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The House that Love Flipped

Flip That House before and after pictures  

If you've seen Flip That House on The Learning Channel, you may have seen the house my husband, Brian started and my family and I worked side-by-side with a team of artists to restore. I believe that working on this house renewed my love of life and gave me the courage to keep going after Brian's death from pneumonia before the project had been completed. I was so grief-stricken and downhearted that I became physically ill and life lost all its joy, especially since Brian's death came within two years of the death of our daughter, Sara.

It was the lowest time of my life, but being able to work with the artists and craftsmen as we renewed the 1940s home also renewed my own spirit—so in a way, the project was as much of a life restoration for me as it was a paint-and-plaster restoration of that old house. These artists can never fully appreciate how much their energy and enthusiasm helped me during those times when I wondered how in the world I could go on another day.

I want to acknowledge the hard work and loving dedication of the artists, some from as far away as St. Louis and New York, as they spent nearly 3,000 hours working on the three-bedroom, single bath, 1,400-square-foot Lake Elsinore, California, house. We redid the kitchen with of cute-looking chicken artwork, because that room's theme is chicken soup for the soul, but much of the rest of the home was done using various faux finishes to give the overall home a Mediterranean feel.

From Ugly to Unbelievable

The artist who took on the toughest assignment was Kim Schaffer, from Menifee, California. She had to redo a room that was so ugly that everyone thought it was beyond hope. Kim specializes in doing murals for nursery rooms, bedrooms, and garages. She and I became quite close as she ripped out walls, hung drywall, plastered, made frescos, painted, faux finished, painted a wall mural, put bamboo mats on the ceiling, and painted a wonderful Koi pond mural on the floor, including remarkably lifelike fish and lily pads. The Bamboo Woman Tea Room turned out fantastic! Kim also worked on other rooms in the house painting murals, paintings, walls, and she even painted a design on the pool deck as well as the house number mural near the front door. 

Loving Living Room

The living room was also a difficult challenge. There is no way I could ever have finished the ceiling right. First, because I can't work above my head for long hours, but also, I don't have the master faux art skills that Evan Dahlke spent years honing. Evan spent days faux finishing the ceiling to look like fine wood. He applied layers of plaster and lime paint to the walls. Evan changed the fireplace into a work of art and then he painted two paintings with Kim to stage the room. The living room makes a grand statement when you enter the home. Evan also helped the other artists and helped rescue the kitchen my friend Imelda and I painted three times. Evan and his wife Adda are the most loving people you will ever meet.

Living Waters Bathroom

Christina Johnson created a fabulous waterfall bathroom that the radio interviewer fell in love with. Christina faux painted the bathroom ceiling, walls, baseboard (featured on the book cover), and cabinets. She also hung a new shower curtain and arranged new hardware from HobKnob. Christina helped rescue the kitchen and her husband saved us hours of driving time by picking up the bamboo ceiling in San Diego from CaliBamboo. Besides loving houses as an interior designer, Christina loves to help people and create fabulous faux finishes.

Lustrous Dining Room

Camille Caballero applied layers of LusterStone® from FauxMasters Studio to the dining room walls that are so gorgeous, the effect was used on the Flip That House with FAUX book cover. Camille had to drive in traffic from Orange County and she never complained.

Dreary to Delightful Office

Kari Barron came after the filming to transform the office into an old world wonder. She faux finished the ceiling, added a great stencil, transformed the white ceiling fan into a beautiful black and antique bronze beauty, added age to the walls with a special powder, and made shelves to display the artist flyers for the open houses. Kari specializes in decorative painting with a loving touch.

Chicken Soup Kitchen with Soul

Jennifer West painted the chickens in the kitchen making vegetable soup. Usually a fine artist, Jennifer was very patient with Imelda and me when I changed my mind--twice-- about the wall color and Imelda painted around the chickens.

Fine Art Flooring

Although he would not call himself an artist, Dave Phillips did the finest flooring job I've ever seen. He mastered how to make small rooms look larger with tile design. He cut wood flooring to go around difficult, uneven walls--especially where the wall was cut out to make the opening between the living room and the dining room. And, he put carpeting in the bedrooms where the hard concrete made it almost impossible to put down the tack strips. Dave's wife Vielka and their daughters Elizabeth and Sarah also donated time and hard labor. Beyond the work and discount flooring, the Phillips family embraced our family with loving support.

Mark Mason, a faux artist and a general contractor, worked all around the property. He jack hammered the concrete porch, supervised the new patio, cutout the block wall opening between the living room and the dining room, built a long buffet and faux finished it, helped Kim faux paint the dining room ceiling beams, and hung bamboo fencing. He worked all night hanging kitchen cabinets on the hard block walls. Besides all the extreme work, Mark picked up supplies with his truck and trailer. He also kept our spirits up with his loving attitude and smile.

Landscape and pond artist Chris Jackson came from Washington DC to move mountains of dirt, install sprinkles, create a barrier between the street and home, dig holes in HARD earth, plant vegetation from RZ Nursery, and make friends with my family. He gave us a week of hard work and then talked my son Kirk through the pond completion over the phone.

Robert Esch and Tim Grotefendt came from St. Louis to finish the landscape design and sprinklers. Robert studied landscape design and helps seniors with financial planning. Tim just finished his college education and gained house flipping knowledge while volunteering. The garden they planted around the pool grew into a lush backdrop.

New Yorkers Tom Meli and Arlene Mclaughlin added laughter and love to the house. Tom worked all over the property and Arlene sent a gorgeous ceiling mural of the sky framed by bamboo flowers.

We bought the house in 2006 for $340,000, and I estimate that we put about $25,000 into it, which means that with real estate values falling, we may or may not realize any profit from the sale, but for me, that wasn't the point. The artist's work was an additional value of about $50,000. There's no way I could ever put a dollar value on the spiritual boost I received from that project. How can you put a price on getting your life back?

Thanks to the artists and volunteers for the loving support and a lifetime of memories. Of course, some of the pain will always remain, but my enthusiasm for life has been restored and I've begun to enjoy my work—and life itself—again. That is priceless, so for me, it truly was the house that love flipped.

Copyright © 2007 Jeanette Fisher

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Copyright © 2007 Jeanette J. Fisher

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