Good Vibes in Abundance on HGTV's 'Good Bones'

A few observations about why viewers are falling head-over-heels for HGTV's new home renovation series Good Bones, now shooting its second season.

Sure, it's a show with a natural and timely hook: a pair of industrious ladies take on ambitious home renovations in their beloved hometown of Indianapolis — with a stated goal of revitalizing their city's historic neighborhoods, "one property at a time." 

Helping to set the hook: the two ladies happen to be mother and daughter. Interesting premise? You bet. But, in large part, it's the genuineness and the distinctive personalities in the mother-daughter dynamic that keep viewers coming back.

Karen E Laine (left) and Mina Starsiak (right)

From: Good Bones

Photo by: AJ Mast/AP Images

AJ Mast/AP Images

Karen E Laine (left) and Mina Starsiak (right)

A Perfect Circle

Before HGTV began following (mom) Karen E Laine and (daughter) Mina Starsiak in the new series Good Bones, the two had already established quite an impressive resume. Starting with their first home rehab in 2007 (Mina's first home after graduating from college), the twosome soon created a home renovation business under the name Two Chicks and Hammer. By the time the pilot was shooting for their HGTV series they had already renovated and flipped around twenty homes in Fountain Square, an Indianapolis community adjacent to the city's downtown.

Two Chicks and a Hammer (HTCAH)

Two Chicks and a Hammer (HTCAH)

Behind the scenes at the Wright Street Project and the shoot for the Good Bones pilot episode

Behind the scenes at the Wright Street Project and the shoot for the Good Bones pilot episode

It's a worthy mission and one that, by design, is somewhat self-serving beyond just a profit motive. How so? Karen and Mina love their neighborhood, and they want to help it keep improving and to see it realize its fullest potential. By taking distressed and abandoned homes that would have been considered by many to be beyond hope, and transforming them into something beautiful – and in ways that respect the homes' historical integrity – they not only save individual properties but help serve as a genuine catalyst for the wider goal of community enhancement.

The Wright Street Project, BEFORE

Extensive Fire Damage

The Wright Street Project, AFTER

New, White Cabinets and Stainless Steel Dining Table in Bright, Contemporary Kitchen
The Wright Street Project, seen in the pilot episode, featured a home that had been massively fire-damaged.

Extensive Fire Damage

The original kitchen of the Wright Street house sustained extensive fire damage and had to be gutted.

New, White Cabinets and Stainless Steel Dining Table in Bright, Contemporary Kitchen

As seen on HGTV's Good Bones, Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak removed a wall to enlarge this kitchen and bring it forward in the floor plan. The team added new, bright cabinets for plenty of storage and stainless steel appliances and dining table to make this space clean and modern. To give the kitchen a little color, teal dining chairs and live flowers were put in place, creating a warm, inviting contemporary kitchen.

See the Complete Makeover

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Wright Street Home Exterior, Before

Broken windows, a hole in the roof and mold in the basement were just some of the concerns based on initial inspection. But the house included ample square footage and plenty of room to re-imagine and reconfigure.

Exterior Paint Scheme

Mina opted for a dark gray exterior with white brick columns and trim, and, in keeping with the bungalow feel of the house, envisioned a charming and semi-traditional interior.

Mina Starsiak and Karen Jensen, Hosts of HGTV's Two Chicks and a Hammer

Mother and daughter team Mina Starsiak and Karen Jensen, hosts of HGTV's show Two Chicks and a Hammer discuss their newest renovation project.

Their thoughtful renovations, among other things, help demonstrate what's possible and, as a byproduct, may ultimately attract new residents to the community who are similarly enthused about preservation and revitalization. The hope is that quality improvements, like good deeds, are contagious. Meanwhile, Mina and Karen can take the monetary proceeds from one profitable flip, channel it into their next purchase and renovation — and the cycle continues.

So, in more than just one way, it's an ideal loop. Individual parts that add up to a greater whole. What was that buzzword again? Ah yes, "synergy."

