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Interview with Adrian Kinney: Why MCM Homes “Live so Well.”

37 min read Della chats with Denver area mid-century Realtor, designer and advocate Adrian Kinney on what he’s learned restoring SEVEN Cliff May homes and helping match mcm homeowners to so many more.

Today’s podcast is a chat with Denver Area mid-century Realtor, designer and advocate Adrian Kinney on what he’s learned restoring SEVEN Cliff May Homes and helping match mcm homeowners to so many more.  

Adrian shares his mcm origin story, all the deets on his favorite projects and some surprising insights from a decade of mcm remodeling. 

Listen along as as two true mid-century super fans dish about the value of design, detail the features that make mid century homes a great fit for modern lives, and get real about square footage. Adrian also shares insights about a hot housing market and why today’s pickier buyers are excited about mid century homes (hint: they want to make sure they are buying something that is worth the $$$). 

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • What Adrian Kinney has learned in updating seven Cliff May homes in the Denver area (and living in two of them)!
  • How the power of design thinking can double the value of the same amount of dollars spent on a remodel.
  • Why mid-century homes “live so well” and sell so well (to the right buyers).
  • The truth about square footage and why you might need less than you think.  

Listen Now On 

Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher

Resources 

We’re on the lookout for an mcm obsessed designer to join the Mid Mod Remodel Team.
Apply at midmod-midwest.com/careers.

And you can always…

Read the Full Episode Transcript

Della:

Mid-century homes just live well. They make the most of small spaces. Connect your inside with views and space beyond, have glowing warm materials that invite you to linger and exist mostly on one convenient level. Today you’re gonna hear this concept backed up by someone besides me in my chat with Adrian Kinney. Adrian is a Denver area realtor, designer, and enthusiastic advocate of all things mid-century design. He has now restored seven Cliff May Homes in Denver and lived in two of them. And he helps passionate mid-century lovers buy and sell, and then update great mid-century homes every day. In our conversation today, we’re talking about how valuable these homes can be because they’re so well designed, not just an essential feeling type of value, but actual dollars and cents. Folks, you are going to hear it here from an official source that is not me well built and well maintained or remodeled. Mid-century homes in the Denver market can go for two times the square foot value of a less well done build or grade home right across the neighborhood. So today I’m talking with Adrian about why it is mid-Century Homes live so well. Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Modern Model. This is the show about updating MCM Homes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host, Della Hansman architect and mid-Century Ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to Season 10, episode four.

Della:

Okay. Before we get started, your resource of the week is Adrian. Adrian is your resource of the week. Follow his Instagram, check out his Facebook group. Read his article En Curbed several years ago, which still provides excellent advice to anyone planning to update a mid-century home. Spoiler alert, I read this article long before I met Adrian and put it into my mid-century resources list. So if you want even more amazing resources beyond just Adrian himself, go ahead and grab my free download. My 89 favorite mid-century resource articles like the one in Curbed books, blog posts, people to follow, products to search for, and ways that you can learn more about mid-century homes and how to make the most of yours. One more note, we’re still looking for just the right designer to join our team. So if you know a person who might be a great fit for mid mod midwest, or if you are that person, come and say hello. Find out more on our website at midmod-midwest.com/careers. Find all the other resources I’ve mentioned and the show notes, the transcript of this midmod-midwest.com/1004.

Della:

So it’s so great to have you here. Um, and we had such a great connection at your big event this fall at our, I guess it was, it was totally the summer. It was August at Denver Modernism week. So I wanted to just start off by going all the way back to the beginning and asking you what drew you to mid-century in the first place, Adrian.

Adrian:

Absolutely. Well, thank you for having me on this. I really appreciate it and thanks for coming out. And uh, like we mentioned a little beforehand, you got to see all of this behind me here in person, which is really fun. Yes.

Della:

For anyone who’s watching this, uh, we’ve got a video on Facebook. You can see in the background. Adrian’s gorgeous, Uh, kitchen divider and a little sitting room in the corner. I got to visit his house in person when I was there for Denver Modern, just the weekend. It is like chef’s kiss gorgeous. Say that six times fast, but yeah.

Adrian:

Thank you. I really appreciate it. And it’s, uh, as you saw, it’s definitely become a passion of mine, not just kinda a passing fancy. Um, I think probably everyone that’s heard the story for a million times, uh, really liked modern, you know, the kind of open area. A lot of glass, uh, you know, modern tends to be a little harsher in the materials. Concrete, you know, steel glass, so just the, the darker feeling materials. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, as I kinda went down that rabbit hole, I started finding the warm elements and some of those warm elements were wood walls, wood, uh, furniture, a lot of sculpted wood, wood furniture that was also sculpted. And when I saw the combination of those things became this whole mid-century thing that I opened up the door to, I was able to look into that a little further and I was like, Wow.

Adrian:

It still has all the windows and the open space, but it really connects to out of doors. And it’s a lot warmer with the wood elements and it just feels like it’s livable versus, you know, modern to me personally just doesn’t feel as livable. I know a lot of folks enjoy it, but to me I really like those kind of wood elements that warm it up. And that’s what kind of transitioned me is I really started with the modern and I saw how great the transition to the mid-century is. Obviously modern came from that, but it was a really, uh, kind of eye opening thing that this whole world existed where there was these water elements, but it still was a livable space. And a lot of times they aren’t massive houses. They just, they live really well. They connect outside really, really well with the doors and windows and courtyards. So really fell in love with it. Especially being in Colorado, we have so many sunny days. So having this ability to kind of go in and out and use your outdoor space, so well really fell in love with the whole mid-century concept.

