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“Behind the Curtin”Presents A Fixer Upper in a Golf Community in Milton, GA Episode 5

“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners who live well in their homes to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of luxurious real estate one wonderful home at a time.

“Behind the Curtin” Episode 5 – A Fixer Upper in A Golf Community in Milton, Georgia

WATCH THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Aleisha and Chris Porto live in Milton, Georgia with their two children. Recently, Aleisha and Chris renovated a home in the golf community of White Columns.

Joanne: So, where did you and Chris live before you moved to this house?

Aleisha: We lived a mile from downtown Roswell in a smaller home. It was a good first home.

Joanne: What made you want to move?

Aleisha: We had updated almost every single square foot of our old home. And we had people knocking at the door asking to buy our house. A young couple made an amazing offer on our house. And I really connected with her.

We needed a bigger house. We have two very active boys and we had no backyard. And so that was really what started it and then it slowly progressed from looking in Roswell to Milton. Our design studio is in Milton and a lot of our clients are in Milton, so I know the area well. And the more we looked, the more we loved these homes with larger lots.

Joanne: And what made you pick this house specifically?

Aleisha: Our realtor appeared genuinely taken aback when she discovered that we had different plans in mind. Initially, she was eager to showcase the stunning homes, particularly the new builds, such as those in Toll Brothers and Milton Overlook. But then we started contemplating the value we would receive for our investment. And we both have professional expertise in home design. My husband possesses excellent handyman skills, while I have a clear vision for what I want to achieve with our future home.

I expressed my desire to explore homes that required some fixing up but had already undergone updates. Our realtor proceeded to show us a few options, and one in particular caught our interest. However, after conducting an inspection, we realized that the required repairs would far outweigh any aesthetic improvements. The house’s structural elements needed attention, leading us to ultimately walk away from that opportunity.

During my search, I stumbled upon another house that piqued my curiosity. Since my husband, Chris, was out of town, I enlisted the help of my dad, who, like my husband, is quite skilled in handy work. Chris even asked my dad to assess certain aspects like plumbing, HVAC, and so on while he was there.

Upon entering the house, it was immediately apparent that it was in a state of disarray. Nevertheless, I made a conscious effort to overlook the mess and focus on the layout and potential. In fact, I walked straight through the house to the back deck, where I laid eyes on the backyard. It was exactly what we had envisioned when considering a location like Milton—a spacious yard perfect for entertaining, with ample grass space and even a pool. It checked all the boxes: a desirable neighborhood, a backyard that met our criteria, and a reputable school district, not to mention the ideal number of rooms.

Joanne: How did you improve the value of the house?

Aleisha: Firstly, we prioritized the essential tasks and checked them off the list. The HVAC system required replacement, and the pool pump needed fixing. We hired someone to repair the large fridge instead of replacing it, considering the cost. Additionally, we had to re-service and level the septic system. We removed some dangerous trees, including a beautiful one that was planted in the wrong spot and too close to the roof in front of the house.

We also had to inspect and replace some missing boards on the back deck, and fix the completely dilapidated under decking to ensure proper drainage during rainfall. This was crucial because the previous work was not done correctly, causing water damage.

To increase the property value, we added hardwood floors in the upstairs catwalk, the downstairs sitting room, and the main staircase. We also refinished all the floors and redid the entire stair system, including the spindles, bolsters, and handrails.

We made significant changes to the house, including replacing every light fixture and fan and updating all the lighting. We also repainted every surface inside and outside the house. In addition, we removed several outdated archways that didn’t make much sense in their placement. To create a more modern look, we opened up our columns and updated all of them. We also removed some of the dated wall niches and completed a lot of drywall work, as there were numerous holes in the walls. We also added new carpet.

When we first inspected the house, we were impressed with the state-of-the-art appliances. We were delighted to find that the original owners had installed high-quality Viking and Sub-Zero appliances, as well as a top-of-the-line whole-home humidifier system. The pool was also well-maintained, heated, and equipped with a saltwater system. However, the upkeep of the property had been neglected, so we had to restore and update it to bring it back to its former glory.

The kitchen had a fantastic layout, and the previous owners had expanded it, which was well-done. Overall, the floorplan of the house was great, but it required some much-needed TLC and updating to bring it up to standard. So, we gave it the love and care it deserved.

Joanne: What is your favorite room in the house?