Good Bones, 109H
Good Bones, 109H

Good Bones, 109H

Good Bones, 109H

"I don't want to build crappy houses for my neighbors. I just don't." 
                                                                                   –Karen E Laine

Credentials and Chemistry

So who are these two ladies who are so committed to saving old homes from the wrecking ball? Karen is a practicing attorney who, for now, has put her litigating career on hold and brings legal expertise and experience to the duo's efforts. Mina, an Indiana University grad, brings real-estate know-how and a powerful drive to help design beautiful homes and revive neighborhoods. They've formed alliances with talented contractors and experts to help make their ideas reality, but neither is afraid of grabbing some power tools and personally diving headlong into demo and construction. Those are qualifications that, alone, could set the stage for a solid home-improvement show. But regular viewers know that real fun is the interplay between Mina and Karen who seem to be genuinely having a great time together.

In a bit of a mother-daughter role reversal, daughter Mina sometimes plays the pragmatist and voice of reason, occasionally having to rein in Karen, the '60s-spirited idealist and dreamer who's not afraid to rush in and is likely to get caught up in "the vision." The two don't always see eye-to-eye on every design detail, but a bit of amicable tension just adds to the fun. Karen may lean towards the whimsical and gets drawn into the historical details of the homes; Mina tends to stay focused on moving forward and getting the job done. Okay, admittedly that's a bit of an oversimplifiaction, and it doesn't always play out just that way, but you get the gist. And overall, the two have a laid-back appeal and the ability to not take themselves too seriously that makes the show pretty irresistible.

Mina Starsiak and Karen Jensen, hosts of HGTV's show Two Chicks and a Hammer
Good Bones, 109H
AJ Mast/AP Images

Mina Starsiak and Karen Jensen, hosts of HGTV's show Two Chicks and a Hammer

Mother and daughter team Mina Starsiak and Karen Jensen, hosts of HGTV's show Two Chicks and a Hammer plan out their next renovation project.

Good Bones, 109H

As seen on Good Bones, Mina Starsiak (R) and Karen E Laine stage the renovated home on Woodlawn. (action)

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The Aerial View

And as their mission grows, the geographical boundaries of Mina and Karen's endeavors are already expanding. In one of their boldest renovations, the Terrace Avenue project, they purchased an abandoned house in Indy's historic Bates-Hendricks district for just $4,500 (!) then turned it around with a thorough transformation, inside and out. The renovations were costly but ultimately resulted in a resale price of $226,000 and clear profit of more than $31,000.

The Terrace Avenue Project, BEFORE

Good Bones 108H

The Terrace Avenue Project, AFTER

Good Bones 108H

Good Bones 108H

Good Bones 108H

Terrace Avenue: See the Complete Makeover

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American Classic

Through the dedicated efforts of renovation and house-flipping pros Mina Starsiak and Karen E Laine, this house in Indianapolis's Bates-Hendricks neighborhood got a much needed facelift with a new porch and portico, a bright green front door, fresh lanscaping, all new siding and added windows.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

All In the Family

Mother/daughter team Mina (left) and Karen (right) have been rescuing homes from the wrecking ball in and around downtown Indianapolis for close to a decade. With their boundless enthusiasm, and help from family and crew who pitch in with demo and reno, most other house flippers.

Radical Revisions

The bare-bones state of the house prior to renovation allowed for a complete re-envisioning of the home's layout. The kitchen, which had been tucked away behind a staircase at the rear of the house, is now relocated closer to the front of the house in a space that was formerly a bedroom. The all new kitchen seen here now opens onto the new living and dining area.

Redefining Spaces

On the first floor, walls were removed  to create a large, open-concept living space including this informal dining area.

Creative Reconfiguration

The second floor layout was substantially altered as well, moving walls and reallocating space to make room for two elegantly spacious bathrooms and new closets.

Custom Touches

This guest bathroom includes a custom twin vanity at a raised height and new shower with white tile in herringbone pattern.

Local Heroes

Mina and Karen in the newly renovated living room at the Terrace Avenue home

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Avenue Project, BEFORE

The boarded up entrance and front exterior was almost completely obscured by an overgrown junk. The house came with four bedrooms though, in its badly dilapidated state, it was difficult to discern the home's original layout. The interior was around 1970 square feet. Mina and Karen were able to purchase the house for $4500 — essentially the value of the lot alone.

The Terrace Avenue Project, AFTER

In the renovated exterior, the gabled roofline, one of the home's distinctive features, is highlighted by the newly added portico and new front entrance.

The Terrace Avenue Project, AFTER

Twin sconces, new door surrounds and porch railing help elevate the home's curb appeal.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Avenue Project, AFTER

At the rear of the house, a littered back lot and gravel pit have been replaced with a newly upgraded backyard with privacy fence and a large deck.

