The Fountain Square neighborhood’s namesake flows industriously at the intersection of Prospect and Shelby streets and Virginia Avenue in Indianapolis. Surrounded by rough-cut limestone slabs, the Baroque fountain (turquoise, with cast-metal swans) looks like something you’d find in the nearby vintage shops that prop open their doors when the weather turns mild.
It’s the perfect icon for the urban neighborhoods where Karen Laine and daughter Mina Starsiak Hawk live and work. The home-rehabbing duo star in HGTV’s Good Bones (season 3 started April 3), and their notoriety is attracting visitors to the area made famous on the show. Spend a weekend getting your fangirl fix by visiting the pair’s favorite hot spots and tracking down homes they’ve remade in and around Fountain Square. You’ve got a decent shot at running into them in their work jackets and muddy boots at places like Milktooth, an auto repair garage-turned-diner.
Mother-daughter team Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk have made a business (and a hit TV show) out of restoring neglected homes. Photo courtesy of Two Chicks and A Hammer.
“It’s a gritty, funky, anything-goes neighborhood where a lot of artists live,” Karen says between hellos with friends and fans on the diner’s patio, buzzing at 11 a.m. on a Friday.
The women learned to work on houses by reading, watching YouTube and experimenting after Mina graduated from college and Karen cosigned the loan on her daughter’s first house. From there, they launched Two Chicks and a Hammer, using their free time to fix up homes in the Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Bates-Hendricks neighborhoods while keeping their day jobs—Karen, an attorney, and Mina, a restaurant server.
An HGTV talent scout discovered their videos and warmed to their close, dynamic relationship and vintage-contemporary design style. Good Bones debuted in 2016, drawing 14 million viewers in its first season.
Karen’s free spirit and Mina’s drive add up to TV and business success when they buy the “worst” house on the block and maintain its basic structure—its good bones—while updating the rest before selling it. To them, it’s “rescuing,” not flipping.
Whatever you call it, their workmanship has been a boon to the area, says Travis Barnes, owner of Hotel Tango, an artisan distillery in nearby Fletcher Place.
“The exposure from Good Bones has brought a renewed interest to fixing up old homes in downtown Indianapolis, and these new neighbors have become our new customers,” Travis says.
The show has brought visitors to the heart of Fountain Square especially. “This used to be a neighborhood that was tucked away from the core of the city,” says Morgan Snyder of the city’s tourism department, “but now visitors are pouring in just to see what the Good Bones crew continuously raves about.”
The 8-mile-long Indianapolis Cultural Trail connects Fountain Square to several other neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of VisitIndy.com
Tips for Touring
Visit the neighborhoods south of downtown Indy where Good Bones stars Karen and Mina have left their creative stamp.
Do a DIY tour. You can find the pair’s handiwork by visiting Good Bones at hgtv.com, where the Photo tab identifies some projects by street name. Your map app will get you the rest of the way.
Plans for Fans
Check out some of Karen and Mina’s favorite spots in Indy, and you might find them digging through vintage doorknobs or slurping ramen at the next table. If you do, congratulate Mina—she’s expecting her first child this summer.
Little Doc’s Architectural Salvage Stained-glass windows, rustic doors, hardware—even the kitchen sink.
Midland Arts and Antiques Market Karen and Mina like its supply of retro light fixtures.
Salvage and Company In Carmel, find funky furniture at bargain prices. “It’s like Black Friday every day,” Karen says.
Chatham Home Original solid-wood furniture made by hand, upholstered pieces and exotic finds from around the world.
Imagine being in your own episode of Good Bones by staying in one of the two Airbnb home rentals that Karen and Mina list in Indianapolis.
“The Farm” is an eclectic one-bedroom space on the second floor of Karen’s Fountain Square home. It’s adorned with old clocks, a turtle shell, a mounted deer head and a comfy bed.
The two-bedroom “House that Two Chicks Built” is a pet-friendly second-floor apartment above their office in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood. It sleeps eight and has cozy angled ceilings, soft blankets (“like chinchillas,” Karen says), and a chalkboard above the dog bowls welcoming four-legged guests by name.
If they’re booked, scroll through airbnb.com, which sometimes lists other private homes Karen and Mina transformed on the show.
Bluebeard The farm-to-table menu changes daily.
Long’s Bakery A vintage spot with doughnuts so good, Mina served them at her wedding.
Milktooth Inventive breakfast and lunch.
Rook Karen and Mina’s go-to for Asian steamed buns and ramen.
Hotel Tango Veteran Travis Barnes names drinks after the military phonetic alphabet at this friendly craft distillery.
La Margarita Mina and her hubby like the patio for fish tacos after work.
Wildwood Market Fresh local foods and a big, beautiful sandwich of the day.
Fountain Square Brewing Company Local bands, local brews.
New Day Craft Ciders, craft mead and cocktails. Karen and Mina like the weekly yoga-and-tasting special.