Aleisha: The home has a slightly more open concept, typical of homes built in the early 2000s. As you enter, there is a formal sitting room or office and a dining room, but I appreciate that the living room is not immediately visible. The space is a little narrow, but the living room and kitchen merge into a large, open area, which is the main part of the house. I focused most of my design efforts on the kitchen, which I believe is the heart of the home. While the other rooms still needed attention, I knew that we had to renovate the kitchen while redoing the floors and painting everything. I’m thrilled with the outcome.

Joanne: What does your home offer that you feel you absolutely needed? You hinted at it earlier when you walked in and saw the mess and went straight to the backyard. What aspects of your home do you think other people might need that you have incorporated?

Aleisha: To be honest, what we have is a space that is both kid-friendly and perfect for entertaining, whether it’s adults or children. We can now host families with young kids and they have plenty to do while the adults enjoy the space as well. This was a big concern for us when we had young kids, wanting to have friends over with kids and not being able to keep an eye on them while still enjoying adult time. We wanted a space where we could all hang out and have fun while knowing the kids are safe, and that’s exactly what we have now.

Joanne: As a designer, you have a great advantage in terms of knowledge and expertise. Can you share some of your elements that you incorporated into your home?

Aleisha: To be honest, lighting played a crucial role in transforming our home. Whenever someone buys a new house or plans to update it, they often prioritize the furnishings and decor. However, creating a cohesive lighting plan that complements the overall design and style of the home is equally important. That’s why I spent a lot of time planning and selecting the right lighting fixtures for both the interior and exterior of our home. From the porch lanterns to the lighting in every room, I wanted to ensure that it all flowed together seamlessly.

Joanne: What is a splurge that you feel like you couldn’t live without in your house?

Aleisha: The splurge that I believe was totally worth it was the addition of the floor-to-ceiling limestone fireplace. While there were other options such as installing a mantel or creating a wall to add height, we decided to bring in a team of stonemasons to hand-cut each piece of limestone specifically for our fireplace. As a designer, I was able to guide the process and determine the placement of each piece. The result is a stunning 20-foot limestone fireplace that adds a touch of elegance to the space. Although we could have chosen a different route, I believe the investment was worth it in the end.

Joanne: Throughout this entire process, what have you learned as both the client and the designer?

Aleisha: Living outside of the house during the renovation process was a nice break, but as a designer and client, I always emphasize to my clients the importance of being present and checking in regularly. Even though we weren’t physically living in the home, I was here every day, working and overseeing the progress of the contractors. Contractors may not always understand your vision, so it’s important to communicate clearly and often. I found that constant communication with the contractors, general manager, and tradespeople was like holding hands and made a huge difference. I learned that things will inevitably change during the process, so it’s important to be adaptable and open to pivoting as needed.

Joanne: What would you do different?

Aleisha: I would have devoted more time to carefully selecting and vetting my contractors. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to meet with potential contractors and had to start work immediately after closing on the house. Since it was a foreclosure, there was uncertainty as to whether we would even be able to secure the property. This put us under a lot of stress and we ended up hiring some contractors who did subpar work. At the time, we just wanted to move in and put these issues behind us, but in hindsight, I wish we had taken the time to properly vet our contractors before signing any contracts with them. We now have to go back and fix some of the shoddy paintwork and other problems that could have been avoided if we had more time to plan and select our contractors carefully.

Joanne: What would you like to do next?

Aleisha: I am considering investing a bit more into our backyard, which happens to be my favorite place. Although we have primarily focused on furnishing the interior with any extra funds we had, our outdoor furniture is currently outdated and mostly comprised of hand-me-downs. As we spend most of our time in the warmer months entertaining in the backyard with friends and neighbors, it would be lovely to spruce it up with beautiful outdoor furniture and custom grill for an outdoor kitchen. Making it a more inviting and enjoyable space to spend time in.

Joanne: What do you think are some things that you should not skimp on? If people are considering home renovation or buying a fixer upper? What should they not skimp on?

Aleisha: One valuable lesson I learned is to never skimp on the expertise of tradespeople involved in renovations or moving. It’s crucial to hire professionals you trust and who are knowledgeable in their field. Even when receiving quotes from painters, I inquire about the paint they plan to use because opting for cheap, generic options may end up costing more in the long run. I always recommend high-quality paint brands like Benjamin Moore or Farrow & Ball to my clients, as store-matched colors are not the same as the original quality. Cheaper quotes from contractors may be due to the use of low-quality paint, which can lead to poor results and may not last as long. This is especially important for families with children who require durable and easy-to-clean paint that won’t yellow over time.

