Make a Tiny House Seem Bigger (and a Huge Big House)

It’s all about getting big or going home in the “Bargain Block” episode “Minimalist and Dollhouse Completed.”

The fair focuses on renovation specialists and real-life partners Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas‘Efforts to save Detroit housing one block at a time. They mostly buy run-down houses at ridiculously low prices, then renovate and sell them, often for less than $100,000.

Home improvement specialists usually stick to a proven formula when revamping a property. However, in the latest episode, all bets are off.

Instead, the team strives to make a small house, which it dubs “The Minimalist”, seem bigger. And it tries to make an already large house, known as the “Doll House”, appear even larger through brilliant colors and wild design. The question is, which house will sell the fastest, if at all?

They plan to redo The Minimalist with a simple design to create the illusion of space. Although the simple aesthetic makes artist Bynum cringe, they estimate they can spend around $75,000 to buy the house and complete a renovation. After that, the plan is to sell it for around $99,900, making nearly $25,000 in profit.

Their dollhouse project was originally intended to be a duplex income property. But then they find out how much it will cost to legally separate each unit’s electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. (That’s a lot!) So they decide to turn the duplex into a single family home. It’s their largest project in Detroit to date, with five bedrooms and two bathrooms spread over 1,800 square feet. Yet they have to make it look even bigger.

Bynum and Thomas choose to take a risk in making the house stand out by going big with color and design. The result is a mix of zebra prints with flowers and colors like green, pink and yellow!

The “Doll House” before renovation.


As the “Bargain Block” team strives to take extraordinary steps to make these projects work, they come up with some fabulous ideas you might want to try at home.

The longer it has been on the market, the lower the offer

The "minimalist house" before
“La Minimaliste” house before renovation


The couple found a tiny 1,000 square foot home in better condition than most homes they renovated (despite appearances). And so the owners were asking for $35,000.


Watch: Exclusive: ‘Survivor’ winner Kim Wolfe on her new show, ‘Why the hell did I buy this house?


But the show’s real estate agent, Shea Hicks-Whitfield, was skeptical of the price as the home had been on the market for some time. Also, the front yard has become overgrown.

“You know how I do it,” she tells Bynum and Thomas. “I’ll definitely shoot for $25,000 because it’s been on the market for a while. Who wouldn’t take $25,000 at this point?”

Sure enough, Hicks-Whitfield is working its magic and getting the house for $25,000 – $10,000 below list price. The takeaway for homebuyers is to always look at how long a home has been on the market before making an offer.

Less is more in a small house

Minimalist kitchen
Discover the minimalist kitchen.


The minimalist house has two bedrooms and a bathroom. While the team knows that most homebuyers want a third bedroom and second bathroom, they think this spot might work for a single person or a couple.

“The big key to designing such a small house is making sure we keep it to a minimum, so we don’t overcrowd the spaces,” says Thomas.

“Small rooms in the house require a minimalist design to make it feel more spacious,” adds Bynum.

They agree to go with simple cabinetry and a simple backsplash in the kitchen, an area where they generally prefer elaborate details. The result? Space!

Soft textures and colors make a cozy yet spacious home

Soft two-tone design
Soft, two-tone design


“Light wood, neutral colors, soft textures and tonal design elements will be great for this space, but a struggle for me,” says Bynum, who loves bright colors and bold patterns.

It’s amazing how comfortable and cozy the space is without feeling cramped.

“I try to keep it very simple, elegant, clean,” he says. And it works! There are no awkward angles or contrasts here to make the area look cluttered.

‘Sweep’ your walls

Keith Bynum displays the "Down broom" technical
Keith Bynum uses the “down broom” technique.


Uh-oh, the team notices a problem as they begin to paint the interior walls.

“The minimalist house has a really bad texture on the walls,” says Bynum. “Obviously over the years many people have applied textured patches, tried to match and failed miserably, so my idea is to use a technique called ‘down broom’.”

So what is it? “You literally drag a broom from the ceiling to the floor over wet mud to create texture,” says Bynum.

“The fun thing about the broom texture is that it reads a bit like rice paper when finished, which is a very high-end finish,” he continues. “It’s extremely expensive and very difficult to set up, so we can mimic the same vibe. And we’ll paint it bright white. So it will be very simple, but there will still be just a little hint of texture when you look around.

save the tub

Refurbished freestanding bathtub
The refurbished clawfoot tub


The dollhouse comes with a 100-year-old clawfoot tub that has been painted countless times and needs repairs. But the team is there to save him.

He uses a chemical stripper to strip the tub so the team can refinish and refinish it an indulgent black. The vintage tub adds authenticity and character to the bathroom and would have cost thousands of dollars to buy new.

Do the concepts “less is more” and “more is more” work?

Both houses’ open days are packed with enthusiastic buyers overwhelmed by the talent and ingenuity of the Bargain Block team. But time will tell if it was all worth it.

The dollhouse’s outrageous color combinations and design wowed open house visitors, as did the price. An expertly decorated and completely renovated two-story family home for $159,000? Such a deal!

Dollhouse, after
The dollhouse after


dollhouse living room
dollhouse living room


But no one had made an acceptable offer before the episode aired. Yet the Bargain Block team is confident. After buying it for $25,000 and spending $90,000 on the renovation, the team thinks it will sell for at least $159,000 and make a minimum profit of $44,000.

The Minimalist House – listed at $99,900 – also had no bids per airtime.

Minimalist house, according to
The Minimalist House, after


And a little investigation on® revealed that the house is still on the market, at $110,000! We will notify you when it is sold.

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