Della:

Yeah, that’s so funny because I only really became a mid-century obsessive when I bought a ranch house. But having been trained in architecture, you know, most of the professors who were still teaching in architecture schools today are hard old school modernists. And so, you know, the glass, the concrete, the brick, this is the way we are trained as architects to appreciate design. And I both always loved it and always felt like, I like this, this phrase, you’re using lives really well. I felt like modernism didn’t always live really well. It could be beautiful. And if you chose to sort of frame your life around it, you can live in a modernist art museum if you want to. Although they’re not always the best places for pets or kids or people with, you know, who with who need to get around a certain way. But a mid-century home is just that. It takes a bunch of the simplicity of design. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> it warms it right up and it lives so well. So it’s, it’s really fun. Yes. So did you immediately connect with a mid-century house? You could live in yourself?

Adrian:

Uh, I did. So, and I kind of found that I love that style. Uh, we were living in a, uh, first actual place that we bought a condo down in the Denver Tech Center about, yeah, 15 minutes south of, of downtown Denver. Um, cute little place. We kind of got our, our feet wet and how to do remodels. We did most of the work ourselves, you know, it was basically, uh, every extra paycheck we put towards the remodel <laugh>. That’s right. A lot of sleeping on the floors and like, it was, it was the start of everything, but we, we really appreciate it. I, I occasionally missed it cause I think the overhead was like $550 a month for the mortgage and the HOA that I was like, Hmm, those were good times. Like <laugh>. That was, that was very nice. Um, loved it.

Adrian:

Really realized we, you know, we wanted dog so we needed a yard, we wanted to have a house. We were ready to kind of let the condo life go. Really enjoyed that. We were there for, um, almost exactly two years or so to kind of get that, that tax benefit from it. Um, found out that we had these mid-century modern houses and, uh, another one of the founders, Adam Stevens, was really kind of starting to push on the small website at the time that we have these cliff ate houses in Colorado and we actually had the largest tract of them outside of Long Beach that’s ever been found at this point. And at the time they were still, and anyone that has Denver real estate plug your years, it was, uh, still the high hundred thousand dollars price tags to purchase them. When was that? Uh, 20, nope, 2013.

Adrian:

Uh, still not that long. And a whole different era of housing. Yeah, absolutely. So it, uh, you know, we were, we bought our condo for 67,000, which is also a baffling number cuz cars cost that much these days. Um, so that bought the cliff May, and a lot of it was, I, you know, I personally felt that they were underappreciated both just by the, a lot of ’em were still affidavit. Um, and the fact that no one really marketed them as such. So no one was really being brought to them at an appreciated mid-century modern or modernist style. Yeah. Um, they really just spoke to me. I was like, You know what? I think I can really love this house and go for it. Um, it was actually a, a, a story. I’ll make it short on this. I know we have a time thing.

Adrian:

Um, it wasn’t quite listed, Um, a neighbor at the time that I had connected with that was, had a couple houses of theirs featured in magazines and kind of the, the public face of the cliff maze at the time, um, connected with. And I was like, Hey, if you see anything coming up one of the three, two configurations, you know, let me know. I, we really wanna buy in this neighborhood. We really wanna fix one up. You know, we wanna be part of this fun movement. Um, and he let me know that, uh, across the street from him and down three or four houses was probably gonna come up for sale, gave me their info, chatted with them, um, they were a little dodgy to, to kind of connect with at first. Uh, and then they said they hired an agent. And for me, in my world with, because I’m a licensed agent, those are kind of like the death keel words that I can no longer speak with a seller at that point in time.

Adrian:

So it was like, Okay, gimme your agent’s number, number because I have to talk with them directly. I can no longer speak with you. And knowing how hard it was to get a connection with them, I was like, Great. Like, this is dead in the water. And, you know, the market wasn’t competitive, but I knew that, you know, these were starting to be a little bit more recognized, so I didn’t want it to go to market. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so I, uh, you know, got the agent’s number. I asked, Hey, right before it lists, can we just at least see it? I think it’s of interest to us. Uh, went in absolutely fell in love, Um, did everything we possibly could cut my commission. Just got into the house again. This was 180 7, uh, <laugh>. Oh my God. A whole bunch of money. Um, but that was kind of our fun.

Adrian:

It was kind of, we got into it, it worked out, um, you know, chased it off market, really kind of made the connections that I could to get into it. Uh, lived there for three years, renovated the heck out of it. Um, really got my start in the real estate side of things. Started selling my neighbor’s houses that were leaving. They really saw that I had a passion for the design side, but also a way to actually advertise these really well. I use a lot of what Adams has helped me with my knowledge side and his Cliff may background. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to, you know, use my marketing side and my real estate savvy to combine those and just showcase ’em different, you know, start using Instagram and Facebook and, you know, showcase them as a cliff may and not just, you know, a nice ranch in hard park.

Adrian:

Right. So we got the traction values started going up. Some of it was obviously the crazy Denver market. Some of it was the fact that, you know, they were advertised correctly now and a lot of the ones that we’re selling were done up in a good way that folks were like, Wow, what kind of house is this? I didn’t know Denver had those. Right. So that’s how we got into it. Um, loved that house very much. That’s the one that’s, you know, you’ll see it all over dwell now and again, it’s, it shows up. And, uh, we won the Denver Mayor Design award for the work I ended up doing on it. Um, started my career in the design side. Um, since then I’ve done six other cliff may fix and flips that I have purchased and, uh, actually done the work on then resold obviously.

Adrian:

Um, gosh, then I think I, I should recount, but I’m somewhere in the 40 to 50 range of transactions I’ve been a part of for the cliff maze, uh, at this point in time. So they’re really my babies. I know them way too well having <laugh>, you know, owned now seven of them. I think I’m probably one of the holders of the most of them. I’ve also find that. But it’s, I’m up there, seven of them. It’s been quite a bit. So that obviously translated them into our current house that we’re in. But it’s really where I got my start. Got my love for him. Learned about, you know, uh, architect for the masses as Cliff May was technically not an architect, but he was kinda the one that everyone, you know, looked to at the time. He was the, you know, father of the ranch house and created this whole modernist for everybody.

