3 Million-Dollar Renovations to Rival Your Money Pit

Mary Butler

When you're always fixing up your old house, sometimes it's easy to feel envious of friends who own newer homes. To them, home improvement means repainting a room or replacing worn-out carpet--inexpensive quick fixes when compared to your major face lift or restoration.

Thankfully, every time you visit the salvage yard, you know you're not the only person who spends his or her Saturdays combing through other people's cast offs looking for just the right crystal door knob or brass drawer pull.

Renovating a home, no matter how historic it is, is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. But when you add in factors like past celebrity owners, a famous architect, or a waterfront location, the price tag immediately skyrockets, even if the property is in less than stellar condition.

So next time you curse yourself for fixing up old houses for "fun," consider these million-dollar fixer-uppers recently on the market and smile:


The Beverly Hills home of silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr., the original six-room hunting lodge on 14 acres was purchased in 1919 for $35,000. Pickfair was remodeled into a five-bedroom, three-story home that mixed English Tudor and Swiss-chalet style. It was later razed and replaced with a Venetian-style palazzo by actress and singer Pia Zadora, who bought it with her industrialist ex-husband for $7 million in 1988. Sold to Korean-born businessman Corry Hong for $17.6 million, Pickfair--which despite its transformations retains its original wrought-iron exterior gates, movie theater, and swimming pool--went on the market again in 2008 for $60 million and was considered a fixer-upper, according to Los Angeles Daily News.

Log Cabin?

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cable TV show host Thom Filicia purchased a 1917 log home for $965,000 on Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York in late 2008; his publicist told the Syracuse, N.Y. Post-Standard that Filicia, 39, plans to spend a full year remodeling the 2,415 square-foot cabin. But at least he got a good deal. The home was assessed for $1,032,100 and has a full market value of $1,172,841.

The Dorothy Turkel House

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located in Detroit, this house is currently undergoing a $1.2 million renovation. Built in 1955, the 4,300 square-foot, two-story cement-block Usonian-style house was abandoned and sat empty for at least two winters before Blossoms flower boutique owners Norm Silk and Dale Morgan stepped in to save it. Its estimated to be worth just over $1 million.

Feel better now?

Pam Lundborg • Celebrity designer buys $965K Skaneateles Lake 'fixer-upper' • Dec 04, 2008 • http://www.syracuse.com/http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2008/12/celebrity_designer_buys_965k_s.html • The Post Standard,
Tom Hendrickson • Frank Lloyd Wright's Turkel House • May 10, 2007 • http://www.metromodemedia.comhttp://www.metromodemedia.com/videos/Turkel0018.aspx,
Tony Castro • Pickfair: the $60 million fixer-upper • Sep 22, 2008 • http://tonycastro.comhttp://tonycastro.com/PickFair.htm • LA Daily News

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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