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This Detroit couple bought a $6,500 house destined for the wrecking ball, then picked over old basketball courts, science labs, and churches to renovate it into a beauty. See inside.
By Alcynna Lloyd,
Kyle Dubay and Bo Shepherd own Woodward Throwbacks, a store that recycles building materials.
In 2019, they purchased a run-down home for $6,500 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
See how the couple used salvaged materials to renovate and furnish the home.
Kyle Dubay, 34, and his partner, Bo Shepherd, 32, make a living giving old treasures a new life. Together, the couple own and operate Woodward Throwbacks, a Detroit-based furniture and home goods store that designs and builds its pieces with reclaimed materials found in the Motor City.
The salvagers are always on the lookout for their next project. When they heard about an abandoned home with "great bones" in Detroit's North End, a predominately African American neighborhood of small businesses and churches about ten minutes from downtown, they jumped at the opportunity.
The three-story, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was available for sale through The Detroit Land Bank Authority, an agency with a mission to return run-down and vacant properties in the city to productive use. Each year, the DBLA auctions off thousands of publicly-owned properties through its platform, with bidding sometimes starting as low as $1,000.
In 2019, Dubay and Shepherd purchased the North End home from the DBLA for $6,500. Over the course of three years, the pair put their all and about $300,000 into refurbishing the home. While they did most of the work by themselves, they relied on family, friends, as well as several local businesses that provided them with materials for the renovation.
Last month, they sold the home for $410,000. See how the couple transformed the old decaying home into a luxurious property by using recycled materials, including old basketball court floorboards and science lab countertops. Do you have a similar story you'd like to share with Insider? Get in touch with reporter Alcynna Lloyd at email@example.com.
In 2019, Kyle Dubay and Bo Shepherd purchased the home for $6,500 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
The couple found out about the home through a client who had plans to buy the property.
"One of our clients that lived in the neighborhood wanted to buy it," Dubay told Insider. "He was going to pay us to deconstruct it because he thought it was such an eyesore."
However, upon seeing the home, Dubay and Shepherd fell in love. "We went to our client and asked if he would be opposed to us buying the home instead and fixing it up," Dubay added.
The client agreed and the couple purchased the home weeks later.
The home had suffered damage from a fire, leaving it in pretty bad shape. The roof of the home was rotting and needed to be completely replaced. As the home had been abandoned for many years, its yard had grown wild with vegetation.
"The backyard was a jungle," Dubay said. "We have a dog and she couldn't even run through the yard."
The home's interior was crumbling, too. Many walls, windows, and floors needed to either be repaired or replaced.
"It definitely was not an easy project," Dubay said. "We pretty much had to take it all the way down to the studs."
The fire had peeled away wallpaper in some of the home's rooms, leaving behind nothing but drywall and plaster. The couple discovered evidence of people who once inhabited the home, including mattresses, books, clothes, and shoes. To reduce costs, the couple did most of the renovation work themselves.
"We put a lot of time into the home," Dubay said. "If I charged a client for all that we updated, the house should have been sold for $600,000 or more."
For the work that was outside of their wheelhouse, the couple relied on Shepherd's father who is a professional contractor. When it came to decorating the home, the couple wanted it to look modern yet antiquated.
"We did not want a lot of ornamental stuff like a lot of old houses have," Dubay said. "We wanted to have a nice modern feel and let all of the old materials speak for themselves."
Dubay said that the kitchen, which was the home’s most expensive project, was his favorite room. The kitchen cabinets and refrigerator panels were built from oak salvaged from church pews around the city.
Dubay said that finding materials in the city is easy because local residents and businesses reach out when they have something interesting to share.
"We have been recycling materials for a while and have built a big network," Dubay said. I think people generally like what we do with the final product – they know we're going to save the materials and make it something special."
The kitchen's custom countertops were crafted from old science lab counters sourced from a nearby college.
"The local college went out of business so we took the old lab counters and custom cut them," Dubay said. "They're just really awesome."
The living room's mantel came from another Detroit home that the duo renovated. Dubay said that every piece of furniture in the home comes from Woodward Throwbacks' showroom or is recycled from another location in the city. The living room's wine cart was made from scrap wood from Woodward Throwbacks' construction shop.
"The cart is casted in bio resin and different pieces of wood that were placed into two layers," Dubay said. "We also built a custom metal frame."
The home has two bathrooms that have both been completely refurbished with new floors, sinks, and tubs. This bathroom's vanity was designed and built by Woodward Throwbacks and is made from salvaged parquet flooring. This staircase was donated to the couple by an Instagram follower.
"It was always our intention to find a spiral staircase for the house but we were striking out constantly when searching," Dubay said. "We made a post on Instagram about how we were struggling, and one of our followers had one that they didn't want anymore."
This dresser was constructed by Woodward Throwbacks from two separate pieces. Dubay said that renovating the home has reinforced his beliefs about recycling.
"Seeing the finished product and knowing that our philosophy on recycling can work on larger scales is nice," Dubay said. "We want to show people that you can use salvaged materials without a home looking rustic."
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