MAPLEWOOD MAKEOVER by Ellen Donker
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
The Home Revivalists restore local home for modern living
It’s nice when a good story gets noticed. That’s what happened when Anne, a former dance studio owner, read about Marisa and Scott Friedmann in New Jersey Monthly. She saw that the couple fixes up homes and thought they’d be perfect for helping with her two properties, a 1923 home on Hoffman Street and a dance studio on Maplewood Avenue in Maplewood.
She contacted the Friedmanns and explained that she wanted them to buy both properties and work their magic: give the home a new beginning for a family who would enjoy it just as she had in her younger days, and refresh the dance studio.
As soon as the couple toured the properties, they were sold. Marisa recalls, “I think that was a comforting thing for her when she met us that she knew we would take care of her.” Adds Scott, an experienced house flipper and negotiator, “For the first time ever, I didn’t bargain. I just wanted to do right by the buyer.” And that they did.
Although the Friedmanns have been flipping houses full-time for several years, Scott got his start 15 years ago. One of his friends was buying up properties in Charleston, and Scott paid close attention, trying it himself at the age of 25.
With one success under his belt, he began investing in one house flip every year, scouring the newspaper and online listings for opportunities, all while working a demanding job as a management consultant for Ernst & Young, and later for Accenture. He says, “My favorite part of the day was always going online, checking out the listings, trying to figure out what a good deal [was].”
Meanwhile, Marisa had a dynamic career in New York’s corporate fashion world but balancing family needs eventually became challenging. She recalls, “I had my second child and it just got to be too much for me – travel overseas and commuting.”
While Marisa was searching for a career alternative, a friend asked if she would decorate her apartment. “It was on a budget and it was very minimal,” Marisa says, “but they loved it.” And they told some friends and the friends told some friends. “The next thing you know, I was getting calls every month to do projects on the side.”
Scott eventually suggested that Marisa devote herself full-time to her design business. After all, he was investing in real estate on the side and her talents could come in handy. She launched Marisa Friedmann Design six years ago and later folded it into a partnership with Scott when he decided to pursue real estate investing full-time.
Two years ago they launched their venture, “The Home Revivalists,” which encompasses house flipping, commercial development, interior design, as well as full-scale client renovations. Marisa handles the design while Scott handles the project management.
Reflecting on how his corporate experience prepared him, he says, “[Towards] the end I was managing 100-person teams with $10 million budgets for projects for Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. What I’m doing now is very similar. I’m project managing home renovations and sticking to strict budgets and timelines. So it was actually a pretty easy transition for me.”
Once a house is ready to go on the market, the Friedmanns work with realtor Robert Northfield to list it. Marisa says, “We are a well-oiled machine with him. He handles everything with grace for us. And he has such a big team that it makes it easy.”
Marisa says they approach each home project with the mindset “What would we need in order to feel happy living in the space with our kids?”
Of course, neighbors notice when a home is undergoing a renovation. Marisa says, “When we first start a project, we hear, ‘Oh, no, who are these guys?’ But by the end they’re always extremely happy because they see how pretty the house turns out and how nice the yard is and how much value it adds to each home in the neighborhood.” The Friedmanns also point out that their work brings revenue to the town in the form of permit fees, property taxes and more.
When the couple started the Hoffman Street renovation they made sure to preserve its beautiful charm and special characteristics. But it wasn’t until they cleaned out the house – seven dumpsters worth – that they realized the house’s full potential. Cutting back the vegetation revealed a sizable yard where they rehabbed a patio. They also brightened up the house color from red to a fresh white and created a welcoming front porch.
Indoors, the Friedmanns replaced all of the windows (choosing black frames to add a modern feel to each room), painted every wall and restored the wood floors to their original beauty. Since all three bathrooms were aged, they updated each one and added new fixtures and designer lighting.
On the first floor, the Friedmanns widened doorways and added sliding doors in the kitchen. They didn’t want an open floor plan, just greater space to allow sunlight to flow from the dining room to the back of the kitchen. Marisa says, “I really like the balance between new and old. [People] like to have the open floor plan but yet you need wall space for everyday logistics.”
To improve the flow in the kitchen they updated the layout and added beautiful new cabinetry, quartz countertops, a marble backsplash, brushed gold hardware, custom lighting and new fixtures and appliances. All three second floor bedrooms were staged with attractive furnishings, one as a nursery so a prospective family could imagine the home growing with their needs. The third floor, which had been filled to the ceiling with boxes, was reimagined as an office.
The overall effect is a lovely, modern house that would suit most any family.
As for the dance studio, the Friedmanns were able to keep the building true to its past and are in the midst of updating it with a new, fresh aesthetic. Motion Arts Dance Studio is slated to move in this spring once the renovation is complete.
Ellen Donker enjoyed touring both properties and gaining insight on how the Friedmanns transform homes.