Do-It (Mostly) Yourself Design on U Street

by Shilpi Paul

Last year, Josh Miller, a commercial real estate broker, and his girlfriend, Mai Dolinh, bought a two-bedroom listing that had gone into foreclosure on the corner of 16th and U Street NW. The condo was in rough shape which, combined with its sale status, meant that the couple got it for the below-market rate of $360,000.

They closed 18 days after making an offer, moved in immediately and got to work painting, laying new floors, knocking down walls, renovating the kitchen and installing a fancy audio-visual system throughout the unit’s 850 square feet. They hired a contractor to help them with a few things, but for the most part, spent nights and weekends for the next six months renovating their new home.

Here are some before and after photos, interspersed with descriptions of what they accomplished:

Before, Living Room
After, Living Room

The first order of business for Miller and Dolinh was to paint much of the condo white, while they scoured the internet for deals on light fixtures and design elements. After painting, they laid new wood flooring on top of the old floors.

Before, Kitchen separated
After, Open floor plan

The biggest job was opening up the floor plan of the main living area to include the kitchen. The existing kitchen was closed in by a wall, with just a small window connecting it to the living and dining area. Miller and Dolinh knocked down the wall, built an island and rearranged the appliances to fit the new layout.

Before, Kitchen interior
After, Kitchen Interior

The style of the kitchen was dated, and Miller and Dolinh decided that the green cabinets had to go. They chose a black and white scheme to complement the rest of the house.

Before, Bedroom
After, Bedroom with Projector and Sound System

Miller’s favorite part of the renovation was installing a condo-wide audio-visual system, weaving wires through the old walls to install a sound system throughout the house. The master bedroom is now set up with a projector and wired speakers in the ceiling; the system connects to the main TV through an iPhone.

Miller, who gives most of the renovation credit to Mai, told UrbanTurf that the second phase of the renovation will, among other things, include adding a second bathroom, renovating the existing bathroom, and reconfiguring the laundry room.

Readers, any guesses as to the total renovation costs? Josh will be back to give us the answer.

See other articles related to: renovation, dclofts

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/renovated_do-it-yourself_design_on_u_street/5078


  1. BG said at 2:18 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    Nice work! I would say $30,000.

  1. Dave said at 2:54 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    Love the projector. I would say 35K.

  1. Tom A. said at 3:15 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    Nice, but they lost some of the charm.  I would have restored the wood floors, and stayed away from some of the typical kitchen remodel choices.  You can walk into any condo conversion and see those cabinets and back splash.  LOVE the hanging light fixture!  I’ll guess 28,000.

  1. jag said at 3:47 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:


  1. Trisha said at 4:54 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    i’m ok with the new floors and cabinets, but i still think it’s a sin to paint exposed brick.

  1. SM said at 5:24 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    very nice, we’re looking to do much the same—care to recommend the contractor you used?

  1. Mai said at 6:11 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:

    Tom- Trust me, our first priority was to save the floors but every floor expert we spoke with told us it was a no-go. If you have gaps between the planks of your original floors( which ours did) it makes it impossible to refinish. So we replaced with a darker eco-friendly bamboo flooring-no regrets!

    Trisha- we drove ourselves crazy going back and forth with the painted brick. We felt the same way you did but it just didn’t flow with the place. In the end we just held our breaths and did it but it looks amazing and still has all it’s character!

  1. ben said at 6:18 pm on Tuesday February 7, 2012:


  1. duane said at 10:40 am on Wednesday February 8, 2012:


  1. Shiri said at 11:04 am on Wednesday February 8, 2012:

    I love the renovations, very tasteful and clean. My guess would be $18K spent so far.

  1. Josh said at 1:13 pm on Wednesday February 8, 2012:

    Hi all, thanks for the comments.  Mai and I poured our heart and soul into this reno for 6 months while living in the unit.. which made it even more of an adventure! 

    With regard to the renovation cost, keep in mind that the photos do paint a nice picture of the look and feel, but they omit some details—i.e. many of the features had to be custom designed (fireplace, staircase which is not shown, etc.).  Additionaly, some features not mentioned are the top of the line quartz countertops, wifi controlled window treatments, electronics and thermostat, and custom plexiglass staircase newels. 

    The total renovation cost for this phase, which includes all FF&E and hard/soft costs, was approx $50-75K. That figure includes our sweat equity!

  1. jag said at 3:16 pm on Wednesday February 8, 2012:

    I win! I win! Does that mean you’ll come by and make my place look as nice? raspberry

  1. jag said at 3:19 pm on Wednesday February 8, 2012:

    Well that emoticon looks pretty weird - envision it with more of a smile, haha.

  1. Josh said at 12:20 pm on Thursday February 9, 2012:

    Nice work Jag!  Funny you should mention it, we enjoyed doing the renovation so much that we decided to work ‘design consulting’ in as a provided service at my new real estate company.. more details to follow. 

    Two people who deserve to be mentioned are Megan Markey with TTR Sotheby’s and Jennifer Landgraf with First Financial Services…they were instrumental in the closing of this transaction.  Thanks again!!

Comments are closed.

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