Matrix celebrity stylist George Papanikolas knew exactly what kind of house he wanted to live in, and it definitely had a spiral staircase. Let’s just say that the accidental real estate mogul should have his own show on HGTV.
Home ownership had always been a dream for George Papanikolas, and in 2009 he cobbled together enough money for a down payment on a 1930s Spanish duplex near The Grove in Los Angeles. “I had just enough money left over to refinish the hardwood floors,” he says. Still, he was able to save up a bit of a nest egg since the rent his tenants paid nearly covered his mortgage. When he finally saved up a little extra cash, he was faced with a dilemma: redo the outdated kitchen and bathroom or buy some fabulous furniture. “I wanted to have parties,” says Papanikolas, who decided that the kitchen and bath with its yellow and sea foam-green tile had a certain retro charm. “Two of my best friends are interior designers, who have a store in New York. We decorated the place to death, mixing vintage 1930s pieces with glam 1970s pieces and installing vintage Italian lighting.” During the process, he began posting photos on Facebook and socking away enough cash to finance a complete bath and kitchen reno. Meanwhile, one of his clients who saw those photos on Facebook told him that while she had no idea if he wanted to sell, she had a client who wanted to make an offer on his house. In the end, it was all that fabulous furniture that sealed the deal. “It was the most expensive sale on the block,” he says. Flush with cash, Papanikolas decided that it was time to buy that big, fancy house of his dreams. The one with the elaborate spiral staircase. “I could imagine coming down that staircase like in an old movie,” says Papanikolas, who ultimately took his father’s advice—“My dad’s a real estate guy,” he says—and bought a smaller house in his price range. This time he invested in a renovation, hoping to sell the house for a profit so he could move on up to the 3,000-square-foot house of his dreams. By the time he put the house up for sale, the market had changed and he realized a huge windfall. “Because I made so much money, my broker started showing me houses that were 5,000 or 7,000 square feet. Look, when you see those big houses, a 3,000-square-foot house looks tight. You start looking for the maid’s quarters.” So Papanikolas ended up buying a 5,000-square-foot house in the Hollywood Hills that had been built in the 1970s and had panoramic views of the city. “You could tell this house was a showplace in its day, but it had never been remodeled,” says Papanikolas, who gutted the place and started from scratch. Gone is the yellow shag carpet, the mirrored walls, the carpet in the bathroom, the oil painting of a naked girl over the bed. The spiral staircase—yes, that’s how he knew this house was the one—is made of glass now. “The whole place is white,” says Papanikolas, who bought another house—bigger property, better views—on the street below last summer. “I got this off-market deal on it and told my broker to list it for half a million more just to see what would happen,” he says. To his surprise, a developer showed up as if my magic and made a generous offer. “Now I don’t know if I should buy another property or a lottery ticket.”