Design and home construction experts liken a “Frankenhouse” to a science experiment gone wrong, very wrong.
Taking its name from Mary Shelley‘s novel, a Frankenhouse is a property that’s undergone a number of cosmetic or structural changes. In the process, the character of the home is sacrificed and lost.
“While a Frankenhouse is not typically the product of a mad scientist, it is usually the hodgepodge mix of many random renovations and add-ons such as bathrooms, extra bedrooms, and entire new sections of the home,” says Rachel DiSalvo, a real estate broker and design consultant in Jersey City, NJ.
A Frankenhouse is usually conceived at the hands of tinkering homeowners or developers doing a hasty renovation for a cheap flip.
These homes can be downright scary creations, which makes them a fascinating subject for an upcoming HGTV show, tentatively titled “Fix My Frankenhouse.” In each episode, the husband-wife team of Denese and Mike Butler will work to rectify haphazard homes and produce stylish, cohesive spaces for the homeowners.
Betsy Ayala, senior vice president of programming and development at HGTV, says Frankenhouses are abodes often found in older cities such as Boston, where an original home has been added to or renovated piecemeal throughout the years.
“The result is a stitched-together home that makes no sense, especially for how modern families live today,” says Ayala.
So let’s get up to speed on these monstrous homes. You might even spot one in the wild!
Classic elements of a ‘Frankenhouse’
Frankenhouses have undergone one or more renovations but still have unsightly things like uneven flooring, unusual rooflines, pipes extending through living rooms, and weirdly used spaces.
DiSalvo says common traits of a Frankenhouse are a pronounced lack of right angles, many oddly shaped rooms or partition walls, tiny showers or tubs, patchwork materials, poor finishing, mysterious gaps, and improperly spaced stairways.
Frankenhouses could also include the outside, with unkempt trees, grass, plants, and weeds in the yard, according to architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer, founders of Renovation Design Group. The messy landscape can create “a dark, scary feeling.”
How to identify a Frankenhouse
No, there won’t be any eerie music playing in the background to tip you off, but homebuyers can identify these beastly homes in a number of ways.
“Keep a close eye on the finishes, right angles in the corners, and where the ceilings and walls meet. One way I always know I’m in [a Frankenhouse] is the way the stairs feel. If they are crooked or poorly spaced, it’s usually a sign of what’s to come,” says DiSalvo.
Other telltale signs are mismatched siding or patchwork roofing materials, windows that are a mix of new and old, different door styles throughout the house, and, of course, the flooring.
“I can’t emphasize enough how many times I’ve seen four or five different types of flooring in one house,” says DiSalvo. “I mean four or more different types of wood floors or laminate as you move through the home. I once found what I called lasagna floors. This was a house with seven layers of different types of linoleum stuck on top of each other.”
How much does it cost to fix a Frankenhouse?
Since Frankenhouses typically have a number of odd additions, remedying a monstrous makeover can take some time and money.
“If it’s a full Frankenhouse, it can be quite expensive as you should strip it down to the studs to see what other patchwork was done to the electrical work, plumbing, and other main components of the home,” says DiSalvo. “I would estimate a solid $100,000 as a baseline project.”
“Fix My Frankenhouse” is in the works for the 2022–23 programming slate, and if you think you have a Frankenhouse on your hands, HGTV wants to hear from you. Reach out to https://www.highnoontv.com/casting or contact casting producer Daniel Henningsen at [email protected]