Good Bones: The Orange Street Duplex Conversion

Indianapolis local heroes Mina and Karen take a big risk on a boarded-up duplex in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood — purchased for a mere $4000 — in hopes of transforming it into a single-family home with loads of buyer appeal.

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June 01, 2017
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Wonder Women

Mother-daughter team Karen E Laine (R) and Mina Starsiak Hawk (L) have renovated more than 40 homes in neighborhoods in and around downtown Indianapolis — in many cases saving the homes from the wrecking ball.

No Fear

Here, at the site of a particularly challenging project in the historic Bates-Hendricks neighborhood, Mina and Karen offer evidence that neither mom nor daughter is afraid of a little dirt.

The Orange Street Duplex

Mina and Karen purchased this duplex on Orange Street from the city for a mere $4000. The duo often buys distressed homes essentially sight-unseen confident that, with the right kind of vision and dedication, they can breathe new life into practically any house regardless of condition. This one, seen here prior to the start of renovation, put that theory to the test. The boarded up structure, which had long been vacant, came with four bedrooms, two baths and 2300 square feet — along with serious foundation issues, compromised framing, unsafe floor joists, animal infestation, water damage and rot.

The Orange Street Duplex

One decidedly nonchalant gray cat, possibly a former building occupant, finds a suitable spot to relax and enjoy a pleasant afternoon in an adjacent alley.


Like many of the homes that Mina and Karen renovate, this one would be a virtual gut job. Prior to the renovation, the two duplex units were essentially mirror images of one another, with living spaces and small kitchens downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. Each unit had just a single downstairs bathroom, so there was no plumbing upstairs. The new design, which reconfigured the interiors to create a single-family home, would call for transforming one of the downstairs spaces into a master suite and adding an upstairs guest bath.


The existing stair treads were in profoundly bad shape. In the new design, the stairs in one of the units would be eliminated. The stairs in the other unit would be retained and repaired, providing a single point of access to the newly redesigned upstairs.


Though the purchase price for the home was only $4000, renovation costs were expected to be may times that — estimated by Mina to be around $200,000. Provided they could complete all necessary repairs within that budget, the plan was to put the renovated home on the market for $259,000, with a potential resale profit of around $55,000.

Demo Day

Demolition in the interior spaces was about 40 percent complete before Mina and Karen purchased the house, but there was still a lot of work and removal to be done including removal of damaged flooring and drywall. Mina's half-brother Tad and his crew helped complete the interior demolition.

Demo Day

Mina — sporting a dust mask and tee-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "I Do What I Want" — pitches in with removal of some of the old, damaged windows.

Down to the Studs

The checklist for the initial phase of renovation included tearing down some additional walls and replacing and securing unsound floor joists as well as some exterior masonry work and repairs to the foundation.

Down to the Studs

Demolition included removal of exterior siding, doors, windows and two non-functional brick chimneys.

Enhanced Support System

During removal of the chimneys, falling brick damaged some of the original flooring. The decision was made to replace the flooring on the ground level and to use 2x12 joists for extra sturdy support and to minimize floor bounce or vibration.

The Orange Street Duplex, Before

"I feel like this is the most hodgepodge, haphazard framing job we've probably ever seen," said Mina once the home's support system was exposed. Extensive rebuilding was required to shore up the structure as well as to modify the floor plan and exterior to create a single-family home. Portions of the renovation were done with a specific potential buyer, Jeff, in mind. Initially, when Jeff and his mother toured the house in its original state, they were dubious that the home could be salvaged.

The Orange Street Duplex, After

The new exterior features a cool gray paint with white trim and accents, new roof, modified front entrance and full width front porch. "Before, this house was a duplex, so there were two sidewalks, two sets of stairs and two front doors," said Mina "Now we just have one entrance, and it looks like a single-family home."

Front Porch, After

A pair of wicker chairs, outdoor area rug and new sconces make for a welcoming facade.

Backyard, Before

Backyard, After

The backyard is re-landscaped and a back deck added, providing space for outdoor entertaining.

Kitchen, Before

One of the duplex's two kitchens, prior to the renovation

Kitchen, After

The new kitchen features high ceilings, double-stacked upper cabinets painted in soft gray, butcher-block countertops and white subway tile backsplash.

Kitchen, After

The stairs accessing the upper floor are located in the kitchen area and create this alcove that offered the ideal opportunity to incorporate some open shelving and extra prep space.

Kitchen, After

Karen added this living plant wall in the transitional area between the living area and kitchen.


The newly remodeled ground floor provides a free-flowing space that incorporates the main living area, kitchen and master suite. "Before, you were just in half of a duplex's living room," says Mina. "Now, when you first walk in the front door, you're in this open-concept living-dining room."

Living Room, After

Master Suite, After

This roomy master bedroom with en suite bath is in an area that had been part of the living space in one of the former duplex units. The bedroom is painted in pale blue with white trim. The new bath features a double vanity and soaking tub.

Home Office, After

This home office is one of three newly redesigned upstairs spaces. The large black-and-white photo is the high-school senior picture of potential new homeowner Jeff and his beloved terrier, which he describes as "the greatest dog that ever was."

Upstairs Bedroom, Before

Upstairs Bedroom, After

The newly renovated guest bedroom features a large window looking out onto the front yard that provides plenty of natural light. A pocket door leads from this space into a sizable guest bathroom with double vanity.

Bonus Room, After

Jeff, the homebuyer, was wanting some additional square footage, so the renovation included finishing off this upstairs space to create this bonus room. Mina and Karen staged the space with a seating area with four modern styled chairs as well as a reading nook and a custom made wooden dog kennel that doubles as a side table.

Behind the Scenes

Mina and Karen work on replacement treads for the staircase. Karen hand-stained the wooden treads to match the finish of the new hardwood flooring.

A Touch of Magic

Karen, who can sometimes have leanings toward the metaphysical, felt strongly that this particular spot in the house constituted the space bearing the greatest confluence of positive energy. "Mom thinks there's magic happening," observed Mina, "and the magic requires a plant wall." The living wall incorporates plants that thrive in low light, planted in specally designed hanging containers attached to the wall by means of metal brackets.

If you enjoyed this Good Bones renovation project, keep checking back here for more new galleries, updates and exclusive video.

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