Adrian:

So it was really fun to kinda live in the, his track home and then, you know, extra appreciated as I renovated it and then helped showcase it. We had, um, some of the biggest home tours ever that I put on, even bigger than moderns in week sometimes. Um, when the Cliff Maser really getting their start and tickets were like five bucks and we had hundreds and hundreds of people that came through and it was a blast blast. Um, and the, the time we lived there too, the owners were all about our age at the time. You know, 20, I don’t know, 23 to 30 or so, and they were all young folks. We were all overly ambitious. We, you know, would go to each other’s houses to see what everyone was doing renovation wise and we’re like, Ooh, I should do that too. Or That’s what’s behind that wall.

Adrian:

I had no idea. So it was just very cool period of time for those houses too. Obviously they went up quite a bit in price. Uh, most everyone that I was friends with had left. It was life changing sums of money, how much they went up. And a lot of folks really got to pursue their dreams. Uh, one got into Rdy and were able to pay for their rdy scholarship. Uh, one, the whole family moved to North Carolina, opened up the surf shop. They always wanted to. So it was a really cool, like, it was chunk could change, but it was fun to see everyone kind of chase their dreams after watching these, you know, Cliff Mays that they’ve loved and worked on appreciate value over the time and kind of start their next phase of lives from that point in time. So, sorry, long answer on that one. But we did find one, it was a fun off market chase and the, uh, three years we were there was really, really special for us.

Della:

Well, I love that. And it’s really, it’s so interesting as a lover something and now going, you know, getting into mid-century houses, you kind of can’t help get, get into midcentury fashion, history, decor, et cetera, You know, so even in the sort of microcosmic example of looking for vintage fill in the blank mm-hmm. <affirmative> ever glam Christmas tree or you know, a particular type of odd thing as you’re looking for it in vintage shops on Facebook marketplace on Etsy, it’s both really satisfying to see it like recognized and priced appropriately. And it’s so fun to like find it unappreciated under a pile. And it’s sort of the same thing with houses. So I love to hear the stories of people who just like found an amazing midcentury house that nobody cared about and turned it into something amazing. But it’s also for, for the houses, it’s really good that they are now being more recognized and you’ve really contributed to some of the work. And as you say, Atom Stevens who I also have to have on the podcast at some point. Absolutely.

Adrian:

He is like your Cliff may historian, like he knows this stuff if you want like the, the nitty gritty details. And he’s been so gracious to, you know, share it with the world. Like I said, a lot of my start was, you know, built on his, you know, his website and I was able to take my business savvy and I was like, Why does no, did nobody know about these in Colorado and in Denver? Like, you should aion. And now, now they’re so unfortunately <laugh>. Oops. That’s definitely so of my fault on that. But it’s, they’re, they’re very cool houses.

Della:

Well, it’s, this is broader than our scope of conversation perhaps, but it does make me feel like, as an architect, I love specializing in renovations, but knowing how tight the housing market is, it just frustrates me that we can’t get back to building right size houses like this. You know, these ones with the craft that they have built into them are obviously becoming less and less affordable. But some of the design principles of mid century should be usable in affordable design. Absolutely. Now, and having more houses available would mean that the price of all of them, you know, I’m not like, yay, let’s lower the housing market price. Although it’s

Adrian:

A little, it’s a little cray cray. And I think everyone agrees with that, that it’s like it can come down a bit and everyone will still be fine.

Della:

But what, everything that’s new, there isn’t enough new stuff being built and everything that’s new is like not very well designed and doesn’t have the

Adrian:

Yeah. And it, it really is. I mean, until you get to, you know, the, gosh, in the Denver area, unfortunately, cause we’re about seven to 800 ish depending on timeframe of, or like average price point, you’ve really gotta get to that, you know, eight 50 to mill range before you start getting like a good quality tracked home in the sense of like, it has some, some design characteristics and at that point, you know, you’re a million bucks and that’s a lot. Um, you know, where if you get some of the Green Valley Ranch is one and the, uh, reunion are the two kind of new biggest development areas in Denver, Denver area. They’re, they’re north about, uh, Green Valley Ranch is technically in Denver. Uh, the other one’s up in Thornton ish. They’re still six 50 to 700 and they’re kind of like, yeah, you get the new things that don’t break as quickly though their quality, we can, we can discuss that part of it.

Adrian:

Um, but it’s, uh, interest to see, Cause I’ve the clients that are like, No, did you trade off where it’s, you know, it’s new, but the price points are still getting up there on some of these new builds where there’s a premium on it, obviously. And they’re giving up. They all my clients call it, and I apologize, anyone watching it lives in one, they’re more soulless for sure. You know, they are, they’re made on CAD and there’s, you know, design one, two or three instead of like, how does it sit on the lot? How does the sunlight go during the day? What’s the outside space like? It’s like, what are the four lot lines and how many houses can we put here? Um, and that’s how they’re built today. Um, and kind of like it’s elevation 1, 2, 3 on the outside and that’s about it. Yeah. So it’s, um, you know, there’s some tradeoffs for sure. They’re, you know, they’re nicer, more efficient. It’s a rough word, but, uh, it’s interesting to see cuz it’s, you know, it’s very much a start. Like you either go on the new build route or you don’t and it’s not kind like you don’t just happen to search for ’em. Like, it, it’s a route in itself to go that way for my clients.

Della:

It’s interesting too because actually a lot of the mid-century homes we love were very type two, type three back in the day. And I would argue they had some fun design features even to build their basic ranch. Had some fun design features that a new build is just, doesn’t have some of those little moments. But the other fun thing about going for a Vintage me house is that over time they have all go gained their own story. They’ve all been updated or back dated or added onto or tweaked in interesting ways. Right. It’s really fun. And so I think, yeah, the advocacy piece is really important and it does raise the price, but it is how, how we spread the word and get these houses preserved well and, and remodeled well if people are gonna put money into them that they put their money and their energy into increasing their mid-century character rather than turning a vintage mid-century house into a soulless new build.