Joanne: Speaking of materials, you mentioned using limestone for the fireplace, and I’m curious about the materials you used for your staircase and flooring. Did you replace any materials, and if so, what did you choose as replacements?

Aleisha: We removed the leopard carpet in the basement staircase and added real hardwood floors that match the existing red oak floors. We also added iron spindles to the staircase and continued the red oak upstairs in the two rooms where we removed the carpet. Initially, I wanted to bleach the floors for a more modern look, but I decided against it and went with a 50/50 blend of a darker stain with a matte finish, which is better for kids and dogs. We also used marble in the kitchen but opted for a granite that looks like soapstone on the island for durability. For the fireplace, we used limestone and had a cabinet maker custom create new doors, a vent hood, a kitchen table, and a mantel to match my desired style.

“Behind the Curtin”Presents A Fixer Upper in a Golf Community in Milton, GA Episode 5

“Behind the Curtin” Presents Downsizing to a Townhome in Roswell, GA Episode 4

“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners who live well in their homes to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of luxurious real estate one wonderful home at a time.

“Behind the Curtin” Episode 4 – Downsizing to a Townhome in Roswell, Georgia

WATCH THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Lucy Hintz lives in Roswell, Georgia. She recently downsized to a townhome near Canton Street. She divides her time between her home in Roswell and her second home in the Bahamas.

Joanne: Where did you live before moving to Roswell? What made you choose a new townhome?

Lucy: I have lived in Roswell, in a single-family home. But I had always wanted to live in a walking, shopping, dining community. I’ve always wanted to live near downtown Roswell. Another thing is, my husband had cancer, so we knew that it was time for us to get out of the responsibility of the really big house. We were also looking for a turn key we could have without overwhelming issues.

Joanne: What specifically about this property did you like?

Lucy: When we moved in to this unit, our basement was not finished so we had an opportunity to create what we wanted. We have another full bedroom and bathroom down there. I have grandkids, so when they come there is lots of space. I also have a fabulous deck so the outdoor space is awesome too.

Joanne: What did you do to improve your property?

Lucy: We’ve done a lot of things. We changed the wood floors on the main level, which is a beautiful upgrade. My kitchen was solid white, and I’ve taken the island and painted it to a dramatic blue. We finished the basement in full and built a patio outside with stones and made it home. We also put in bookshelves on both sides of the fireplace with separate beer and wine coolers. And we added a built-in bar with quartz countertop.

Joanne: Did you work with a designer?

Lucy: No, this is all us. We had a lot of people that worked for us at our former home. And I purchased the art at local interior design stores.

Joanne: What is your favorite room in the house?

Lucy: It would be the deck. We open up the French doors on the main level, where we can have a breeze and enjoy bringing the outdoors in.

Joanne: What were some of your favorite places to buy home furnishings?

Lucy: We got rid of everything from the old house. All the furniture came from Arhaus. For the art, I went everywhere from Kudzu to 13 Hub. I used Carpet Depot for flooring.

Joanne: What’s one splurge in your home you could not live without?

Lucy: I splurged on this whole house. My bed and the bedding came from Arhaus and it was a big splurge. Arhaus had a wonderful sales representative. And I don’t know if a lot of people are like me, but I stick with people who are helpful and good at what they do.

Joanne: What have you learned from this process of moving from a big house?

Lucy: It’s not as difficult to let go of things as we think it is. And to use an estate sale group was key. And I’m not just tooting the horn for you, but finding a realtor that really understood what we were trying to do was so important. Previously we had trouble selling our home. Your team are the ones who really transformed it. It was a matter of 30 days and we had an offer on that house.

Living in a neighborhood means we all just look after each other. I think when you’re looking for a different place in life, it’s important that you are in a community that’s similar, that has a lot of the same interests that you.

Joanne: Is there anything you would do different that someone else could learn from?

Lucy: I guess I would say, I think it would have been better to finish the basement prior to moving in.

Joanne: Is there any advice on what you think should not be skimped on?

Lucy: I just think once you find your home, make it your home. Don’t wait because whatever you put off is something you’ll never get around to, something else will take priority.

