Don’t Tear Down, Renovate! Designer Kim Armstrong Offers Five Reasons to Revive Rather Than Raze Your Home

Kim Armstrong's office in Little Forest Hills was once the dilapidated home of a hoarder. Instead of tearing it down, Armstrong painstakingly renovated the cottage.

Kim Armstrong’s office in Little Forest Hills was once the dilapidated home of a hoarder. Instead of tearing it down, Armstrong painstakingly renovated the cottage.

By Kim Armstrong
Interior Designer, Kim Armstrong Interior Design

As an interior designer I’m a huge proponent of renovations versus tear downs. I’m not only a renovator for my own home and office, but some of my favorite design projects come from renovations and not new builds. This is a topic that is close to my heart, so if you are considering what to do with your home, and if you feel that your home can’t meet the needs of your current lifestyle, I say don’t give up on it so quickly. Your home can become the comfortable charmer you desire. The option to renovate can provide far greater benefits than you ever imagined.

1. Preserve the character of the neighborhood

Think back to why you moved into your neighborhood. I’m sure you loved many things about it; the location, the character, the charm, the schools. Each little pocket around Dallas has its own personality, developed over time. These individual nuggets of wonderfulness cannot be preserved through new construction. You know what I’m talking about; those “McMansions” that stick out like a wart. These intrusions tower over the other homes, taking away the privacy of all the neighbors to the side and behind them.

2. Financially wise

Charm and character are enough to convince ME to preserve and renovate, but for so many of you practically-minded people, that may not be enough. On the practical side, renovations can be the correct choice when it comes to your pocketbook around tax time! When a home is completely demolished and re-built, it is totally open to a new assessment and a new tax base. If you replace a home worth $500,000 with a new build evaluated at $1 million, it will be taxed accordingly. However, if you renovate a $500,000 home into a $1 million home, your taxes can only increase by 10 percent of your property’s value per year until it reaches full appraisal. That is a tremendous amount of savings over the years, $48,650 to be exact! (Thanks to my brother with an MBA to figure that one out!)

Sometimes renovations can lead to creative solutions, like this staircase in an Old Lake Highlands home.

Sometimes renovations can lead to creative solutions, like this staircase in an Old Lake Highlands home.

3. Renovations bloom creative solutions and unique designs

The unique opportunity that comes with renovating an original home is that renovations open up the creative thought process. Many times the most difficult obstacle in a home renovation results in the most creative and meaningful design outcome. A perfect example is an Old Lake Highlands home that I recently designed and renovated. The home presented the opportunity for a loft office space, except the space constraints did not allow for a standard staircase to access it. At first it seemed that a ladder was the only viable solution. However, this was to be office space, and not a child’s hideaway, so a ladder was not a realistic solution. The solution came with a unique design for a short side-step altered staircase, which reduced the stairs footprint by 50%. This unique design allowed for an easily accessible staircase for any adult wanting to access the office area. The obstacle was the catalyst for a uniquely designed staircase that is the conversation piece of the home.

4. Keeping the soul of a home

An older home has a history, it has a soul, and it is part of what gives the home life, energy, what we refer to as “character”. A renovation doesn’t wipe out a home’s history, it contributes to the tale. It provides new chapters reflecting the people and the generations who have grown, loved, and experienced life there. The story grows within the walls and expands into the neighborhood. Teardowns extinguish that soul of a home, erase the history, and forever leave a scar on the neighborhood.

Before Armstrong breathed new life into it, this post-World War II cottage was a ramshackle hoarder's hideaway that many wanted to tear down. Armstrong transformed it into her office (pictured above).

Before Armstrong breathed new life into it, this post-World War II cottage was a ramshackle hoarder’s hideaway that many wanted to tear down. Armstrong transformed it into her office (pictured above).

5. Renovation fever: Be a trend starter

I purchased a post-World War II starter home as a potential office space. It was a sad, worn-out ex-hoarder’s abode. Yet through all the filth and neglect, you could feel the soul of this cottage. Most people felt it had to be demolished. The question that came from most evening walkers was, “When are you tearing it down?” This little gem was not destined for destruction, for me it had renovation written all over it. And so the work began. After some time it became apparent to the passers-by that this little cottage was not destined for the landfill. As the renovation progressed further, so did the inquiries of evening walkers. Questions about materials and design features would be asked as they passed by. Some neighbors asked for tours and brought their cameras to take pictures and borrow ideas. They loved that the original black and white mosaic tile was still intact in the bathroom and the wooden floors showed the natural wear of time. That is something that a newly hand-scraped wood floor can never replicate. Another favorite of the house were the cottage’s original crystal doorknobs that enhance the entry into every room. This post-World War II cottage now provides a fabulous space for my design business and has served as the inspiration for other renovations on my block and in the neighborhood.

Kim Portrait 02Kim Armstrong is a sought-after interior designer based out of Little Forest Hills, a neighborhood that is as colorful and whimsical as Kim’s own designs. A former competitive soccer player, Kim takes her drive and commitment with her as she transforms homes and offices all over North Texas. Find out more about her firm and how to arrange a consultation on her website.

3 Comment

  • I do wish there were more local designers and real estate agents like Kim Armstrong. I live in University Park in an original 1938 bungalow that I carefully renovated over the last 7 years, while in the meantime, most of the my neighborhood’s older homes have been torn down. It hurts me to the quick how little my home is appreciated. I can’t help but notice when working in the front garden how often cars and walkers going by admire the big box across the street and never look my way. The Park Cities has completely lost its historical character and charm with this teardown trend. I am bound and determined to stay put in order to piss off this type of mindset who would rather see me move on.

    • I agree with you Patsy Ann. I was born and raised in Dallas and would often drive through HP, especially while I was at SMU in the early 90’s and what I loved about it was its historical charm. Now, it is beginning to look like Plano. Ick. Stay strong soldier!! There are many of us whom agree with you. I’m an architect and designer AND real estate broker and I certainly agree with everything you said. Good for Kim for doing the same.

  • Thanks for this article. I’d also like to convey that it can always be hard if you find yourself in school and starting out to initiate a long history of credit. There are many college students who are only trying to live and have long or good credit history can often be a difficult thing to have. kdadffagabbc