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How to renovate a midcentury modern house

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Everyone loves a picture-perfect midcentury modern home. But even for those lucky enough to own one, the reality is that the house will likely need some work.

Many houses from the ’50s and ’60s will have undergone uninspired to downright unfortunate renovations in the ’80s or ’90s. And an untouched time capsule—while easy to pine over online—comes with the tall order of balancing modern conveniences with midcentury authenticity.

To figure out the best way to renovate a midcentury modern house, we turned to Denver-based real estate agent and investor Adrian Kinney, who specializes in midcentury real estate. Kinney also has multiple midcentury renovations under his belt, including an award-winning restoration of a Cliff May prefab and his latest project, a 1956 post-and-beam remodel that made the cover of Modern in Denver.

How does Kinney do it? Here are some of his top tips.

Kinney’s latest project is this 1956 Eichler-inspired located in Lynwood—a popular Denver midcentury neighborhood. When he purchased it in 2016, the home was a mishmash of ill-conceived updates begging for a refresh.

Know your midcentury history

One of the most common pitfalls of midcentury renovations is “falling into the ‘trend’ of midcentury style and not the true aesthetic,” says Kinney. Start any renovation project with front-end research; search for what homes looked like back then, paying attention to the common materials, colors, shapes, and textures.

Kinney believes this is the difference between having a house that’s inspired by midcentury design and one that’s wholly midcentury. The good news? “Doing the research is much easier this day and age with the power of the internet,” he says.

Start with the essentials

Although it’s not as flashy as terrazzo or as fun as a cool pendant lamp, renovating the systems of your home is essential. Things like the roof, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and sewer lines might be over 55 years old and fixing them can be very pricey.

Quick tips for renovating a midcentury modern
  1. Do your research. Pull up ads from the ’50s and ‘60s for inspiration.
  2. Use geometric shapes in your design.
  3. Powder-coat fixtures from chrome to brass.
  4. Use matte—not shiny—countertops.
  5. Talk to local artisans (metalworkers, upholsterers) to make custom, period-appropriate pieces.

Pay attention to the details

When Kinney purchased his latest project, the 1,600-square-foot house in Lynwood, a full remodel was in order. But instead of opting for the latest and greatest, Kinney wanted to restore the home with respect for its roots. He says, “Let’s just say all midcentury things can fit into modern, but not all modern things can fit into midcentury.”

If you want a timeless and authentic renovation, Kinney says that first and foremost, materials and details matter.

Opt for brick, metals like brass and chrome, and genuine wood elements, not the “shiplap vomit” that’s so ubiquitous today. Kinney loves walnut for any type of wood paneling because it’s “rich and elegant.” However, be aware that this will likely clash with the original oak floors—aged to a gorgeous honey yellow—of most midcentury homes. You can stain the original floors or switch up your color palette.

If you have a larger budget and slab on grade floors, Kinney says, “Terrazzo is my everything.” In wet spaces, opt for tile, either a repeating geometric pattern or classic 4x4s in pink, teal, or yellow. Overall, “Small details make it authentic.”

In the Lynwood home’s kitchen, Kinney used Corian countertops, brass detailing, and Ikea cabinets with custom finished fronts.

If you have a time-capsule home, preserve it

If you’re lucky enough to have a home that hasn’t suffered through renovations in the ’80s and ’90s, “save as much of the details as you can,” says Kinney. “That is where so much of the home’s future value comes from, because so many buyers don’t want the ‘ticky-tacky’ of the McMansion builds.” Instead, potential buyers want “character, charm, and yes, even some of the little quirks of the home—it has soul after all!”

In practice, this looks like keeping the original cabinets (maybe with a refinish) and adding new hardware inside and out. New appliances can do wonders to an old kitchen, and you can even get some with retro style from companies like Big Chill. and if you want to add flair, Kinney advises using “geometrical, repeating pattern back-splash tiles.”

In his Cliff May prefab restoration, Kinney embraced wood paneling and opted for simple, small details—like authentic light fixtures—to add character.

Embrace the wood panel walls

For a purist like Kinney, there are never “too many” real wood panel walls. He says, “I would never remove them if they were in great condition—but I know not everyone is like me.”

If you love the authenticity but aren’t sure about that much wood, Kinney suggests using brightly colored paintings, adding some extra lighting, or even adding an extra window or two. “A combination of ways can make the old, dark room feel new and refreshed.”

Hunt down the perfect pieces

Whether you have a time capsule home or a midcentury with good bones (and not much else), take risks to bring back the style of the 1950s and ’60s. When working on his latest project in Denver, Kinney found authentic pieces from eBay, Craigslist, and estate sales. When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he hunted for craftsmen that could reproduce or recreate designs, often turning to Etsy for custom work.

His advice: “Talk to a local designer—they probably know someone that can make exactly what you’re looking for!” By emphasizing original design, these special pieces will fit the space and make for conversation pieces in every room.

In Lynwood, Kinney used walnut and mahogany wood fixtures and paneling, brass and terrazzo flooring, and an impressive two-sided fireplace. The three bedrooms and three bathrooms all incorporate geometric shapes, period-appropriate light fixtures, and sliding glass doors out to the spacious backyard.

Update the windows, if you can

It’s not cheap to update windows in a 1950s home, but if you have weather above 80 or below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, Kinney says, “your heating and cooling bills will thank you for new, double-paned windows.”

