Jon Kolbasa has lived in Los Angeles and in Austin and in Dallas. But few places, he says, compare to Lansing when it comes to making an impact in housing renovation and design.
Originally from Detroit, Kolbasa was attracted to the abundance of Craftsman-style homes, early 20th
-century two-stories, and the eclectic inventory of well-built, historic-quality homes in Greater Lansing. He saw, too, a city on the rebound, one that was looking to retain talent and encourage young professionals to settle in neighborhoods in or near the urban core.
Kolbasa sensed a key ingredient in that retention formula was affordable, livable, urban housing. So in 2013, he set out to found Hip Homes
, an East Lansing-based company focused on transforming neglected or aging homes into hipster havens that combine stylish upgrades with original character and charm.
"We see every house as a work of art," says Kolbasa. "We want to push the envelope on design and make something that will blow people away."
Kolbasa's canvases are foreclosed, FHA or HUD homes, estates, or other distressed, unoccupied properties. He finds and purchases homes in 10 key walkable areas, including East Lansing neighborhoods like Glencairn, Bailey and Brookfield; downtown Lansing, Old Town, and the West Side. Aided by a small staff and skilled contractors, Kolbasa renovates and sells up to 12 homes a year through area realtors. Buyers, he says, are as eclectic as the homes, ranging from first-time buyers to those on a second or third home, and span the generations from millennials to gen-Xers to baby boomers.
The average age of a property purchased through Hip Homes is 90 to 100 years old. Contractors and designers integrate new elements with original build features. Most all materials used are ecofriendly, including wood, linoleum, cork, tile, VOC paint and insulation. Recycling and repurposing materials is key to the process, with remaining useable materials donated to Habitat for Humanity.
"When we renovate a home, we renovate it as if we were going to buy and live in it," says Kolbasa. "We want to be proud, and we don't sell problems. We follow-up with buyers, too, after the home is sold."
Hip Homes recently ventured into design work for owner-occupied homes in addition to buying and fixing up homes. Kolbasa also plans to expand into the renovation or design of commercial properties. The company employs a crew of three, plus one office staff, and does the majority of work with independent contractors.
Source: Jon Kolbasa, Owner, Hip Homes
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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