A chic renovation on the cheap

Budgeting Like A Boss

Photo Credit: Danny Fulgencio

Jennifer Dunn’s real estate agent opened the door but declined to enter the Windomere cottage she was showing her in 2014.

“She came out like this,” Dunn says, holding the collar of her shirt over her nose and mouth. “And she’s like, ‘OK, go ahead.’ ”

Dunn’s diminished olfactory senses were a blessing in this case. It smelled like something had died in there.

“I walked from the front door to the back door and all the way back, and I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”

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Dunn and her agent, Jenni Stolarski, had put in bids on four houses, but the Oak Cliff real estate bonanza was beginning to peak, and Dunn’s offers had been busts.

“By then I realized that to get something over here, you had to offer the day it was listed, and you had to go in over the asking price,” Dunn says.

The year or so that she spent trying to buy a house also gave her time to become educated in the home-buying process, so she knew, for example, that she’d need a renovation mortgage.

Dunn, who owns Sisterbrother Management commercial artist agency, took out about $83,000 for renovations on the 1921 house in Kings Highway. That had to cover all new electrical, heating and air conditioning, a roof and most of the plumbing, besides cosmetic upgrades.

She made the budget work in part by leaving most of the home’s original shiplap exposed.

She also went with an Ikea kitchen.

“It’s just so solid and easy to work with and inexpensive, comparatively,” she says.

Fisher & Paykel, a client of Sister Brother photographer Casey Dunn [no relation], offered her a range, hood and fridge at cost.

For the tiny master bathroom, she looked to Craigslist, finding a 48-inch bathtub in Oklahoma. She met a guy in a parking lot to buy the perfect corner sink, and just as he handed it to her, he dropped the box.

“He goes, ‘You can just have it,’ ” she says, and it only has a small chip near the back.

The full renovation took about six months.

Now Dunn is working on another renovation in Oak Cliff, this time a commercial building in Vermont Village for her company’s headquarters.

“This process of renovation, I love it,” she says.

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