The Property Brothers Reveal How to Make a Small House Look Larger Than Life

By Lisa Johnson Mandell | Sep 15, 2017

“Property Brothers: Buying & Selling” stars Jonathan and Drew Scott are pros at making small homes seem spacious, but in their latest episode they face a daunting challenge: landing a big sale for a minuscule 960-square-foot cottage just outside of Nashville, TN.

In the “Making the Most of Nana’s Gift” episode, the Scotts work with Alex and Sam, who met on a cruise a few years ago. Sam moved 800 miles to be with Alex, and now they and their two rescue dogs need way more room than what’s offered in the country house Alex bought eight years earlier.

As luck would have it, Alex’s grandmother has offered him the gift of money to go toward renovating his old home to selling it, then purchasing something new. Nana will even fly in from Mississippi to view the Scotts’ work! Will she be pleased? You can learn a lot about renovating small spaces from how Jonathan and Drew bend over backward to gain her approval.

Extend the landscaping

“Your curb appeal is terrible,” Jonathan bluntly tells the couple. “The house appears smaller than it needs to. It looks like a tiny little cabin on this massive lot.”

He suggests extending the landscaping with trees, bushes, and flower beds to anchor and extend the look of the house, rather than leaving the grass growing right up to the walls.

“If you extend the landscaping, it will make the house feel more substantial,” he says.

And is he ever right!

Look up for more space

“I can’t give them more square footage, but I can make it feel like there’s more space by raising the roof,” says Jonathan.

Noting there’s space between the ceiling and the gabled roof, he cleverly removes the low ceiling, insulates the inside of the roof, and adds a higher ceiling.

“Sometimes all the space you need to add an impressive feature is already there,” he quips.

Knock down some walls

When he first tours the house, Drew steps into the laundry room/mud room and says, “I’m feeling claustrophobic, and if I’m feeling claustrophobic, buyers are going to feel claustrophobic.”

He suggests removing the wall between the laundry room and kitchen, because a small home doesn’t really need a separate laundry room. He knows Jonathan can create a kitchen cabinet that will hide a stackable washer and dryer, which is a more practical use of the space.

Carve out a dining area

Most small homes don’t have a formal dining room, but this home is so tiny there’s not even room for a dining table. Jonathan’s solution? Build a nice island with an apron sink, plenty of storage space, and a dining ledge. This kills three birds with one stone, and looks fantastic!

Get rid of dated wrought-iron posts

The ornate, black wrought-iron posts that were so popular toward the middle of the past century now just make a house seem dark, cramped, and dated. Jonathan removes the ones on the front porch and carport, replacing them with solid wood pillars that look far more elegant, yet stay true to the country vibe.

Beware of pressure washing

The house isn’t only small, it also looks a little rough around the edges. The reason: The previous owners had cleaned the house with a pressure washer, which left left spray marks on the siding. Apparently, pressure washing can damage surfaces, so watch out!

Let the pros deal with asbestos

As Jonathan and Alex remove three layers of dated vinyl flooring and play Guess That Decade, here’s what they find underneath: asbestos.

“Don’t touch that,” Jonathan cautions when it’s first uncovered. They both slowly back away, and call in the pros to find and remove asbestos throughout the house. It costs them $1,500, which is money well-spent to remove the health dangers of asbestos.

How’d the house hunt go?

Before the renovations, Drew had guessed the house wouldn’t sell for much more than $160,000. But with all the improvements, the house fetches $255,000!

Combined with Nana’s gift money, Alex and Sam have a $300,000 budget to buy a new home—and Drew finds them a gorgeous 2,500-square-foot turnkey home with three bedrooms and two baths. Bonus: It’s closer to where they both work and down the street from their friends.

But will Nana be pleased with the way they’ve spent her gift on both the old house and the new?

After she flies in to survey the results, it’s clear that the grandmother is pleased. Which is good, because Alex is very important to her.

“I gave him his first bottle,” she says.

And if Nana’s happy, everyone is happy.

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