Real Estate

How this run-down Halifax home became a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse 

Seasoned home renovator Rebekah Higgs created her own all-pink palace, which she shares with her daughter and dog 
Isabel Slone
A split photo. On the left is the front of a pink house. On the right is a woman in blue jeans, a white top, and a blue cardigan standing in front of the front door.
Lithuanian Flag on cracked wall background.

As a kid growing up in the leafy south end of Halifax, Rebekah Higgs admired the rambling, majestic old homes dotting her neighbourhood, but never imagined owning one herself. She spent her twenties traveling the world as a musician—both as a singer-songwriter and with her electronic dance band Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees—and earning a starving artist income. 

A photo of a pink house, seen from the driveway

In 2014, a year after her daughter, Lennon, was born, she gave up her peripatetic career and moved back to her home province, taking a producer job at Halifax-based media company Egg Films. But as a lifelong lover of interior decor raised by seasoned home renovators, she soon decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps. By 2016, she began renovating houses as a career, even starring in a web-turned-TV series called DIY Mom.

A split photo. On the left is a bathroom counter with two sinks and two mirrors. On the right is a bed in a bedroom with marbled walls

Five years later, Higgs was living in a mid-century modern bungalow with a pink door in Rockingham, Nova Scotia, with 8-year-old Lennon. She came across a $850,000 real estate listing for a stunning 2,900-square-foot Craftsman home in the South End of Halifax. The home had beautiful wood-framed windows and high ceilings, with an elementary school within walking distance. It even had a pink door—a feature she has added to every single home she has ever renovated. But its market status kept switching from “pending” to “for sale.” “Once that happens a few times, you get the impression there’s something wrong with the house,” she says.

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When Higgs visited the home, she quickly learned why. The roof was rotten and leaky, the foundation was crumbling, and the plumbing was beginning to rust—the house would need an entirely new system. That was a problem, because Higgs planned to add several new bathrooms and an addition on the back of the house. She used the poor condition of the house to her advantage, finagling a deal to purchase the home for $767,000. She took possession in September of 2021.

A split photo. On the left is a room with two beds and pink curtains on the window. On the right is a bathroom underneath a stairwell.

When she bought the house, the exterior was painted a shabby shade of green. After considering the East Coast’s renown for eye-catching, colourful houses—and clocking the blue, red, yellow and green houses on the street—she realized she wanted to add to the charm. And the colour most emblematic of her personality? Pink. “Pink is a pretty bold choice, but because it’s just me and my daughter, I get to make these decisions,” she says. “So if I want to live in a pink house then I get to live in a pink house.”

A photo of a flight of stairs
(Photograph by Ming Gong)

From there, Higgs embarked on a series of major renovations to turn the charming but crumbling hovel into her ultimate Barbie Dreamhouse. When she first moved in, the basement was filled with exposed wires and pink insulation hanging from the ceiling, making it look like something out of the Saw franchise. Her first order of business was to transform it into a proper basement apartment. 

She found the six-foot ceilings claustrophobic, so she opted to hire a professional house lifter to jack up the property by two feet to create eight-foot ceilings. “I was going to dig down, but when you lift the house you get these big beautiful bright windows in the basement, which makes the space feel so much lighter and brighter,” she said. To make the structure as light as possible prior to lifting, she demolished several walls, which opened up the main floor, and removed the chimney and the front steps. Then, by building an addition onto the back of the house, Higgs was able to add a few more bedrooms and bathrooms to the space to increase the property value.

READ: The Move: How two Toronto entrepreneurs revamped a retro Nova Scotia general store

A photo of four pink high chairs next to a kitchen island
(Photograph by Ming Gong)

One of Higgs’s favourite features is the pink polished concrete floor in the basement apartment, which she rents on Airbnb. To save some money, Higgs purchased her own dump truck full of concrete, added concrete dye and hired a worker to funnel it into the basement. By bringing in the concrete herself and having Nova Scotia Concrete grind and polish the stone, she was able to bring the cost of the floor down from $10 per square foot to $4 per square foot.

READ: This revamped ’30s-era Montreal duplex has its own Escher-inspired staircase

Higgs moved into her pink palace in the spring of 2023, two years after taking possession. Inside, she kept the palette slightly more muted than the facade, but made sure to sprinkle a number of pink accents throughout the house, like a pink living room couch, pink bathroom tile and pink stools at the kitchen island. 

A photo of a living room with a fireplace and pink and white couches. The room is lit with natural light from many windows. In the foreground is a succulent plant.

Higgs kept most of the home’s historic flourishes, including the original wooden trim, windows, and staircase spindles and rails. She also left the brass radiators intact, albeit turning each one into a shelf with the assistance of white open-front radiator covers. “The house feels like it fits my personality. We’re a house full of girls. It’s me, my daughter and our dog Ziggy, who is also a girl,” Higgs says. The finished home is calm and cozy—Higgs loves to host parties, and she wanted the house to be a place where people could enjoy themselves. Every year, she hosts a DIY Mom Christmas Karaoke party—where she puts out a big spread of oysters and charcuterie in the kitchen—and a Galentine’s Day potluck dinner with 20 of her closest friends.

Higgs plans to stay in the home as long as possible. “I wanted to create a moment that people would remember, a recognizable space that adds a little bit of culture and character to the street. I think that’s what I achieved,” she says.