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BEFORE

Prior to the renovation, the living room had a hole in the roof and a brick fireplace that was sinking into the foundation. 

BEFORE

Initial inspection quickly revealed why the purchase price for the house was so drastically low. The foundation was unstable, floors were uneven and there was extensive wood rot and termite infestation. 

BEFORE

The renovation would entail stripping the house down to the studs and raising the structure to repair the foundation. Costs for the renovation would ultimately total $190,000.

AFTER

 

Living Room, AFTER

The living room, dining room and kitchen are now essentially one contiguous space. Karen labeled the design theme for this project "elegant industrial."

Kitchen, AFTER

The new kitchen features enlarged windows, hardwood flooring, dark-stained butcher block countertops, ceiling-height upper cabinets and a serving bar with granite top.

Kitchen, AFTER

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Home Office, AFTER

The new office is in the space that had formerly been the kitchen. It features pocket doors and a custom desk fashioned out of vintage luggage pieces. Karen created the framed accent pieces between the windows using beveled mirrors and vintage tile salvaged during demolition.

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Master Bedroom, AFTER

The new master bedroom features a wood paneled accent wall as part of the "elegant industrial" theme that employs a mix of wood and metal elements.

Master Bath, AFTER

In the reconfigured upstairs floor plan, one of three upstairs bedrooms was sacrificed to make room for this elegant master bath as well as a large walk-in closet.

Master Bath, AFTER

 

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The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

Karen and Mina prepare to get hands-on at the job site of the Terrace Avenue renovation.

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The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

Karen sands and stains the wooden stair treads that will be used in the new staircase.

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The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

Mina installs white tile in one of the newly remofeled bathrooms.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

Mina and Karen stage the new master bedroom to prepare the house for listing.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

Karen and Mina add some decorative touches in the new dining room.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Terrace Ave. Project, Behind the Scenes

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

More from HGTV's Good Bones

If you enjoyed this project, be sure to check out behind-the-scenes and before-and-after photos from the series premiere: First Look: HGTV's Good Bones, and you can read more about Mina and Karen in this article on HGTV's design blog: 8 Reasons Why We Can't Wait for 'Good Bones' Season 2

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

In the Woodlawn Project, they took on an ambitious duplex conversion in a transitioning neighborhood near State Avenue. "East of State" is an area adjacent to the historic Fountain Square neighborhood. "I feel like if Fountain Square is the frontier," says Karen, "East of State is the territory beyond the frontier."

The Woodlawn Project, BEFORE

Good Bones, 109H

The Woodlawn Project, AFTER

Renovated Home's Open House Doubles as Gallery Showing for Local Artists
AJ Mast/AP Images

Good Bones, 109H

Renovated Home's Open House Doubles as Gallery Showing for Local Artists

This home used to be a duplex before Good Bones' Mina and Karen reconfigures the entire first floor, removing walls to create an open floor plan and reworking the home's front entrance. When they put the home on the market, they not only staged the home with stylish, modern furniture, they had local artists display their work for the open house. The setup for the open house is featured in this photo.

The two purchased the boarded up home for $15,000, revamped the floor plan and added some contemporary and glamorous elements. But because this area in southeast Indianapolis is in early transition, easy resale was by no means guaranteed, so this venture was most definitely a risk. Karen and Mina kept repair costs as low as they reasonably could but were confident they could still make the house super-attractive to buyers — and perhaps even help jumpstart more quality home renovations in the area.  "Because we're starting in this new area," said Karen "we really need to set the tone. This is our flagship."

The Woodlawn duplex is actually the second house that Mina and Karen purchased in the East of State neighborhood. "The nice thing [is that] we have one renovation two doors down," says Mina, "and that one's kind of standalone on the block. It's the only house that's renovated. So doing this second house, I think, is not only going to help the first house sell, but help people kind of buy into East of State."

