January 30, 2023


Delighting home maniacs

What’s Wrong With This Free House? ‘Good Bones’ Reveals All

What’s Wrong With This Free House? ‘Good Bones’ Reveals All

On “Good Bones,” Mina Starsiak and her mother, Karen Laine, are known for renovating run-down, inexpensive homes. But in the latest episode, they get a house for free.

What’s up with that?

In “Free House, Expensive Reno,” Starsiak and Laine have stumbled upon what seems like a lucky break when they find a house in Irvington, IN, that can be theirs if they pay a mere $1,000 in fees. They soon learn why it was so cheap—right about the time when it caves in, turning into a pile of rubble.

Luckily, this mother-daughter team isn’t inside the house when it collapses. Nonetheless, they must now rebuild from scratch.

While this ends up being an expensive project, Laine and Starsiak are able to create a brand-new home with a gorgeous Scandinavian design. Read on to find out how they accomplish the clean style on a budget that might inspire some changes around your own abode, too.

Walkway pavers can add extra style to your yard

This home was free, but it wasn't structurally sound.
This home was free, but it wasn’t structurally sound.


While the home’s original exterior is a bit drab, once the house collapses, Starsiak and Laine have the opportunity to start over with a completely new look. They end up giving the home a beautiful front porch and some clean, white paint to fit their Scandinavian theme.

However, Starsiak and Laine realize that the plain, white exterior might be a little too boring. So they add walkway pavers to the front yard, which they hope will add a little extra style.

These pavers are a subtle, but stylish, addition.
These pavers are a subtle, but stylish, addition.


They select white porcelain pavers that have a fun, but subtle, gold pattern.

“We’re going to go with one of the patterned ones to kind of kick it up a notch,” Starsiak explains, “because the house in itself is very simplistic.”

When Starsiak and Laine finally lay the pavers down in the grassy yard, it’s clear they’ve made the right decision.

“These pavers are not only practical,” Laine says proudly, “but they also add a layer of interest to our clean, simple exterior.”

Go for a tall ceiling and beautiful beams

Beams help show off the new high ceiling.
Beams help show off the new high ceiling.


With a brand-new build, Starsiak and Laine have the freedom to change the floor plan and make the house their own. One change they make is to give this house a stunning vaulted ceiling, which makes the living room feel extra large.

Then, to make the space look extra stylish, they add some light-colored beams to the ceiling.

“We didn’t actually need those; they’re decorative,” Starsiak explains to potential buyers during a tour, “but I think they’re cool. They bring your eye up.”

A great bed can transform a room

Karen Laine's idea is a huge hit, especially with one buyer's young daughter.
Karen Laine’s idea is a huge hit, especially with one buyer’s young daughter.


Starsiak and Laine are delighted to know that a famed oak tree, known locally as the Kile oak, is just two blocks away from this house. This inspires Laine to put a fun tree design in one of the bedrooms, and a swing bed to boot!

At first, Starsiak is skeptical. She wants the house to have a clean, Scandinavian look, and she doesn’t know if a hanging bed and a tree decoration will fit with the rest of the design. Still, Laine goes ahead with the project.

Young Ruby loves this home's decor.
Young Ruby loves this home’s decor.


“The tree is just a 5-millimeter, birch-laminated veneer, very subtle,” Laine says of the decoration. “And it’ll be a tree like the Kile oak.”

In the end, Laine proves Starsiak wrong. The wood tree cutout fits in well with the light and bright Scandinavian theme, and the swing bed is beautiful.

Potential buyer Tanya and her daughter Ruby love the look and decide during the tour that they’ll both want swing beds in their rooms.

Butcher block counters can warm up a white kitchen

Butcher block countertops were the right choice for this kitchen.
Butcher block countertops were the right choice for this kitchen.


Starsiak is determined to give this home the clean and white Scandinavian look she’s going for. Still, she knows that it’s easy to go overboard with the color white.

So she decides to warm up the kitchen by installing some butcher block counters. Not only does the butcher block save some money in this already pricey project, but the color of the counter also helps break up the white-on-white look.

“In the kitchen, the light butcher block countertops really help bring in some warmth to contrast our all-white cabinets,” Starsiak explains.

Add some soft colors to balance the white decor

This furniture looks great with Mina Starsiak's Scandinavian design.
This furniture looks great with Mina Starsiak’s Scandinavian design.


As the renovation wraps up, Starsiak is thrilled to see her Scandinavian design come through. But she also points out that it’s important to use a few muted colors that will warm up the white decor without ruining the Scandinavian aesthetic.

“To add dimension to the all-white interiors, we brought in a lot of soft beiges, ivories, and light wood tones,” Starsiak says. “And for a pop of organic color, we placed houseplants all around the space.”

With a beige couch, a blue statement chair, and lots of earth tones, the furniture makes this home feel extra cozy, while still keeping with the theme.

How does this free home clean up?

When Starsiak got this house for just $1,000, she thought she’d scored a great deal. However, after the house collapses, she realizes that she could possibly lose a lot of money on the project.

Starsiak and Laine end up spending much more on this renovation than they’d planned, upping their budget from $60,000 to a final renovation price of $104,000. That means the mother-daughter team has a total of $105,000 invested in the home.

They decide to list it for $115,000. While Tanya and Ruby, their first potential buyers to tour the home, don’t end up purchasing the place, another buyer presents an offer that puts them in the black with a profit of $10,000.

While $10,000 may not be a lot, considering the poor shape this house was in, Starsiak and Laine seem relieved and happy just having a job well-done.