Mina Starsiak Hawk of ‘Good Bones: Risky Business’ Has Fun Breaking This Design Rule

Mina Starsiak Hawk finally makes progress on her historical Victorian

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On “Good Bones: Risky Business,” designer Mina Starsiak Hawk has been renovating a massive Victorian with the hopes of turning it into an event space/bed-and-breakfast.

“Getting to restore an old Victorian home has always been a dream of mine,” Starsiak Hawk admits. “And like most things that are worth doing, there have been lots of ups and some downs.”

In the episode “The Stakes Just Got Real,” Starsiak Hawk has finished the carriage house and begun work on the main residence. Even better, she’s found a bride who would like to hold her wedding there, if the facility can be finished on time, which gives her only eight weeks.

“I’m laser-focused on getting this project done without any more holdups or budget issues,” says Starsiak Hawk. “I would love for something to actually go smoothly, but if history’s any indication of what’s to come, the hard part, which is the main house, is just getting started.”

Here’s how Starsiak Hawk tackles this monster of a project, with plenty of lessons for the rest of us on how to keep any renovation moving forward on time and under budget.

Always work on the foundation first

Mina Starsiak Hawk checks the foundation
Mina Starsiak Hawk checks the foundation.

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Some people are so eager to get started that they rip out everything and start slapping up drywall. But before one sheet of drywall even enters the building, Starsiak Hawk is intent on going into the basement and finding out why the floors are not level.

“We have some foundation problems that I wanted to address before moving forward,” she says.

After all, if your floor isn’t even, the drywall above it won’t be even, either. It’s best to get to the bottom of this issue first.

How to save major money on windows

A curved window will require a pricy pain of glass
A curved window will require a pricey pane of glass.

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There are many windows at the front of the house. Some of them are flat, but quite a few of them, charmingly enough, are curved. Starsiak Hawk loves the look but is horrified to find out how much replacing the curved windows will cost.

The first estimate comes in at $16,000 per window. To curb these costs, she asks what it would cost if there were no sashes on the windows—in other words, if there were no way to open or close them.

The estimate she gets for simple curved windows with no sashes, hinges, or slides is much more reasonable, at $5,420. And that’s for both curved windows, and the glazers will even throw in the flat front window for no extra charge. All three will be stationary, with none of them raising or opening.

“If going from operable windows to just solid panes of glass is going to save me $25,000, then I need to make that smart decision and go that route,” she says.

Make an effort in the entryway

Planning for an ornate staircase
Planning for an ornate staircase

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Starsiak Hawk wants to go all out on the B&B entryway, with a custom-carved, white oak staircase.

“It’s going to be the first thing you see when you walk in,” she explains.

And while the rest of us might not need a fancy staircase in our entryway (especially if our homes are one story), what is clear is this area can make or break one’s first impression of a house.

How many entryways are cluttered with shoes, coats, car keys, mail, and other junk? Don’t let yours be one of them.

Give each room its own distinct style

The blush room
The blush room

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Although most homeowners today adhere to the design rule of having one style run throughout their house, this wasn’t always the norm. In fact, in the Victorian era, it was far more common to give each room its own theme.

Starsiak Hawk decides to break from modern-day design edicts and bring back this grand old idea.

“I’m playing with a different color in each of the bedrooms to hint at the Victorian style of giving each room its own personality,” she says.

The secret to keeping this design from being too all over the place is to tie all these rooms together with something in common. For example, in this house, each en suite bathroom has a shower with the same marble and gold tile. But it could be as simple as using the same trim or light fixtures, too.

Can’t afford wall paneling? Try faking it with trim

Room with faux judge's paneling
Room with faux judges paneling

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“I originally wanted to have wood paneling on all the bedroom walls and the parlor downstairs, to emulate the historic Victorian style,” says Starsiak Hawk. “But we’ve gone so over budget on this project that I’ve decided to do this instead, what I call faux judges paneling. It’s basically 1-inch trim pieces [nailed to the wall]. Once it’s all painted, it will give this room a much more elevated and luxurious look.”

It’s very clever—and cute!

With the upstairs bedrooms complete and a good start on several big projects on the first floor, Starsiak Hawk has made decent progress. But will this entire space be wedding-ready in eight weeks? That might mean she has to work at light speed to get the rest done.

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