Adrian:

Yes. And and we’re, we’re finally seeing that in a lot of it. I mean you’re probably seeing it in your areas too of, you know, before Denver was kind of a more Midwest ish town than it was, uh, a major city mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and a lot of our houses and price tags were reflective of that, where it was kind of like, here’s a price tag that’s very affordable cuz you just kind of put a roof over your head and you work. And especially in Colorado, you, you basically, you know, live to, you work to live, um, and do, you don’t live to work, you know, you, you get your 40 hours clocked and then you go up to the ski slopes or you go up to the hiking trails and like, that’s just a very Colorado thing. Um, so, you know, having a style of house or you know, a bungalow or a tutor or a period correct house or whatever era it’s in, was not really heard of until about 10 or 15 years ago.

Adrian:

And that’s where we started seeing the kind of like, oh, a mid-century house. Okay, that has what kind of characteristics. And now we have, you know, a a mid century modern has this kind of price tag and a tudor has this price tag and they, you know, a well preserved Victorian and updated has this kind of price tag where again, before, you know, the Victorian tutor in the mid century, probably all in the same price. Um, it was just kind of a straight up square footage thing. And now it’s like, oh, the mid centuries they’re half the square footage but they’re twice the price. And

Della:

It’s, is that pretty consistent in Denver, that mid-century is actually

Adrian:

About two acts and a lot of it comes from, it’s because it’s half the square footage because most of ours don’t have basements, but they’re on par with most of the ranch houses that you’d say if you’re not enclave across the street, if it’s just a ranch neighborhood, we go for about the same price per square foot, which makes ours a two x price per square foot technically if the other one had a basement. So, um, there, you know, if the Ranch cross Street is going for a seven 50, these will be in lease the, you know, mill to one four range depending on the redo. Um, and again, that’s the good and the bad part about, you know, these art pieces is they are a piece of art. And I did my best to explain that to everybody. But now obviously it, you know, everyone understands that there’s more than just, you know, the four walls.

Adrian:

It’s, you know, the floor ceiling windows and the character and you know, the, whether you’re in an enclave or not, not in one or is an architecturally built one or what’s the history. So, um, Zen’s gonna see, and in Denver especially, cause we really didn’t have, and we’re still working on our whole design thing in general, um, but we, people do appreciate these now and there is a price tag with different types of houses. Um, even if I’m not in an enclave in a random spot, you will get folks that will pay a little bit more for a legitimate mid-century, um, even if it’s not in an actual enclave because those buyers do understand that there is a, you know, a higher caliber of home they’re purchasing, whether it’s, you know, the livability or the, you know, the quality of bill that’s, they, they appreciate it more.

Della:

Yeah. And there are some pieces, I mean I have built a business on the idea that you can even take a builder or grade ranch and bring in some of these higher mid-century details and make it really charming. But some of, some of those skeletal elements of the house, happy Halloween, we’re recording this on a Monday. Yeah. Um, it’ll go up later, but some of those skeletal elements of the house are harder to replace and there’s something to living in a post and beam home with full glass walls that just, that I find it really remarkable. I think it’s not comparable to a house of the same square footage because as you say, you’re really sort of borrowing all of the adjacent spaces if done well into your living space. It’s really fun.

Adrian:

Absolutely. It’s now and they’re, they’re really something.

Della:

Yeah. You’ve been really busy in advocacy and you’ve been part of a, a really fun cadre of people that has gotten together and created from scratch Denver Modernism Week. Do you do more advocacy through the year? I mean, other than like to everyone you sell to

Adrian:

Totally teaching. Right. Um, working on, it’s obviously on my, uh, you know, very social accounts. I’m not super shy about my purest, uh, roots and love of things and you know, I nicely try to guide, you know, some of these listings I’ll, you know, make my nice comments about like, hey, maybe this simple design choice would’ve gone better and, you know, my hopes that it’s, you know, not necessarily knocking the house but more helps to educate people in the future that, you know, maybe with the market finally shifting, you know, that house would’ve sold quicker had, you know, X, Y and Z not been done instead A, B and C been done to the house. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so, you know, that’s a lot of my kind of passive advocacy is like just constantly educating about, you know, what could have been done. Not that it would’ve actually cost more to do it that way.

Adrian:

Always tell folks that my fix and flips that I do don’t cost more to do than an actual mid, like a classic just fix and flip the capital that I expend more is the, the mental thought of like, okay, what would’ve been done in this house correctly? And like, where can I find those pieces versus, Hey, Home Depot, what gray tone do you have this weekend? Like, that’s the only difference. My cost is the same. I know where to get the pieces cheap, I just have to know what to be looking for instead of, you know, what’s on clearance at x, y, and Z store. Um, so the, obviously the Denver Modernism, I’m one of the co-owners of it and that’s been our kind of pet project. And our, our point of that was to, you know, showcase the different neighborhoods, get different architects involved, have talks, tours, um, brought in back Charles Phoenix this year, really kind of helped coalesce the midc century community that we’ve had very strong for a long time here.

Adrian:

But really trying to find a way to help folks feel like, you know, the exact same year, obviously like you’re not alone. You know, you’re not the only one that thinks a, you know, a purist house is the coolest house there is. Or you know, how do you make a purist house modernize but not ruin the character like I promised you’re not alone and it feels like you are because all the Home Depots and Lowe’s say, you know, shiplap and Grey Wash everything. And it’s like, it’s okay if you don’t do that and I promise there was a bio that will respect what you’re doing and probably will pay more. Yeah. Um, and so we’re uh, during the year obviously do my best to kind of go to, um, there’s a Denver Architecture Foundation that we have here in Denver. It used to be on the board of directors.