“Behind the Curtin” Presents Downsizing to a Townhome in Roswell, GA Episode 4

“Behind the Curtin” Presents a Courtyard in Milton, GA Episode 3

“Behind the Curtin” provides an inside look at local homeowners’ beautifully-crafted houses, giving insight into what it takes to renovate, upgrade, and style the most coveted parts of their dream homes. In this video series, industry expert and business owner Joanne Curtin explores local homes while interviewing their owners along the way to better understand their thought processes when making important decisions. Join Joanne to get a look into the world of thoughtful real estate one wonderful home at a time.

“Behind the Curtin” Episode 3 – A Courtyard in Milton, Georgia

WATCH THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Cathleen Klibanoff lives in Milton, Georgia with her son and two dogs. Cathleen is a published artist and writer. Her works have been on display at the FemArt Gallery in Jacksonville, Florida, Indianapolis Art Center, and the Bohemian Grand Gallery in Asheville.

Joanne: Where did you live before moving to Milton?

Cathleen: I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, near downtown and River Arts District.

Joanne: So, what brought you to Milton and why did you choose this particular home?

Cathleen: I lost my both parents over the last two years and something inside me just said, “The time is now to really enjoy family.” I have both a brother in Milton and a sister in Woodstock. When I saw this place, it was an answer to an indescribable thirst, which was for a place that had a real heart. And it needed work, but it had a courtyard. I love the concept behind the courtyard and it has a very sacred and spiritual feel. And I fell in love.

Joanne: I love that you said you wanted a home with heart because when I was at your house the courtyard was like the heart in the middle. So, what specifically makes this just a favorite place for you?

Cathleen: Well, and not that I’m doing this literally, but you could be completely naked and absolutely 100% safe. And I mean naked emotionally, not just physically. This is the inner sanctum, by invitation only. I am a very social person, but there are times that I am in a creative process or just an introspective space, and still want to be outside.

Joanne: I am hearing the word “cozy” a lot lately. People want to create comfort and coziness. The courtyard is really the ultimate outdoor cozy space.

Cathleen: This is something that is exceptional because it gives you that expansiveness and yet maintains the coziness.

Joanne: What was a splurge in designing this space? Something non-negotiable that you just had to have?

Cathleen: The fireplace was plain gray masonry so I had to tile it because it was so dominant in the space and I wanted it to have a voice of its own.

Joanne: What did you learn from the process?

Cathleen: When something is meant to be, the universe rallies and makes it possible. I was able to meet the right people that knew how to bring the renovation into being. So, hold true to your vision. And don’t be deterred or discouraged.

Joanne: How did you handle getting the materials in and out of the courtyard?

Cathleen: It was a labor of love because everything had to be hand carted in and out, including all the white rock that replaced the mulch.

Joanne: You’re an amazing artist. What can you teach us about this [renovation] experience?

Cathleen: Some people have an eye for interior decorating. But if that’s not the case, then I think it’s a good investment to hire someone. It’s a different way of seeing a space. And a lot of people don’t have the confidence, but still have the desire to bring in more color. You need to make really good choices depending on what your goal is, for that part of the house. Because color does have a story and everything has energy. You want to be mindful. And sometimes if that’s not your strong suit, then to delegate it is a good move for the investment.

“Behind the Curtin” Presents a Courtyard in Milton, GA Episode 3

What I Would Spend Money On If I Was Renovating

There are endless possibilities of what you can spend money on to improve your home. From simple upgrades to massive renovations, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. To help, we’ve put together a list of priorities as we see it from a Realtor’s perspective. It’s important to start with what you love and enjoy (especially if you plan to be in your home for at least 4 more years) and prioritize the area of your home that you know you’ll get the most enjoyment out of first. On the other end, if there’s something in your home that causes you stress every time you see it, change it. Renovating can be a challenge, but assessing your wants, needs, and budget is a great first step.

