Local home improvement enthusiast Philip

Philip or Flop

In February 2020, Stuff by Cameron Walker

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Get to know the local engineer and home improvement enthusiast turned Instagram star.

“Scientist by day, DIY junkie by night.” 

That’s the bio for Philip, the engineer turned home improvement enthusiast behind the Instagram page Philip or Flop, currently one of the most followed social media influencers in the Triangle. 

Philip, who goes by his first name only online, initially launched @philip_or_flop as a way to share his weekend project updates with friends and family. But in less than two years, Philip’s DIY tutorials, light and airy aesthetic and helpful, friendly way of engaging his fellow DIY-ers has gained him more than 57,000 followers. 

“I used to watch HGTV in the evenings,” Philip says. “Now, I spend time planning my project for the coming weekend and how I will present it in my Instagram stories. I currently get over 20,000 followers viewing my stories, so I do my best to teach them something, get them invested in the process and excited about the outcome.” 

Philip documents his adventures as he renovates and customizes his perfectly fine (if slightly uninspired), brand new, builder grade home in a planned community, where he lives with his wife, Jenni, and their two daughters. Together—she is the interior designer of the pair—they are transforming what is almost a blank slate into their dream of a coastal, modern farmhouse. 

So why not remodel an old home or build their own design from the ground up? Older homes, Philip explains, tend to have smaller rooms, less open layouts and outdated plumbing and electrical systems; building a new home from scratch, on the other hand, can be more expensive. 

Instead, Philip and his wife chose a home with a floor plan that worked for their family in a neighborhood they liked. 

“My following quickly started growing because there are so many people out there that are not in teardown renos, but rather just homes built on the cheap that didn’t really come with any character from the builder,” he says.

Philip began remaking the house the very day he and Jenni closed on the property, ripping out drywall for the transom windows he later installed throughout the home. He upgraded the fireplace with a reclaimed wood mantle, hand-chosen recycled bricks and built-ins. He added character to ceilings with beams and tongue-and-groove paneling. He upgraded the kitchen with plenty of storage, new backsplash tile, poured concrete countertops and a custom island with Carrara marble and a 4-foot-long sink. And he poured his own epoxy garage floors, installed smart lighting and built a charming playhouse for his girls. 

Still, he says, he’s just getting started. 

Philip grew up around renovations and learned to do it himself from his father, who he calls “the best DIYer I’ve ever known.” He also holds a doctorate in engineering and has authored more than 50 academic papers. The traits that make him a good engineer—critical thinking, math and problem-solving skills, spatial intelligence and creativity—are the same ones that make him a successful DIYer, Philip says. 

But sometimes, even he runs into trouble during a project. This is where the “flop” comes in.

“I do show the ups and downs of renovations,” Philip says. “Some DIY influencers hide some of the failures they’ve had, while I try to show that even experienced DIYers make mistakes and that it is just a part of learning.” 

Some projects that didn’t initially go his way include overenthusiastic use of a new paint sprayer to puncturing a hole in an HVAC refrigerant line to miscalculating the amount of roofing he would need for his daughters’ playhouse. But like the best DIYers, Philip tackles these setbacks with good-natured humor and tries again. 

“I always like learning new skills and showing my followers that even though I have a knack for DIY, I am always learning, just like they are,” he says. “I am not an expert in a lot of things, but with a little research I feel like I can take on any project.”

Philip’s latest project is the launch of his new blog, PhilipOrFlop.com, where followers can get more details about their favorite projects, and visitors can learn how to complete DIY projects in their own homes. Philip says he has plans for at least three more years of projects for his current home, and after that, he may flip an investment property or work on a vacation home. 

“My wife is very supportive of it all,” he says. “She likes that I am able to pursue a hobby that allows me to make an impact on people’s lives while fixing up our home. Our kids are a little young to understand how social media works—and I hope to keep it that way for a while—but they are both interested in what I am building.” 

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