Adrian:

Um, it does a lot more of the kind of presentation side of things. They do hard hat tours and walks and talks, but it’s a phenomenal nonprofit and they kind of just showcase all eras of buildings. And then as well, um, Adam Stevens and a couple other folks opened up the new chapter of Doco Momo here in Denver. Right. Um, the, which is also great. So that’s another advocacy group. I’ve finally finding time for myself in the slowing market, which is great. So I think I can hopefully finally attend some of those meetings, but obviously donate where I can to, you know, Doku Momo and Denver Architecture Foundation. Um, and then we’re looking as Denver, uh, modernism and Week has evolved to try to do some events throughout the year to kind of keep the momentum going but also be able to showcase homes and, you know, keep the period alive to say like, Hey peers, you know, these houses in October and, you know, showcase them so folks can, you know, keep inspired and know what to do for the right things is a lot of the advocacy stuff.

Adrian:

Right. Um, that everything I can just, all the time just talking about it and doing stuff like this is helpful so people are like, Oh, oh yeah, that is a great idea. Um, I, funny enough, actually a house that I’d sold three owners ago, uh, two of other people have bought it since, uh, he’s now a roofer that uh, I’ll be working with for some of my clients on a project. And he bought me lunch, I was trying to pay for it and he said he actually used my, um, curved article that came out, God, probably five or six years ago now that has like nine points of how to remodel the mid-century modern house that if you search mid-century modern design, it’s, it’s about midway through the first page or two. And he was like, I used it and then I saw that it was yours.

Adrian:

So like, it’s a thank you for the lunch today because you actually helped us make sure we do the right things. And I was like, God, I forgot about that article. Um, so it’s, that’s some of my thing too is there’s hopefully some passive out there that my nicely shaming things or, you know, educating people about what to do, uh, are still making its rounds so that the folks are trying to figure out like how to thread the needle of, you know, new and old. Right. They feel inspired by things I’ve done or you know, they find the right people in their geographic areas to feel inspired for their things like yourself in the Midwest. I think it’s phenomenal and you know, great resource for those around you.

Della:

Yeah. And you’re absolutely singing my song to say that it doesn’t even need to cost a single wall or more. It can sometime, you know? Absolutely. The thing that’s gonna make your remodel cost more or less is not the style choice you make. No, it’s the individual, the labor cost and the materials. It’s basically just that design. If you pay a professional it costs a little bit of money, but it’s so cheap in its ability to 10 x the result that you get to make it glorious for like the exact same bottom line versus adequate or legal. You know, the, the, the baselines for what you need in a remodel is that it fixes a problem or solve the maintenance hassle or you know, you’ve added in some necessary square footage. Sure. Those are, that’s why you started to do it. But like, don’t you want it to be amazing?

Della:

Don’t you wanna feel satisfied? Don’t, do you wanna make the neighbors a little bit jealous? Right. You know, like that comes from design, that comes from the thinking energy. It comes from your, for you when you’re doing your houses, it comes from your experience of seeing all the great things you’ve seen as you’ve poked into all these houses, pulling together the research you’ve done and then feeling inspired to add something simple or something that takes a little bit of elbow grease Yes. But is just a bit different, a little bit more authentic than something that you would’ve found as you say at Home Depot. Which again, like you can get materials at Home Depot

Adrian:

Totally.

Della:

As long as you choose the right ones. <laugh>. Absolutely. But there are some, there are so many more options out there than just choosing the most obvious option in Gray from Home Depot. And I say this as a girl who loves gray, but yeah, it’s broaden your horizons and take a minute for design and then you will win. That’s song.

Adrian:

Yes. And I huge advocate obviously for good designers cuz there’s, you know, especially again also a champion to my real estate side, you know, as things are changing, buyers are getting pickier, you know, the interest rates are higher, prices are higher. Combination of that is they’re wanting to buy, but they’re, they’re looking at their bottom line. You know, if they’re paying four or five, $6,000 a month for average house, they wanna make sure that they’re buying something, that they really feel that that x amount of dollars a month is really worthwhile. And you know, if you go into a house that’s very nicely remodeled, but you can tell all they really did was keep the same footprint and change out the cabinets and ensure they’re nice cabs and nice fixtures, but the house next door spent the same amount but they reconfigured it a little bit and maybe didn’t use as high end, but the flow is way better.

Adrian:

Yeah. Same price. Probably the second house that has a better flow is gonna go quicker than the one that’s just shinier. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and that goes to the design side. Well sure they maybe spent 5,000 on a designer, but the house will probably sell for more and probably quicker. Um, and so it’s, you know, if it’s just for a flip or if it’s for yourself to live in, it’s always worth it. Like I say now I’m always a do it yourselfer type thing, but having professional opinions is very helpful and they’re professionals for a reason I’ve learned over the year. So that’s, there’s a reason for ’em.

Della:

Absolutely. And I mean, I think you’ve got a real eye. You obviously, you know, designers, you chat with designers, I’m not sure if you’ve ever hired one. You clearly are doing just fine on design, but this is the sort of thing that for, for anyone who’s struggling, like you don’t have to DIY design in order to DIY or remodel. You can ask for a little help with that and then still put in most of the work with yourself and your father-in-law and have a good time on every weekend. You know, it’s not an all orle proposition. I think people sometimes fear that bringing in any design expertise at all is just handing over the project to someone else. And it’s not like that.

Adrian:

No. I, it’s a, it’s a great resource to have and they can give you the literal blueprint and if you’re handy enough, all you have to do is follow them. And like you said, you and the, the family member on the weekends can take care of it, but at least you know, the design was thought out by a professional in it and it probably will be slightly better than kind of just you finagling it and being like, well crap, that was close enough, but it’s, it’s worth it. It’s kind of bottom line on that.