Up To $5,000 Budget
1. Interior Paint – Fresh paint gives you the best bang for your buck. Depending on the size of your home, you may be able to get most of your main living area painted for under $5,000.
2. New Kitchen Backsplash / Updated Light Fixtures – An eat-in kitchen, dining room, or foyer chandelier provide a fresh, updated look without breaking the bank. If you have the builder-standard fluorescent rectangle in your kitchen: get rid of it! Replace with a new modern handing light or recessed lights.
3. New Bathroom Vanities – If you have any bathrooms that have laminate counters, this signals that the vanity is dated, too. You can purchase a new vanity that also has a built-in stone counter and new sink all together. You’ll just need to purchase a matching upgraded fixture to go with it.
4. New Front Door/ Refinishing Wood Doors – A new front door adds great curb appeal. Front doors make such an important first impression! When you’re selling your home, you always want the entrance way to be in top shape. Picture this: the buyers and their realtor approach your home, the buyers are eagerly looking around to assess the entrance, and the Realtor is trying to open the lockbox. Entry is not immediate — it can take a minute or two to get the lockbox open and enter the home. If you have rotten wood or an old pealing door, this will set the stage for a buyer’s negative impression of your home.
5. Exterior Cleaning – Power washing can be a surprisingly affordable way to make your exterior look new again. Your house, driveway, walkways, and roof can all be power washed for a fresh look. Add professional window cleaning and you’ll be looking great!

Up To $25,000 Budget
1. Flooring – Wood floors in main living areas and new carpet in bedrooms make a big difference. Real hardwood flooring is a timeless style and will never be an outdated choice. Color choices can vary and add personality but try to avoid extremes. And, you can refinish hardwood and change the look if needed.
2. Kitchen Appliance Upgrades / New Kitchen Counters – If your home is in a luxury price point, buyers will expect high-end appliances. The stove or cook top is the center piece, so consider this first.
3. Bathroom Vanities – We covered this in the $5,000 budget section, but if you have multiple bathrooms to upgrade, you’ll easily spend more than that. If your primary bathroom doesn’t have a dual vanity and you can find a way to add one, that will be a great investment. Pro-tip: This may also save you from arguments with your significant other if you’ve been sharing a sink.
4. Retiling – Primary shower and floors can often use new tiling, along with adding a standalone tub. Avoid trendy or colorful tile. Remember, light and bright is timeless.
5. Cabinet Makeover – Painting or refacing cabinets and changing out hardware is a simple but effective project.

Budget up to $100,000
1. Full Kitchen Update – New appliances, quartz or quartzite counters, backsplash, fresh paint; depending on size of kitchen, you may or may not be able to fully replace cabinets with this budget. Style and trends in kitchens change frequently. If you’re worried about making the right design choices, it’s always best to go light and bright, aiming for a timeless look that will last. The average cost of a full kitchen renovation in our area now averages over $150,000, so to stay on budget, consider hiring a professional designer who can help you find cost savings and make the right design choices.
2. Finished Basement – Adding additional finished space is a big bang for your buck. Adding a media room, an exercise room, office space, an additional bathroom, or an additional entertainment area will add huge value to a home.
3. Outdoor Living Space – An exterior gathering area like an outdoor fireplace, a new porch, or an upgraded deck are great additions. Consider high performance composite decking, a common brand is Trex, for great quality and value.
4. Exterior Upgrade – Fresh paint, a new roof, and new landscaping can transform the look of your home completely and even make your neighbors jealous with this project. Maybe they will follow your lead and paint their houses, too!
5. New Cement Siding / Windows – Many homes in our area built between the 1980s-90s were built using a siding referred to as OSB, or Orient Strand Board. One of the common brands that was used is called “LP” siding. This siding is a wood fiber glued together that deteriorates over time and is susceptible to moisture and other weather damage. New cement board siding, one of the popular brands is “Hardie Plank,” is made from a cement fiber that can withstand moisture and weather damage. If your home was built using OSB siding, it is also likely to have wooden single-pane windows. A major upgrade that will pay off when selling your home is replacing all of the siding and windows. Upgrading your windows to new dual-pane windows will enhance the curb appeal of your home and you’ll realize energy savings + noise reduction.

Renovating in today’s market requires patience and flexibility. The pandemic has caused price increases due to supply shortages and rising labor costs. Labor is hard to find, and you’ll need to plan ahead carefully with materials. We suggest that you make a plan and order supplies before you begin. Some appliances and fixtures can take weeks or months to come in, certain paints are hard to find, and the list goes on. In the end, it will be worth it! We hear it all the time: “I should have done this years ago!” Don’t delay and wait until you’re about to sell your home. Do it now and enjoy it without breaking the bank!

What I Would Spend Money On If I Was Renovating