A Carl Before After

I’ve written previously about my friend Carl, in Wichita. Recently, he sold the HUGE house he had, and the new owner has been tearing out everything Carl did, and tearing out original features. Sigh.

Two years ago, Carl sold another house, one he had flipped. He purchased it for $18K and sold it for $175K. Nice. The new owner did nothing to it, and sold it last month for $210K. Carl told me: “I sold it too cheap!”

Carl is now working on a fabulous 1880s house that had been restored in the 1980s…and has been falling apart ever since.

My approach to old houses is quite different than Carl’s. I am all about restore restore restore and Carl is just make it better. And I am fine with this. Carl never destroys original features, and is careful to protect them. But he is sooooooo not going to remove decades of paint off trim. In short, Carl is more sane than I am.

Today, Carl sent me these images of the dining room:



BEFORE. 1980s wallpaper and chandelier. General decrepitude. Something that would scare most buyers off.


AFTER. Carl wrote: “Put up the $114 chandelier. I only spent $250 for the entire room (table+chairs, art, curtains, paint, light, and accessories). I think it looks polished enough considering what the asking price will be. Not too modern not too fussy historic.” Note that Carl removed the 1980s crown moulding. Squee!


I think it looks great. And potential buyers will love it.

But I itch to remove the paint off the trim.





  1. Leigh on April 30, 2020 at 1:57 am

    Bravo to Carl.

  2. Terri on April 30, 2020 at 7:03 am

    I agree Ross! I hate painted wood!!! But, Carl did a wonderful job making the dining room look inviting! And he only spent $250?!? Carl is my kind of guy! A superb Bargain hunter!

  3. NAncy Lyn McPherson on April 30, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    To each his own…but for myself, bring back the crown molding, strip the paint off the woodwork until you have the natural wood showing. Also, get rid of the “pool table” lighting and put up a nice piece of vintage on the ceiling. Sorry Carl, but that just doesn’t look good to me.

    • Ross on April 30, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      Hi, Nancy!

      Carl purchased the house to keep it from being torn down. It was in that bad of shape.

      His intention is to improve the house to the point where it is no longer considered a tear-down, then list it for sale. He successfully did that with his previous project.

      Removing all the paint from the first-floor trim is incredibly laborious and will not add to the resale value.

      The crown molding was cheap junk, badly installed, and not something which would have been in the house when it was built. Rather, there would have been picture rail about 20-inches below the ceiling.

      Carl purchased the light because it was a $114 knock-off of an $800 Restoration Hardware fixture. And, from a resale perspective, his words are wise: “Not too modern not too fussy historic”.

      In the last two years Carl has sold two houses within weeks after being listed for sale. Each was fully staged with a mix of antiques and modern pieces. So, he has a talent for this.

    • Carl on April 30, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      I agree the wood work should be stripped but like previous owners some idiot would probably paint it again. Just like the idiots who added crown molding to a house that never had any. Would I install that light fixture in my own home? Never but the new buyers who will most certainly be hipster 30 somethings will more than likely prefer it over a vintage fixture, if not they can easily switch to suit their taste, unlike crown molding. Would I have that 1920s dining set, no but it cost $100 and stays with the house along with all the furnishings. Would I have chosen the paint color? Perhaps not but when you have two half cans of two colors why not dump them together and see what you get. A realtor once said to me “The things you do to a house you like best are the first things people will change”. People have no obligations to keeping the house the way it’s decorated and I would hope it’s their intention to make it their own. Could I have kept the crown molding, installed a tin ceiling from Home Depot, added floral wallpaper with a paper chair rail, filled the room with tufted velvet medallion furniture and a shelf loaded with Victorian Dolls, yes. When you hire me to do so then yes I can do that too but may I suggest a subscription to “World of Interiors Magazine” instead. Broadening ones taste is cheaper than hiring a decorator.

  4. Pamela on May 1, 2020 at 6:38 am

    Carl I totally get what you are doing and bravo to you for saving an old house and for giving other people the thrill of living in one! I love hearing how you turn frugal into delicious.

  5. tura wolfe on May 1, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    It is WONDERFUL that Carl is saving houses. His skill brings buyers to the table that would have other wise walked a way from a dirty, old, frumpy house. Carl sees thru all of that as most of us do. He makes the old house shine just enough for the young ins to dive in or the old folks saying I can live here the way it is ……… working on this at my own pace, may it be forever. A good clean up, fix up, and paint up, with a little flare and charm have saved many old houses. Mine included.

    My hat is off to Carl! Please shine up a dozen or two before years end, saving as many as you can from the wrecking ball and your self a good living.

    Carl, thank you for saving old houses, cause I love all of them!

  6. Mike on May 4, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Looks great, Carl!!

  7. Susan Y. on May 14, 2020 at 12:02 am

    I am solidly on the side of not painting wood trim.

    The house I want has miles of painted trim and woodwork and I just hope if I (win the sweepstakes/lottery) am ever able to get it that it will have been painted in the 80s\90s and not have lead in it

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