Good Lord, where do we even begin? We are Darin and Heather Maroni, and we’ve got four great kids that range in age from mid 20's to a mighty munchkin of 8 (yes we are stuck in perpetual teenagerdom). We look at buildings that are falling apart and no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole and think, "What if we...".
Our journey together began in 2008 in the classic, "A girl walks into a bar" story. Darin was an investor in a then brand new bar in downtown Austin, TX, and Heather and a friend walked in for what was supposed to be opening night to check out the place. We had our first date the next night, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We think the good life is pretty simple: friends and family, community, good food, travel, and a glass of wine on the porch. We feel privileged to be able to breathe life and love into houses that no one else wants. We walk in and see what a house wants to become, not the disaster it is at the moment. Each project is special, and imagining the new stories that will take place inside after it is made beautiful again is one of our favorite things. We haven't met a house that scared us off yet- that's how crazy we are.
Here is a story about us an our work that appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel in November of 2018:
Couple flips 100-year-old houses with unstable foundations and termite-infested walls
HANNA LUSTIG, SHOPPER NEWSPublished 6:00 a.m. ET Nov. 20, 2018
South Knox couple sees beauty in home structures doomed for demolition and bring them back to life Ruth M White, Shopper News
Some people see the crumbling, vacant houses in their neighborhood as eyesores, begging to be torn down and replaced. Heather and Darin Maroni of Maroni Design Lab, on the other hand? They’re probably peeking over the fence, imagining what that house could become with a little TLC.
“A lot of these houses need a tremendous amount of work,” said Darin Maroni. “But we actually get excited about those. Like, OK – what can we do? Let’s have some fun with this.”
And we’re not talking about simple fixer-uppers. The Maronis flip decaying, 100-year-old houses with unstable foundations and termite-infested walls – houses no one else would bother to salvage. Instead, Heather looks for ways to preserve the home’s original character and features while making the space more functional for modern living. Once she designs the floor plan, Darin manages the project, sometimes bringing in subcontractors to assist.
“We’re not the fast food of house flipping,” Heather explained. “We’re trying to buy something and infuse a lot of soul and beauty into it. Each of these houses becomes a person to us. This house, it wants to be something and it wants to be a specific someone’s home.”
The Maronis’ love affair with repairing old homes began in Austin, where they met and married in the backyard of the first house they renovated together as a couple. Two years ago, they decided to move their family to South Knoxville in search of mountains, old architecture, and a strong sense of community. And not long after, they found their first project. On the corner of Oak Grove Street, there is a blue 1920s American Craftsman that used to be the scariest house on the block. Today, it’s the jewel of the neighborhood. When the Maroni’s told their close friend, Kathy Oglebay, about the Oak Grove house, she knew she had to buy it.
“When we pulled up to the house, I couldn’t stop crying,” Ogelbay said. “I kept feeling like I’d come home.”
Rebuilding abandoned houses is a feel-good business, and a dirty one, too. Down the street from the Oak Grove house, there is a small, sea green cottage on Pearson Avenue that was left to rot for years until Heather and Darin tracked down the owner, who at that point was living somewhere in the Midwest. When the Maroni’s bought the Pearson cottage, it had no floor.
“Everyone in the neighborhood wanted it to go away,” Heather said. “But it was just covered up with ugliness and rotting. Now, it’s got lots of love.”
Some of their renovations have taken only a couple months, while others have taken longer. But the houses always sell within a week. Maroni Design Lab has a list of people interested in moving into one of their creations that includes millennials in search of an alternative to West Knoxville suburban tract houses, as well as couples in their 50s and 60s looking to downsize. The Maronis are working to finish two houses by the end of the month, with two other projects lined up.
“A lot of the reason we do this work is because we live here, too,” Darin said. “And we’ve got plenty more planned for the neighborhood.”