To keep costs down, look for a local window company that will glaze in double pane windows. Kinney acknowledges that these are less efficient than a true, tabbed and framed window, “but they are so much more efficient than the single-pane window they replace.”

Another helpful piece of advice is to leave any huge, triangle, or clerestory windows alone and only replace the windows around it. “This will help with the HVAC bills without completely draining the bank account.”

The master bathroom in the Lynwood home. Notice the terrazzo floors, walnut and brass detailing, and a period-specific vanity with light pink counters.

Make it tech-friendly

Midcentury modern homes were built as homes of the future, and Kinney believes that “having them live their futuristic ‘past’ is possible today.” When you’re renovating your house, add in connected switches, plugs, lights, shades, and drapes. “It’s all available now for regular people to buy it, install it, and connect it to their own system.”

Don’t forget your exterior spaces

“Outdoor spaces in midcentury modern homes are an extension of the indoor spaces,” Kinney says, so don’t neglect them. Make them useable, livable, and easily accessed from your home. This might mean adding more doors to get to the spaces—Kinney added sliding glass doors to the backyard from many of the bedrooms in his Lynwood project.

Look for geometric, angular shapes, and integrate different materials like flagstone, slate, concrete pads, and wood. Outdoor spaces are more important to midcentury design than other types of architecture; Kinney explains, “The modernist home was supposed to have a smaller interior footprint, and then connect seamlessly to the outside.”

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Not even real estate is immune from the impact of the coronavirus

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The novel coronavirus may have started as a health scare in China, but now that it has spread to more than 100 countries, its economic impact is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The contagion has sent global stock markets into panic mode, with a record plunge on Monday and soaring volatility ever since.

Housing markets in Canada and Australia, however, appear undeterred by the jitters. In fact, they have even taking encouragement from recent rate cuts implemented to combat the crisis.

At the same time, home-refinance applications in the U.S. have surged by 79 per cent, as per the U.S. Mortgage Bankers Association’s refinance index.

But is real estate really immune from the impact of the coronavirus, which was officially deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday?

Some real estate sectors are clearly more vulnerable than others. The surge in cancellations for tourist travel is not only affecting airlines but also hotels and others in the lodging industry.

The next week is usually one of the busiest travel seasons of the year as families travel during the March break. Already, cancellations are at an all-time high, something that is putting stress on the hotel industry, and one could see that part of the market come under pressure if conditions pressure.

Some investors, meanwhile, expect REITs to do well in times of uncertainty because, with long-term leases, landlords are likely to enjoy more stable cash flows than manufacturers and others who are more sensitive to short-term declines in the demand.

In addition to office and large retail real estate, where tenants usually have longer leases, investors are reportedly favouring purpose-built rental housing and self-storage real estate.

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Real Estate

Coronavirus is already taking its toll on Canada’s real estate market

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The real estate frenzy in Canada’s biggest markets is headed for a chill as anxiety rises over the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

A call for social distancing means far fewer people will be opening up their homes to potential buyers. 

RE/MAX wants its realtors in Ontario, the Atlantic provinces and Western Canada to cancel open houses until COVID-19 is under control.

“While almost all real estate brokerage firms have embraced digital tech and realtors are able to utilize signature platforms and other tools to conduct business, once showings, open houses and other in-person business is restricted, there will definitely be a drop off in transactions,” John Lusink, president and broker of record at Right at Home Realty, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“We expect to see a drop in sales but this will take a month or two to filter through into the actual results.”

Buyers will also likely put their plans on hold.

“Obviously there has been an immediate pause in market activity as everyone tries to figure out what happens next,” Steve Saretsky, realtor and author of real estate blog Vancity Condo, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“We are seeing buyers move to the sidelines and sellers put some of their listing plans on hold.” 

But that doesn’t mean the end result will be more affordable homes.

“The way I see it the housing market is basically frozen… no buyers and no sellers,” Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“That in a way will limit or even eliminate any notable downward risk to prices. Simply the  number of sales will go down dramatically.”

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Real Estate

6 Ottawa Homes For Sale Along OC Transpo That Are Still Kinda Affordable

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Like many big cities, finding an affordable place to live in Ottawa can be challenging, especially for new home buyers. Though one benefit of living in the capital is having access to public transportation within minutes, which in the long run, might help offset any moving expenses. So if you’re a new buyer or just looking to relocate, cheap homes for sale near transit in Ottawa are perfect for those who are always on the go.

The Ottawa Real Estate Board reported back in February that the average cost to buy a home was 21% higher than the previous year. 

Despite these growing prices, it seems that Millenials are still flocking to the area to enjoy Ottawa’s culture.

There are so many beautiful places to explore and fun things to do that it’s not hard to love where you live no matter your budget. Being close to public transit is always a plus, especially if you don’t own a car but still want to enjoy the perks of the city. 

These spots are both affordable and travel-friendly, so you can save money and still explore the area without breaking the bank.

They are also OC Transpo accessible.

From charming bungalows to three-story units, there’s a place for everyone to call home.

If you want to feel more like a royal for the day, you can check out these luxurious Ottawa homes that are basically giant spa getaways.

Pull out your Presto Card and get ready to explore the city as soon as you step out the door!

According to the Ontario Real Estate Association, the Ontario government has currently prohibited open houses during the current state of emergency. 

The Real Estate Council of Ontario states homebuyers are still able to view listings online through virtual tours and 360 walk-throughs. 

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