Della:

Yeah. Do you have something, I might be hard to pick one thing, but in your mind, is there one thing where you thought about the design in advance and then, you know, roughly same amount of work, the result was just light bulb moments so much better than it could have been otherwise. What’s your favorite design success from your own models?

Adrian:

That is a great question. Um, this is actually a interesting one, um, that’s kind of tangential to that also. The, gosh, I was probably in the third cliff may that I, uh, worked on to fix and flip. Um, we, my partner and I call it the cabin, uh, cuz it at the time was very much wooded over in middle of Harvey Park. So it was very like, it was a little spooky, um, but purchased it. And at the time it was one of the, uh, thousands square foot models and, uh, there were no shotgun. So a straight linear path. Um, the previous, maybe previous previous previous owners connected the carport, which was in front of the property to the, uh, house itself and attempted to make the kind of known l shape that the cliff maser for mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But in doing so, it was pretty awkward cuz you had to walk by the carport to get to the front door that was converted and it had like three sliding glass doors on it.

Adrian:

So it just, it was a weird space and once you were inside the house, you would’ve to basically do a u-turn to come back around and outside then to this place. So in doing it, and this is at probably 20 13, 14, so it’s before like the Cliff Mays really took off. Um, and especially Harvey Park, a lot of folks were like, square footage is king. That’s why the, you know, brick ranches have the basements and therefore they’re worth more because they have twice the square footage. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So as much square footage as you can have is all that matters. Doesn’t matter about style, it’s all, you know, footage, footage. So me is my I novice flipper knowing these houses, I was like, what if I took off this addition and turned it back to a carport? I’m gonna lose 250 square feet on the property and it’s only a thousand square feet to start with.

Adrian:

I’m gonna do it, let’s go for it. So in doing so, I got back the iconic corner of the Cliff Mays where you’ve, you know, it was a side load one, so the front of the house was technically on the side of the house, but mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, you have the board and bat and the front door and then the whole glass left side, classic cliff may I now got then the left side of it that’s no longer connected to the carport, turned the carport back into a full on carport, detached it fully, uh, created a fun little bistro space between the carport and the house. Like we actually had on our cliff may and technically lost about 250 square feet. So, you know, in all the value calculations it should sell for far less. Um, I was still able able to get absolute top dollar when I sold that house at the time, again, it was in the threes, which is still silly.

Adrian:

Um, but at the time, you know, the square footage, by all accounts, I should have gotten less, I got the same or more than I would’ve gotten had I kept the square footage on because of the functionality was there. Mm-hmm. Because it was able to get the Florida ceiling windows back because they got the courtyard back because they got one parking spot back. Usually square footage is more valuable than parking in that area, but I just went for it and it worked. And so I think that it’s been a great kind of, uh, you know, beat my chest moment to folks of like, you think I don’t have to follow the norms of, you know, you have to add more sport footage or no one will buy it. I actually detached sport footage and removed it and added a, not even a garage, it was just a carport, but I made it original.

Adrian:

I made it look like it was original and sure enough I got a buyer that still paid top dollar for it. So I think that was one that, like on paper it sounded great and I knew it was gonna be fine, but once it actually panned out, it turned out really great. And I was very happy with how it actually ended up working on design side that, you know, the, the marketplace per se appreciated the fact that it was a true cliff may with a carport and a courtyard instead of kind of a hodgepodge of additions that didn’t quite work out on it. So that was, uh, that was a really fun one. I’m glad it actually worked out and it’s been, like I said, it’s been a fun one to showcase to people. Like it doesn’t only matter about square footage.

Della:

I love that. That’s such a perfect example of, uh, sometimes the best thing you can do to remodel a house that has had the mid-century remodeled out of it is just to roll back the clock. And I’m sure you did it very well. But just every, the previous decisions made by the previous owners in pre, you know, maybe in the eighties, maybe in the nineties, maybe in the early two thousands, design values were different than it’s absolutely what was worth it to keep it, even if, like you say, they made the house bigger. How can you argue with that? And I, I would say this as a designer, I love hearing you say this as a realtor because I always feel like I’m the crazy one. If, if it’s not actually a realtor telling me I’m wrong, it’s like the secret imaginary realtor sitting on the homeowner’s shoulder being like, But what about the square footage that I’m arm wrestling with? So

Adrian:

Yes, definitely. And it’s, you know, it’s obviously specific for, you know, the house location, you know, how, how the flow goes and you know, some of it was, you know, if the houses at the time were 700, sure I could have probably dumped in a good amount to actually connect out, well, you know, make it a primary like it should have been, you know, had all this plumbing into it. But, you know, given the constraints of, you know, being an investor trying to do it correctly, the price points they were at, what actually made the most sense was to remove it. Um, like I said, I a hundred percent don’t regret that whatsoever. The price tag made sense at the end of the day, the buyers still are in the house, funny enough, six, seven years later haven’t turned it back to, in addition they use it as a carport.

Adrian:

So it’s worked out. So it’s been a fun kind of one to talk about that, you know, not always is it worth it to, to add it by all means are definitely times that it definitely is, if it makes sense and it can be cohesive. Uh, you’ve been to our house, the back portion of it was a garage at one point. Mm-hmm. Previous owner turned it into kind of a rumpus room and then we converted it into more of a, uh, third bedroom media space, another bathroom, uh, dog’s room and washer dryer room. But it doesn’t feel like it’s an addition. You know, we did our best to make sure the floor was the same, to kind of, you know, do it so it, it felt like part of the house where that one, you know, probably would’ve been a detriment how we, we taken it off, but it made sense to keep it and attach it. But we also added in, you know, a bathroom and a lot of stuff to it. So it obviously very case specific, but um, sometimes it is possible to take it off and still get more money.

