In Venice, along certain streets bordering the Abbott Kinney drag, the name “Kim Gordon” is dropped often. Not the Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame — although both are Angelenos. This Kim Gordon is an artist whose medium is house flipping.
Think: Tiny home purchased for around $1 million. Insert: $1 million in highly detailed, thoughtful additions and extensive renovations. What you get: A final product that literally stands out amongst the low-density bungalows of the beach town and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, open space landings-cum-office space and chill rooftop expanses.
These homes are residential babies, as they average a gestation period of 9 months before hitting the market and then selling, sometimes within hours — 16 hours to be exact for her latest sale of 657 Milwood Avenue for just under $5 million, now in escrow.
Gordon is seven houses deep in haute flipping with five more under construction. Her team includes her second husband, Mauricio, who she describes as a “conveniently super hot contractor.” It also includes her friend, superbroker Tami Pardee who she has worked with to aquire and sell her designer homes that don’t mince on renovation prices nor nuanced details.
We lounged on a Restoration Hardware sectional with Gordon at the nearly finished the recently purchased home to pick the brain of this particular Kim Gordon.
So, who bought 657 Milwood?
They are extremely famous music producers but I didn’t know that at the time when they came to see it. Grammy-winning songwriters who want to be in Venice. They travel a lot and they own a lot of different properties. They work with people like Rihanna, but not Rihanna.
You didn’t study design at the level many of your contemporaries may have. How did you get to where you are now without schooling?
Well, I’ve been designing for other people in the industry for forever. But a lot of it was just in me and dying to come out. I was previously married to (my first business partner) who thought this kind of work I wanted to do was inconceivable, that how I wanted to do things was too expensive and the dumbest thing in the world. When Tami (Pardee) saw my work it was really her who got me on my way.
What exactly do you do?
We buy houses and fix them up. So far we have fully completed six of them. We turn around things that are special really quickly.
How are you doing that?
We build very inexpensively. We work really tight and hard. I’m constantly thinking about time and how to maximize it. These homes are sitting around for three months nearly ready, so why can’t the parts that are finished be in a photo shoot and promote some fabulous young and independent designers?
What are the signatures of your work?
I create layered homes. We make huge, steel window wood frames that are very low profile, super skinny and elegant around floor to ceiling windows. I bring the outside indoors and vice versa. I grew up in New York City with all those tiny windows so I want to open it all up. We create with high ceilings and a lot of mattes, textures. I’m big into landings.
The landings in my homes are bigger than most. Usually someone will tell you in planning to make the rooms bigger, and not use all this space for a landing — to just tighten it all up. I’d rather use it as an open office space because of all the great light that comes in.
How do you own preferences impact what you build?
I’m a girl with big laundry so I need big pantries. I mean, that’s personally what I need and want so I create that, and you know what? Chicks buy. The women walk in and they know right away it’s right for them. I also like to put a little bar with an espresso maker and fridge [in the laundry room], so you don’t have to got back down or over to the kitchen to make yourself a drink while you’re folding laundry. I’m always thinking about the details, like where you are going to hang your bras!
How do you choose the art?
I love using artwork of artists I know. I also have a collector friend who lends me art. What I really want to do is start working with a gallery who will curate the space with artists’ work. I like throwing in a piece where you’re like, “What?”
I feel like that’s the way people actually live. Where you have a little of that crazy shit going on. You have something weird that your mom gave you and then something your ex-boyfriend left, and something from a flea market a million years ago that you can’t let go of. But when it all comes together, it invokes an unfussiness that is more attractive than a typically staged place.
Let’s talk numbers. Break down what it costs to flip a house.
We’re working now on 655 Milwood and it was $1.75 million to buy. The build on the house will be another $1 million. Then you have to consider that you’re holding it for a few months and there are taxes and all that stuff. Then you buy the stuff and hire all the subcontractors. All this costs easily $1 million dollars invested in 9 months. Then there’s the landscaping which is easily $20,000. I spend easily $30,000 on staging. But I also move furniture from one home to the next and reinvent looks in different ways. I’ll hopefully sell it for $5M like 657 Milwood. But getting $5M is hard. Most houses get $4M.
What do you feel is the story you’re telling with 657?
It’s very “Alice and Wonderland” in a way. It’s whimsical. I like that balance of fun with hey, “I’m a serious guy building a house.” I call this house “muscular minimalist.” There is strong structure and then there’s this bling in there.
What’s your home like?
It’s very comfy and cozy. It’s just 10 blocks from here. I have the plaster walls and the floor to ceiling windows. I’ve been in Venice for most (of my life). I got married and divorced in various parts of Venice.
Do people take all or most of the designs and furniture you put in?
Everyone always starts out thinking they won’t take things and then they miss stuff that was in there and they call me and ask for it. It’s like an installation. I design the house and then I add all this stuff so it’s a full on art piece.
What are some staging hacks for people to try on their own?
Definitely hit up flea markets, Chairish, and eBay. Also local yard sales and Craigslist. I’m addicted to Craigslist. I get up at 3 a.m. and just hunt. I would say 50 to 60 percent of what I put in here is from Craigslist or eBay. It’s those tchotkes, I find, that resonate. People love those little bits of charm, and those plants! The money I spend on plants is crazy. But that pulls the outdoors in.