House Flipping {Before it was Trendy}

With my background in Interior Design and my history of "flipping" houses for thirty years, I thought it appropriate to post some articles on the ups and downs of home remodels and house flipping.  

Before house-flipping was something that people did as a profession, I stumbled into my first "flip." I was 23 years old and was working as the manager of a prestigious Interior Design firm in Birmingham, Alabama. This was my first job right out of college and I felt it to be quite an honor to be working with well-known designers and architects. The products we sold and recommended to our clients were of amazing quality and...well usually...expensive! 

Magazine article featuring Ashley Cox, ASID

Since I managed the orders and shipping of these products, such as fabrics, rugs, wallpaper, furniture, art, and accessories, I also managed inspecting these items when they showed up to our studio. If anything was less than perfect quality, I had the "pleasure" of calling the company to complain (this was long before the days of email). They were usually nice and promptly sent replacements. Sometimes a company would let us keep a damaged or flawed product since it was more expensive for them to pay to ship it forward to the flawed wallpaper that started my house flipping career!

Back in 1988, a single roll of wallpaper that retailed for $140 EACH was pretty pricey! We had a client that didn't think twice about it and wanted that wallpaper, which was, and still is in my opinion, one of the prettiest things I've ever seen. The wallpaper came in flawed and my 23-year-old self nearly had a heart attack when I saw the (ever so small) streaks in the roll I inspected. I was afraid somehow I'd get blamed or the company wouldn't take it back. I worried that I'd have to literally sell my car to pay for the mistake! Thankfully the wallpaper company apologized profusely and sent a new batch. But they said to keep the flawed rolls in case we had any use for them. No one at the firm had any use for them so I took them home.

SCORE! I'd just bought my first house and had the perfect little dining room in which to hang this beautiful stuff. Honestly, it was so pretty and of such high quality, that I wanted to just frame it all! Although I have no pictures of it now, I can visualize the pattern, texture, and luxuriousness of this paper. We're talking Paper, not Vinyl, folks!   

But oh my, how my dining room was calling for that wallpaper! I'd just painted the wainscoting a bright white and didn't know what to do with the walls above. So guess what I did that weekend? Yep, I learned how to hang wallpaper!

Ashley working to remodel a laundry room

I could write a book on how beautiful the room looked and how it inspired me to paint and fix up the rest of the little house. I learned how to lay tile, hang trim, do landscaping, and make bold decisions about decorating a house. My parents thought I'd lost my mind when they drove up from Florida for the weekend and saw the transformation. I had a blue/gray house. A BRIGHT red door, and had painted the concrete stairs. People didn't paint concrete back in those days! Inside I had painted all the trim with the glossiest white oil-based paint on the market (they don't make it anymore because it's super toxic, but who knew?). My living room was painted with a color called "eggplant" other words, black! I could go on and on about my design choices in that house but my favorite thing was still the wallpaper!

After they got over their initial surprise, I think they actually appreciated the creativity and hard work I'd put into the house. This gave me confidence, and to this day I think it's why I was able to make bold and confident decisions in my design choices. 

Not long after they left, I was with some friends in a neighborhood I'd always loved. The streets were lined with darling little cottages and bungalows, some of which were really run down, but I knew this neighborhood had potential! And then I spotted a For-Sale sign in the yard of one of those homes; I jotted down the number and raced back to my house to call and find out a price. The house was $89,000! This was a fortune since I'd only paid $49,000 for my house. But I wanted that house bad! I knew the neighborhood was far better and safer than where I lived but had no idea how to make this work...until the party...

That weekend I was having a New Years Eve party and this would be the first time my friends were seeing my remodel with black walls and expensive wallpaper. They raved about my remodel, even before all the champagne! I figured I had a winner. On January 2, 1989, I put a For Sale By Owner sign in my yard and had an offer within two days. I'd made enough profit on this little house to buy my "dream" house in Homewood, Alabama. 

As you would guess, there's a lot more to this story and I will talk about my ups and downs with the house flipping in upcoming blog posts. It's been profitable, amazing, stressful, and fun. When I moved to Colorado and had had my boys I involved them from a young age. There have been times when I was knee deep (literally) in sewage and other times when I hired the finest cabinet maker in Denver to create a custom kitchen like no other. No offense to HGTV, but it's not as easy as it looks, and it takes a ton of stamina, creativity, and risk to make it. But it is possible...stay tuned! Read more about my house-flipping adventures.