Woodlawn: See the Complete Makeover

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Creative Upcycling, With Context

When Karen and Mina undertake a renovation on an old home, Karen likes to incorporate touches of the home's history in the modern design. Here Mina installs some custom wall accents in the finished kitchen of a remodeled home in the Indianapolis neighborhood known as East of State. Karen took ceiling medallions salvaged during the demolition phase of the project, then modified and repurposed them as wall art.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Gallery Opening

In this former duplex newly converted to a bright and open single-family home, Mina and Karen reconfigured entire spaces, removing walls and reworking the home's front entrance. When they put the house on the market, they not only staged the home with stylish furnishings, but had the brilliant idea of letting the open house also serve as an showing of works by a local artist. As seen here, original paintings are featured throughout the home.

Cloistered and Secluded

The master suite is located at the rear of the home for maximum privacy. Rich, dark tones and a textured accent wall give the room a luxe and opulent feel.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

BEFORE

Mina and Karen purchased this boarded-up and dilapidated duplex for only $15,000. The home is located in a transitioning neighborhood just east of State Avenue in Indianapolis. "East of State" is an area adjacent to the historic and revitalizing Fountain Square neighborhood. "I feel like if Fountain Square is the frontier," says Karen, [then] East of State is the territory beyond the frontier."

AFTER

As part of the conversion to a single-family residence, the home's front porch, stairs and entrance have been substantially modified. A new front door was installed on the left side of the house and three new large windows added on the right. The porch-stair entry on the right side was filled in with new brick and the wall skim-coated for a clean, uniform look. The exterior is repainted in a bold green with white brick and trim.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

BEFORE

The rear of the Woodlawn duplex prior to the renovation

Every tragic house deserves a second chance because underneath all that mess, we might find some really good bones. 

—Mina Starsiak

AFTER

Large windows were added at the rear of the home, providing a nice view onto the private back yard. A new deck makes an ideal spot for relaxing, entertaining and grilling out. 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Woodlawn Project: Behind the Scenes

Mina pitches in on demo day. The Woodlawn duplex is actually the second house that Mina and Karen purchased in Indy's East of State neighborhood. "The nice thing [is that] we have one renovation two doors down," says Mina, "and that one's kind of standalone on the block. It's the only house that's renovated. So doing this second house, I think, is not only going to help the first house sell, but help people kind of buy into East of State."

The Woodlawn Project: Behind the Scenes

Karen helps out with on the job site. In this transitioning area of southeast Indianapolis, the prices on homes can vary widely and easy resale is by no means guaranteed, so Mina and Karen took a bit of a risk with this venture. They had to keep repair costs low but were confident they could make the house super-attractive to buyers — and perhaps even help jumpstart more quality home renovations in the area.  "Because we're starting in this new area," says Karen "we really need to set the tone. This is our flagship."

The Woodlawn Project: Behind the Scenes

Mina lends a hand on exterior trim painting as part of the effort to boost the home's curb appeal. "Because prices in this neighborhood are just starting to edge up," says Mina, "we want to lure buyers in with a feeling of luxury."

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Woodlawn Project: Behind the Scenes

With respect to the exterior trim, Mina corrects an earlier aesthetic "error in judgment." After trying bright yellow trim paint, then teal, she ultimately opts (despite protests from Karen) to go back to basics with a simple cream white.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Woodlawn Project: Behind the Scenes

Karen provides ample evidence that she has no fear of power tools.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

BEFORE

Prior to the renovation, each unit in the duplex had a small front room just inside the front entrance.

AFTER

This dining area is part of the new open floor plan that extends across both sides of the former duplex. To achieve the structural modificaitons, a new header was added where the central load-bearing wall had been. This enabled the creation of a large, open space that incorporates the dining and living areas and kitchen. The massive header beam is made from LVL (laminated veneer lumber), a super dense and strong material capable of supporting large amounts of weight.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Dining Room, Detail

A cage chandelier creates an interesting shadow pattern on the dining room ceiling. This area uses high narrow windows to allow natural light into the space while maintaining a private feel. "What we try to do in a lot of the houses," says Mina, "[is to] have full windows facing the back, which is your pretty, private space. But on the sides, because we're in an urban area, you're usually pretty close to your neighbor, so we do high windows."

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

BEFORE

Like many of the homes that Karen and Mina take on, this one was in a distressed state both inside and out prior to the renovation. The total square footage is just under 1200 square feet, so each of the two duplex units was tiny. But the joists were in good shape and the structure was sound enough to withstand a major overhaul.

Living Room, AFTER

In the reconfigured spaces, the more commonareas — the living/dining room and kitchen — are all located toward the front of the house while the private spaces, the bedrooms and bathrooms, are at the rear.

