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With their impressive talent for restoring and flipping historic homes—and documenting their process on social media—it’s little wonder Adam and Jessica Miller have amassed quite a following. The couple had previously rehabbed and lived in three historic homes, but their viral success on TikTok reached a fever pitch when they started filming their latest project: renovating a 115-year-old home in Concord, NC.
So what makes their flip stand out from the hundreds of others posted on social media, enough for the Millers to have amassed millions of followers on their TikTok channel, Old House Adam? It turns out, the key ingredient is that it’s a labor of love. The 5,500-square-foot Early American Colonial just so happens to be where Jessica grew up.
The couple were eager to preserve the home for their four sons and future generations, but restoring a property built in 1906 is no easy feat.
“When Adam and I decided to purchase my family home from my parents, the main concern was to keep all the original woodwork on the outside intact,” says Jessica. “This was very important when it came to our two-story Greek Revival columns.”
The house also had significant water damage, and everything that rotted had to be replaced.
“We had a local woodworker turn new bases based on the template of the old columns that couldn’t be saved,” Jessica says.
The outside of the house took nine months to complete, at which point the Millers focused their attention on updating the kitchen. With a few power tools and plan in place, the couple fully transformed the space into a masterpiece.
How did they manage to retain the essence of the home while breathing new life into a run-down kitchen? Here’s a glimpse into their design process, along with a few tips if you plan on renovating your own aging kitchen.
1. Think functional
It’s easy to go overboard on renovations, but when it comes to the kitchen (one of the most used areas of the house), function has to be your first priority.
“Be very aware of what you need out of the kitchen in terms of function. Let it work for your family and lifestyle,” says Jessica.
They went with two different countertops in the space, quartz and soapstone, to make it feel “like it was all found in the house and opened up to reveal a grand kitchen space,” she says.
Quartz is a nonporous engineered stone, so it’s an obvious choice for many families who are prone to spills. No matter how many times it’s spilled on, it doesn’t stain or harbor bacteria. Plus, it’s tough to chip. And soapstone can handle a hot pan without a potholder, and it ages well.
Watch: Kitchen Upgrades to Make Before Selling Your Home
2. Don’t blindly follow trends
Since the home is unique, the couple chose to buck trends and made design choices that complemented and optimized the beauty of the house.
“Once we leaned into this concept, it opened up a whole new world free of restraints,” says Jessica. “We were inspired by Old-World European functionality mixed in with the vibe and history of the home.”
Of course, if you’re set on including a certain trend in your kitchen design—like a large island or natural wood finishes—go for it. But find a way to mix it in that will stay true to the look and feel of the house.
For example, the Millers’ kitchen is illuminated by a chandelier that’s farmhouse and traditional in style, but it also boasts clean, minimalist lines. Overall, the kitchen reflects the couple’s personal style with light, airy white cabinets balanced by bold features, like a deep navy marble backsplash.
3. Try working with what you have
An old house has its quirks, which is what makes it extra special, so don’t be in a hurry to break down walls and rip everything apart.
“Don’t assume that you need to start down to the studs,” says Jessica. “Most of the time you can use the existing layout and cabinets.”
Luckily, Jessica’s parents had renovated the kitchen 11 years ago, so the Millers didn’t feel the need to tear out the cabinets.
“We also kept the range hood but adjusted the color from cream to a warm white to change with the overall vibe. The kitchen layout was solid, so we didn’t have to adjust anything there,” says Jessica.
4. Plan for financial setbacks
Rehabbing an older house can mean unexpected surprises and extra work—and that can cost big bucks. So it’s a good idea to set some extra money aside.
For example, replacing small sections of piping can cost from $357 to $1,869 with an average of $1,099, while repiping the whole house or installing new plumbing will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 or higher, according to HomeAdvisor.
The Millers certainly experienced their own setbacks.
“We ran into more water damage in the island than we expected based on a small leak from the sink. This led to a complete island rebuild and new plumbing from the sink into the house,” says Jessica.
But they had the foresight to set up a contingency fund and work with the right subcontractor.
“Since we worked with a local plumber, we only had to increase our plumbing budget by a couple hundred dollars,” says Jessica. “I would say keep a solid 10% set aside for any unforeseeable expenses.”
The Millers used rich, vintage-inspired metals in the kitchen to capture the traditional aesthetic of the home. And the crown jewel of the room is the Big Chill eight-burner stove in black with warm brushed-brass accents.
“Mixing in metals like antique brass is a way to take a risk and in turn feels very high-end,” says Jessica. “It gives character and feels as if you’d been saving each piece that you’ve put into the design for just the right project. That gives the kitchen a collected feeling that adds warmth and history to the home.”