Della:

Well that’s just, I think it’s, in general it’s a lesson and you can take, you can do less and still get more, but also just that the way the house works is as important as the way the house looks. They’re both necessary elements. And so I think so often what has been, I often struggle with the sort of mid-century u-shaped single cook kitchen layout, and that’s something I need to address with my homeowners, even when the house has been remodeled once, twice, or three times before because all the other previous remodels just took off the cabinets and put back on the same cabinets in a different style and they never addressed the layout. So we’re still fighting that troublesome layout, which works for some families and does not work for most families. Absolutely. Layout is, that’s part of the way that you spend the same amount of dollars and you get Yes. A better result.

Adrian:

Absolutely.

Della:

Is think about how you wanna live in it, how someone else might wanna live in it, how it can be well lived in and then absolutely winning. Yes. Do you feel like this, like that is a message that you have to be really persuasive about as well as about the mid-century style to buyers? Or does that seem like something people get intuitively when they’re walking through a house? Are they relating to its layout? Do they see potential to adjust layout or will they turn down a house that doesn’t have a good layout because they can’t imagine fixing it?

Adrian:

Um, I will nicely say I can help coach them just with my expertise and that, so it’s a, a little bias in that sense of like, if they can’t, I obviously have a skill set that I can help them as we tour our house and obviously white folks do end up choosing me for the real estate side is I can double as you know, I’ve done enough remodels and know the handy side, plus I’m a designer that I can help kind of them see it. Um, the fun part of that’s similar to the listing side, a lot of my clients do already have kind of an art sense to them, whether it’s just painting or, you know, the, the mid entry just tends to attract that. It’s, it’s an artful piece of architecture, so it,

Della:

I see that too.

Adrian:

And it’s, you know, like it’s a great part of the listing side, like I said, is, you know, I don’t have to stage too many of my clients’ houses. It’s basically like declutter, you’ve got great stuff, cool, we’re done. Um, because they, you know, they have a design sense. They, they appreciate whatever house they’re living in. Um, so most of ’em, when we go through it, you know, I can help ’em see something. They do have that kind of mind ability thankfully to see like, okay, if you just maybe put a door here and change this here, it actually worked out really well. Um, and the funny part of that is, is most homeowners, you know, they have, uh, iceberg on their stomach. They’ll get in and you know, they’ll do a couple of little things and then five years from now they’re like, Hey, come check it out.

Adrian:

We’re ready to sell. And I’m like, Oh, you didn’t do anything <laugh> and it’s not the end of the world. It’s very common. And you know, it’s a lot of that like, you know, you found that maybe you had a kiddo, maybe you decided, you know, you worked your butt off at work time and so it was 80 hours a week and you just, you know, all you did was paint and maybe add one door type thing. Yeah. Um, but that’s kind of the, the, the vision part that I see more is like, they see the vision. It’s the for coming to fruition isn’t as common and it’s not for lack of wanting to do it. It’s a lack of just having the ability of time, space, money type thing where they see it, they buy it, they’re ready to, you know, do that stuff and not everyone ends up doing it. Um, which is the funner part of it’s just, you know, not, not everyone goes for it in the end.

Della:

No. And so you have a certain amount of self awareness is like, do you wanna buy a house that’s pretty close to done or do you wanna buy a house? It’s a project, but even so, life can get in the way. A lot of the work I do for clients is to set up a master plan that they know they’re gonna tackle one year at a time. And when I talk to them, I try not to, I try never to contradict anyone when they say they’re gonna do a project a year for the next five years. But I also document every ing that they’re coming back to the last project 10 years from now or 15 years from now. It’s all still written down, neatly drawn out. So who grab it, they can still grab it. Um, or in your ca you’re seeing people perhaps leave it for the next person. Um,

Adrian:

And that’s, like I said, it’s not, you know, it’s, I always chuck lot it, but it’s like dime doesn’t, like that is not a, a rare story. It happens all the time. And it’s, you know, to homeowners out there that, you know, I feel like I’m talking to you. It’s, it happens, like I said, life gets in the way sometimes or you know, you feel like you need to move for some reason it’s easier for you to just not do it and you’re not mad about it cause obviously you would’ve done it. And so it’s, you know, it just ends up working out. But it’s kind of funny that, you know, the, they may have bought it for the vision that’s there and then they’re like, Oh, that’s fine. That’s no big deal. So they’re like, It’s actually okay. It’s not as big of a deal as I thought it was. Um, so no, it’s fun to see that. Most of ’em can see it. Um, I can help ’em see it, but it’s kind, the doesn’t get done is the bigger question, which is kind of chuckle worthy to me.

Della:

So we can keep talking about this for so long, but the podcast is only a certain long. I wanted to ask before I let you go. What’s the thing, if there’s only one or what is a handful of light things that you wish people knew before buying, selling, owning a mid-century home? What’s, what’s the thing that if you could just go shout it from the rooftop to everyone, you would do all that all day.

Adrian:

If you buy a post and beam midcentury, they’re easier to remodel than you think. Um, especially in Colorado where they are on crawlspace here. Um, I try to remind clients that a lot because you know, they’ll see a pretty gel update. We just had one list down the street from us, obscene price for updated one, but someone’s picking it up because they’re actually pretty easy to remodel. And this is, you know, I totally get my, my privileged sense of like, I’ve done seven houses and like the easy, easy is easy. It’s relative, but in the sense of yeah, of like the, we don’t have plaster walls to deal with. We don’t have, you know, every wall is a load bearing wall. We don’t have that issue. Um, you know, the accessibility for plumbing, for piping, for any of that is all in the crawlspace so you can get to it.

