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THE KLARA PROJECT - Part 1 Finding Klara

Posted on January 25, 2019 at 6:50 AM

As Realtor who specializes in home design and renovation planning, I'm always on the look out for investment properties for my investor clients.  And as a total house geek, I love finding poor, old, dilapidated homes to rescue and fix up. If you were to ask me what's my one passion, the one thing that drives me, it would be that...the desire to bring new life to a dead house.  I scower the internet daily looking for opportunities and one day last summer I found what would be my next whole house renovation.

Meet Klara. This sweet Dutch Colonial was half buried in the woods and perched on a crumbling ravine when I first saw her.  Situated at the end of a dead end street in South Orange, the location was amazing. Even though it's close to the town and the train, it still retains it's idyllic quality due to the surrounding woods, streams and waterfalls that flank and run behind the property.

Once home to an Architect, his wife and family, this house hadn't been occupied in what seemed to be a very long time.  And the house was filled with the accumulations of a lifetime.


The property was on the market as an Estate Sate and working with a lovely pair of Realtors who represented the sellers, I was able to secure the purchase of the home for my clients.  After the remaining family members took what they wanted out of the house, we donated or gave away as much of the stuff left behind as we could..


The kitchen was small and cut off from the rest of the first floor.  This was common in houses built in 1924.


But it did have this amazing eat-in area with a view!

There was a powder room tucked away in between the kitchen and dining room.


It was great that we had a powder room on this floor, only it was in the wrong spot and it would have to move.


It was a bit difficult to actually see what I had to work with given all the clutter.


It turned out that the couple that lived there were also artists and the house was filled with work that they had done.

I spent 4 hours in the house one day sifting through all the artwork and pulled out a pile of my favorite pieces. My plan is to frame and hang the best ones throughout the house once I stage it for resale. I thought it would be a nice way to preserve the memory of the people who spent most of their lives in this house and act as a bridge to the new owners.


Located on the second floor, this was the one and only full bath in the house.


The full basement has a ton of potential with its wide open space and tall ceililng.


There's also a place for a second powder room and a laundry room.

I really loved the location of the house right away, but what truly sold me, and my investor clients, was the gorgeous views from the homes picture windows.



Once the deal was done and the transaction closed, it was time to take off my Realtors hat and take over as the Designer and Project Manager.  One thing I insist on doing is a full home inspection with a qualified Home Inspector.  Even though I know that we'll be gutting and fixing most of the house, I still want a keen eye to point out and list for me all the faults and problems with the property. This way I can make sure we address all the issues as we're renovating.


The first order of business is removing all the trees and bushes that were a threat to the house and the back retaining wall.


The roots of these large trees were pushing out and compromising the integrity of the retaining wall, which had begun to crumble down the side of the ravine.

I love these stone planters we uncovered! I can't wait to fill them with flowers and place them on the new front patio that we plan on building.  The stone obelisks are the properties boundry markers.  How cool is that?!


Now we need to address what's left of the back retaining wall and rebuild a new one. Next up... The Great Wall of Klara!



Categories: Real Estate for Sale, Renovation, Design

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