When Jon Payne’s parents passed away, he and his siblings fervently discussed selling their family home in Doraville. His parents had been the original owners, purchasing the house in 1966, and the family had lived there ever since. The Payne siblings all hoped to attract an investment buyer; none were keen to undertake the repairs and updates necessary to make the home competitive in the open marketplace. Jon’s wife, Becky, a talented interior designer, had always wanted the opportunity to do something to the house but never considered actually living in it herself. She admits, “I had redesigned the interior of the house a dozen different ways in my mind over the years. As [the] siblings began discussions of a quick sale, Jon and I began discussing the possibility of buying it!”
For almost 20 years, Jon commuted 28 miles each day to work. The Paynes lived in a rural area, which had been a great place to raise their children, but once the kids were gone, they longed to move into Atlanta. For several years, they’d actively sought out a modern condo to fulfill a lifelong desire of Becky’s. For Jon, a condo was a place they could enjoy for weekends in the city, while Becky thought of that condo as a permanent dwelling. They had not yet decided on one, so they began to more seriously consider purchasing the Payne family ranch house as a flip and then took the leap.
“We made an offer to Jon’s siblings, and they took it without hesitation. We did hire a contractor to do work that Jon didn’t feel qualified to do and to facilitate the process, but we spent almost every single day after work and on the weekends—for a solid year—working on the house and doing the renovation ourselves,” Becky explains. Surprisingly, Becky found herself more sentimental about existing elements and features of the house than Jon, yet they didn’t truly commit to living in the house until closer to completion.
“Initially, I told Jon that I had no intentions of making this house our final home, as it was by no means my modern dream house,” Becky says. She did concede that if they sold their existing residence quickly, she’d live in the project house until they finished renovations. They received an offer on their other home within 10 hours of putting it up for sale and moved into the ranch.
The move has been great for both of them; the house is in an excellent location for their jobs, and the size is perfect for their lifestyle at this stage. They’ve created a true chef’s kitchen with Thermador appliances and also added a complete professional office area. There’s now space for their three adult children and their families, as well as ample room for entertaining. By replacing windows with doors along the back side of the house and extending the patio, they gained an indoor/outdoor area (with an outdoor kitchen, pool, pool house and workshop in the near-future plans). Becky changed the exterior by painting the brick and replacing wrought iron posts with larger ones of rough-hewn cedar and adding a custom-built front door with complementary garage doors. Becky developed an interior design that gave her the modern-style house she’d always loved and allowed her to incorporate elements she’d desired in a condo. “I teasingly refer to it as ‘my condo with a yard,’” Becky laughs.
Becky and Jon agree that the experience has been one they both treasure. “What is really cool for Jon is that while renovating the house, he was able to relive some great family memories,” says Becky. They are still surrounded by original homeowners and a few other of Jon’s childhood friends who have also purchased their parents’ homes and returned there. As they renovated, the older generation of original homeowners watched carefully and gave them positive feedback.
They added no square footage to the existing house. Becky says, “We just created more usable space for family and for entertaining. The comment we receive the most when people see the renovation is how achievable this can be for anyone with an older ranch home.” Realtors regularly parade through the home, showcasing to prospective buyers the possibilities for modernizing a ranch home. While that attention is flattering, what matters most to the Paynes is their own satisfaction with the overall project. “We love our house,” Becky exclaims. “It’s nothing grand, it’s not the biggest — it’s quite small — it’s definitely not the most expensive, nor is it the best, but it is a home that has been kept in the family that we have made uniquely our own.”