Living Room, AFTER

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Living Room, Detail

Felt pouf ottomans with flower petal design in neutral shades are one of the distinctive accents used in the living room.

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Two Chicks and a Hammer

A literal take on Karen and Mina's company namesake makes an appearance on a throw pillow on the living room sectional.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Dinosaur Bones?

A toy dinosaur, excavated from the backyard prior to the renovation, makes its way into the new dining room decor.

Kitchen, AFTER

Prior to the renovation, each duplex unit had only a tiny, cramped kitchen. In the home's new layout, the new kitchen features plenty of room and a large serving bar that can seat up to eight. To save on costs and help make budget, Mina and Karen went with laminate flooring that emulates the look of wood.

Kitchen, AFTER

Other features in the new kitchen include ceiling height cabinets, new appliances and granite countertops and backsplash.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Kitchen, Detail

 

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Kitchen, Detail

Karen salvaged the home's ceiling medallions, added some batting and burlap fabric and created these decorative wall accents that can also serve as a station to post notes or shopping lists.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Master Bedroom, AFTER

The master bedroom is done in dark tones for an elegant and masculine feel. The textured accent wall creates an impressive visual focal point.

Master Bedroom, AFTER

In the new floor plan, the master bedroom is accessed via a hallway and creates a quiet and private space. "We've designed and decorated the house," says Mina, "so when you walk in, everything outside just kind of disappears because [inside] it's just beautiful and perfect." 

Karen adds: "This home is going to be someone's oasis."

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Master Bedroom, AFTER

"We're going to push the envelope to give the feel of luxury finishes without breaking the bank"  said Mina of the home's overall design scheme. "We're going to give it some drama in a tailored way; a little whimsy, and glamorous."

Master Bedroom, Detail

 

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Master Bedroom, Detail

So we [put] a little bit of like 1920s art deco glamour in the back of the house. In the front, you have this really serene, very tailored, but still a little bit of sparkle. — Karen E Laine

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Master Bath, AFTER

The newly renovated master bath has high windows to let in natural light, twin vanities and a soaking tub/shower with white tile in an arabesque design.

Guest Bedroom, AFTER

The center portion of the house contains a second bedroom and bath as well as a laundry closet.

Guest Bedroom, AFTER

The guest bedroom is fairly spacious, with ample closet space, a bright color palette and lots of natural light.

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Guest Bath, AFTER

The guest bath can be accessed both from the guest room and the adjacent hallway.

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The Woodlawn Project, Staging Day

Mina stages the newly renovated guest bath in preparation for the open house.

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The Woodlawn Project, Staging Day

 

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The Woodlawn Project, Staging Day

Following a four-week renovation, Mina and Karen add finishing touches at the Woodlawn house. Furniture arrives for staging the home just in time for the open house.

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The Woodlawn Project, Staging Day

 

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The Upshot

Karen and Mina purchased this home for just $15,000 but put $130,000 into renovating it — for a total outlay of $145,000. Within four weeks, including renovation time, they were able to sell it for $175,000 to Keaton and Deanna, a young couple who love older, historic homes. "It's an older neighborhood," says new homeowner Deanna, "and we like that feel. We like to be a part of something that's growing."

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

The Upshot

The best part about it," says new homeowner Deanna, "is that we could get a home that's been almost completely rebuilt, and the price is affordable. And we know in a few years, that that's going to be an investment for us."

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Back Yard Deck, Detail

As seen on Good Bones, host Mina Starsiak paints the trim on the exterior of the house on Woodlawn

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

More from Good Bones

If you enjoyed this project, be sure to check out behind-the-scenes and before-and-after photos from the series premiere: First Look: HGTV's Good Bones, or this project: A Heroic Renovation in a Historic Indy Neighborhood.  

You can also read more about Mina and Karen in this article on HGTV's design blog: 8 Reasons Why We Can't Wait for 'Good Bones' Season 2.

Photo By: AJ Mast/AP Images

Those are just a couple of examples from the show's first season that not only showcase some amazing home rehabs but, in a larger sense, hopefully will help ignite the spark in a movement to save valuable homes, revive neighborhoods and keep historic preservation happening.

Want a healthy helping of Good Bones? Check out HGTV's marathon of back-to-back episodes on Sunday, July 9 starting at 7a.m.|6c.

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