In the midst of an icy winter in Chicago, Alison Victoria of HGTV’s “Windy City Rehab” is turning her thoughts toward warmer climates in other cities such as Atlanta.
“I have friends who moved there and bought a condo, and I have fallen in love with that city,” says the home renovation specialist. So of course, her inclination is to dip her toe into the wonderful world of renovation in Georgia, too.
“I found this place called the Stacks,” Victoria says in the episode “Family Ties.” lt’s a converted 1800s textile factory location with several old brick buildings, smokestacks, a water tower, and bridges. Plus, there just happens to be an unfinished, two-bedroom, two-bath condo for sale.
She recruits her brother Jimmy Gramenos to invest his time and money in the place along with her, and away they go.
Their relatively blank canvas measures 1,821 square feet and has really high ceilings. They it for $494,000 and believe they can finish it for $100,000 in four or five months.
But can Victoria really work well with a family member? Can she stick to the renovation budget? Can they really finish the project on deadline? Here’s what happens to her best-laid plans, which can teach us all a thing or two about how renovations rarely turn out as you’d hoped—and how this might be a good thing.
“Adding square footage adds value,” declares Victoria. Everyone knows that, but how do you add square footage in a condo that shares walls with other units?
Since the ceiling is high, Victoria decides to extend the mezzanine out over the kitchen. The kitchen can have dropped a ceiling, and the upstairs bedroom on the mezzanine will be bigger and better.
“Jimmy and I could make so much money if we just extend the mezzanine out over the main level,” she says, envisioning a “mix of a Parisian flat and a loft in SoHo.”
Always check city ordinances
As Victoria goes over her plans for the condo with her local crew, one of members informs her “there is a code in the city of Atlanta that your mezzanine space can only occupy up to a certain percentage of the unit. We’ll have to check.”
Victoria heads straight to a local architect with experience in these types of things for help, and he informs her that the mezzanine can cover only 50% of the unenclosed lower level, and can’t have walls up to the ceiling.
That’s a downer, as Victoria was planning to add 350 extra square feet of walled off, private space to the mezzanine. She learns she can add only 200 square feet, so she’ll just have to settle for a smaller bedroom, with drapes for privacy.
Save money by doing the demolition yourself
The kitchen that came with the flat is dull, cheap, and uninspiring, so Victoria declares that all of the cabinets and appliances must go—and that she and her brother can do the honors.
“Light demo doesn’t require a permit,” she explains. “My brother has dabbled in construction, and he’s all about saving money, so if we could even save, like, $500 bucks by demoing the kitchen ourselves, I know Jimmy’s into that.”
They end up saving money and having a great time in the process. Who doesn’t love swinging a sledgehammer and ripping apart walls?
A unique stove hood vent is good
Victoria believes that stove hood vents are usually a missed opportunity to class up a kitchen.
“The first project in the kitchen is my hood,” she says. “I think they really are the artwork in the kitchen, and I wanted this one to be the most special one I’ve ever done.”
She designs a distinctive steel hood by having holes punched in a decorative pattern, which is then treated so it will be black. It really does become a statement piece, or “a moment,” as Victoria likes to say.
Take the country out of sliding barn doors
Victoria wants sliding barn doors separating the bathroom from the bedroom—an elegant solution that takes up much less space than traditional double doors.
But while doors that look like they authentically came from a barn would work for a modern farmhouse, they will definitely not do in this sophisticated, downtown Atlanta loft.
So she goes shopping in a local architectural reclamation store and finds the most beautiful antique double doors, and—get this—she hangs them on a barn door track.
“Taking old doors like that and putting them on a barn door track, it modernizes them,” says Victoria. “These are the most beautiful doors that I have ever found and installed in any home that I’ve ever done.”
How does this ‘Windy City Rehab’ in Atlanta turn out?
The whole condo is exquisite once she’s finished with it. But it takes them an entire year, and they spend $220,000 on the renovation!
With comps hovering around $880,000, they’d likely make a $146,000 profit on it—if they decide to sell it. But they love the newly renovated place so much, they decide to keep it in the family.
They’re not alone in admiring it. House Beautiful magazine features it on the February-March cover.
That begs the question: Will Victoria forgo being a Windy City girl to become a Georgia Peach?
As she tells House Beautiful, “Chicago will always be home, but it doesn’t have to be the only one.”