown here, had been a rental for a long time and was in need of love. Mattison was called in to create an interior design scheme with enough special touches to make the home stand above the competition. The update offers 12 ideas for others getting ready to put a home on the market.

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

1. Add curb appeal to your fixer-upper

Fresh paint, new windows, custom window boxes and shutters, a welcoming blue door, new lighting, and landscaping added scads of curb appeal. You may notice the house lost a window to the right — it is located in the shower stall of the master bedroom. It gained a new window in the bathroom on a more private wall to replace it. (You’ll see that in a moment.)

Paint colors for brick and shingles: Unusual Gray SW 7059; sashes and trim: Useful Gray SW 7050; front door: Festoon Aqua SW 0019; shutters and foundation: Urbane Bronze SW 7048, all Sherwin-Williams

Fixer-Upper

Floor Plan, original photo on Houzz

2. Open the layout

Before the remodel, the main living areas were broken up by a big fireplace that made for small rooms — a tiny kitchen, living room and family room that all felt dark and closed-off. Mattison recommended getting rid of the fireplace to give the space more of an upscale, open layout, shown here.

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

Inside, the console table serves as a drop zone, and that wall above it could be a TV wall if the new homeowners wish.

3. Use appealing flooring

While saving and refinishing beautiful old floors is desirable, the ones in this home were rotten beyond repair. This is a prefinished hardwood floor in a washed walnut. The darker tones are what many home buyers are looking for today, Mattison says.

4. Add luxe touches

These kinds of modest postwar cottages were simple starter homes without many frills,” he says. “I wanted to give it more upscale details to make it stand out, like great millwork and lighting that accessorizes like jewelry. These are the details that make a house stand out ahead of the competition.”

Paint colors for walls (unless otherwise noted), ceilings and trim: Pure White SW 7005; doors: Dorian Gray SW 7017; gray walls: Gauntlet Gray SW 7019

Now you can see right through to the backyard from the front yard, with lots of light coming in from the new windows and a back door that leads to a deck.

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

5. Define spaces

In an open space like this, it’s especially important for a potential homeowner to see how the furniture layout will work. The living area is defined by the rug and ceiling fan, and the dining nook is defined by the cabinet wall, millwork and lighting. “You can never underestimate lighting in a project like this. It can really make the difference,” he says.

Wire basket light: Shades of Light; sconce over sink: Restoration Hardware; dinette light: Cost Plus World Market.

6. Find a style that will resonate with potential homeowners

The hip neighborhood of East Atlanta is popular among singles and young families due to its restaurants, clubs and funky shopping village, so that was at the forefront of Mattison’s vision of what “Kerby” and “Lenny” would be searching for in a home. “I was going for what I call ‘soft industrial’ in here,” the designer says. Details such as the wire basket pendant light, metal cafe table and white gearwheel mirror nod to industrial but are refined over rusty.

While the color scheme is neutral, a rich gray gives it a luxe feeling and is versatile enough to appeal to many potential homeowners. So do elegant touches such as a 3D beveled backsplash, brass hardware, thoughtful lighting choices and floor-to-ceiling paneling. “All of this wainscoting makes the house feel like a little jewel,” he says. “It puts you ahead of what else is on the market.”

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

7. Mix metals

While the stainless steel appliances and chrome faucet are more industrial, brass cabinet hardware balances them out with warm touches. The texture of the backsplash helps bounce the light around. The trim at the top of the cabinets, painted in the same color, makes the ceilings seem higher.

Tile: Convex Birch, Sobu

8. Create cohesion

Matching the wall color in the seating area with the cabinets helps blend the kitchen into the compact space.

To save on the budget, Mattison used ready-made cabinets in a stock color. “You don’t have to go custom to have nice cabinets. These are off the shelf, but they come with dovetailed soft-close drawers,” he says.

Cabinets: Shaker Gray, Renovation Center

9. Show versatility within your fixer-upper

Mattison staged the second bedroom as an office. Adding a convertible sofa or daybed could turn the space into a multifunctional guest bedroom-home office.

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

10. Include special touches in a bath

This full bathroom, located off the laundry room, serves as the powder room and guest bathroom. “A lot of people don’t pay enough attention to the second bathroom and tile the whole surround the same,” Mattison says. “The mini brick mosaic tile along the back shower wall makes it feel more high-end.” Inexpensive subway tile is a budget saver, and the faucets and the round metal mirror add special touches.

Mirror: CB2; tile: Sobu; faucets: Kingsley Collection, Moen

Fixer-Upper

Home Tour America, original photo on Houzz

11. Use a statement headboard

A tufted cobalt wingback headboard gives the bed a strong presence and, along with the artwork, brings in some color. More of the elegant wall paneling anchors the headboard wall and provides cohesion with the rest of the house. A special chandelier adds texture and the soft industrial look overhead.

 Walls: Unusual Gray, SW 7059; trim: Pure White SW 7005, both Sherwin-Williams

12. Make a tight bathroom feel bigger

Mattison made the compact master bathroom feel bigger by using two tricks. The first was tiling from floor to ceiling with oversize (5-by-13-inch) gray subway tile.

The second was maxing out the shower and using a clear glass surround. “A lot of developers will automatically put a tub-shower combo in both bathrooms in a house like this, but I tell them, ‘No! If you already have a bathtub in one bathroom, create a really great shower in the other bathroom!’” he says.

Two swanky brass mirrors and sconces with an antique industrial look add loads of personality and amplify the natural light.

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