Adrian:

So that’s the one thing I always like to tell clients is like, you know, it is easy to move walls to move plumbing to kind of make it how you want it. Um, and then obviously what dovetails really easy to that is, you know, don’t mess up the original as much as you can that while it is easy to do, you know, be sensitive about how you go about their model. And yes, I understand we had all original paneling here and not a single ounce of it was salvageable. We would have done it if we could have, it had all been painted, but as it was a luan, and as you know, that’s an eight to a 16th of an inch thick, you try to sand it, you’ll go right through it. Yeah. Um, you can try to strip it, but it just doesn’t look the same.

Adrian:

And sometimes the peelers peel right through the luan because it’s so thin that we had to put up new wood paneling. You can kind of see the little spicy thing behind me. So that’s the part of it too, is like, yeah, you might have to take some original out because it’s not salvageable, but do your best to try to then put back in period things or save what you can and, you know, pay a homage to what was there. So I think it’s the combination of, you know, the post and beam are easier to deal with anything, and if and when you’re remodeling one of them, do your best to preserve and or replicate, uh, the character because it does have a charm to it. And a lot of folks are buying it for that reason of, you know, the warmth, the, you know, the mid-century goodness and Sure put in modern appliances, modern heating and cooling, you know, new windows, you know, all that. But you know, maybe save a pink tile here and there type thing and it it, the house would give back to you in plenty for that.

Della:

Yeah. Oh, I love this. Well this is, I’m always telling my clients that I think that there are peop, there are buyers out there that want a mid-century house and that there is a realtor out there who agrees with me. And there is, there’s more than one. There is here a realtor out here who agrees with me that you can sell a mid-century house, a well loved one, maybe for more. Absolutely you can, because you made the right choices for it. And certainly, this is me just standing on my soapbox. You’re never gonna turn a mid-century house into a cottage. It’s never gonna be a good cottage. So let it be a good mid-century house when you’re making your changes

Adrian:

Anyway. And that’s exactly what I tell people too, is, you know, just go back to the air of the house. If you’ve got a great tutor, there’s a whole bunch of, you know, California tutors are phenomenal. There’s a whole way you can lean into it. A lot of great original oak wood work. It just feels better. You know, you can’t shove the stuff into it, make it feel like you want it. If it doesn’t work for you, buy a nice ranch that’s, you know, style agnostic that doesn’t have any characteristics and make it what you want. But mid sense, like you said, will never be, you know, a farmhouse modern or just it doesn’t work.

Della:

It Yeah, it won’t, it will not. Oh, this is, this has been such a pleasure. We’re gonna do it

Adrian:

Again. Thank you so much. Yes. We’ll have to, This is fantastic. We have a million more things I know we can talk about.

Della:

Yes. And it’s relatively new news, uh, for the mid modern model podcast, but I used to do a season model with breaks in between and now we’re doing it every week forever. So

Adrian:

Congratulations. That’s great.

Della:

It’s exciting. I think people want, people want new advice and fun encouragement in their feed every week and I wanna talk about it every week. So it’s a great match.

Adrian:

That’s fantastic. Well, I really appreciate you asking me for this. I love what you do, obviously, and you’re phenomenal to work with. And, uh, thank you again for coming out and supporting Denver Monitors in week and super excited to see her keep growing. And I’ll have to tune into your podcast weekly too. They sound really fun.

Della:

Absolutely. Well, that’s This is great, and hopefully I’ll be at Denver Monitors week again next year, and hopefully some of the people that are listening right now are, I’d love to googling Denver monitors in the week right now and starting to plan. Is it always the same week in August?

Adrian:

Yes, though, uh, founders, we might change it slightly just because the one thing we always pivoted around we purchased was the, uh, the mod market, and because now we control that, we can also pick the weekend. So we’re trying to figure out, it seems like the, But Denver changing so much. A lot of stuff was starting to happen that week. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I try to move it a little bit earlier. Um, but we shall see it, uh, should know in the next month or so what we plan to do for 2023, which is weirdly just around the corner.

Della:

Just around the corner. But it’s, there’s plenty of time to plan for travel. If you’re traveling to Denver, it’s a great place to go. If you’re around Denver, Hey, you’re around Denver,

Adrian:

Just down here for you.

Della:

Marvelous. Well, this has been such a treat. We will have more fun advice for you about mid-century remodeling in the near future.

Adrian:

Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Della:

I love this story of making a house smaller and yet making it better. This is the kind of advice that I do give as an architect, but always worry that people will think I’m talking through my hat, but when I hear it from a realtor, and for someone who has flipped in the broadest and best sense of that term, purchasing a home and upgrading it, and then selling it to someone who needs and wants it as Adrian does, I know that this is really effective advice, and as we heard Adrian say, design makes the difference. You can put the same amount of dollars and the same amount of time into two different remodels. The one where you took the time to design using your design concepts or the help of someone else. You have taken your home to a higher level. You have made it worth more, and you’ve helped it to live better.

So I’ll use this opportunity to remind you that there are three ways that Mid Mod Midwest can help you fit that super valuable element of design into your plans to improve your home. Reach out today to find out if you’re a good fit for one of our whole House Master plans, where we help you tackle a complete remodel in one go, or plan out your years long project, one piece at a time, 

or the second way is you can get our assistance to diy, an amazing master plan for yourself inside of our Ready to remodel program where I provide support for homeowners just like you form an alliance with one another, go through the steps necessary to really plan a remodel well and get that design thinking and get on going support in our live office hours calls. 

Solve your design dilemmas, alay your cost concerns, and get the benefit of a friendly ear to answer all of your questions or get all your questions answered in one go. Schedule a one hour design consultation. Let’s take an hour to game out the big picture of your remodel or solve your SOS design detail emergency in a Zoom consult as soon as possible. Get a direct line to all of the resources we’ve mentioned today at midmod-midwest.com/1004. 

Next week on a podcast, we’ll be talking about how you can make great design decisions rapidly. We’ll be talking about what you can decide in one hour. I can’t wait to talk to you about it then. See you next week, mid mod remodelers.

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