How’s this for a quarantine TV show? True crime meets home renovation.
Sacramento, Calif., homeowners Tom Williams and Barbara Holmes enlist the help of interior designers Joelle Uzyel and Mikel Welch to make over their five-bedroom Victorian during the premiere episode of the new series “Murder House Flip.”
The homicide-to-home decor series debuts Monday, April 6, on the just-launched streaming service Quibi. The name stands for “quick bites,” and fittingly Quibi episodes are 10 minutes or less. To watch “Murder House Flip” and other Quibi shows, download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store and sign up for a subscription ($4.99 with ads or $7.99 without ads).
Three “Murder House Flip” episodes are currently available, with more on the way. In the first one, Williams and Holmes want to erase the gory past of their home, where landlord Dorthea Puente killed her elderly and mentally disabled tenants — burying their bodies in the yard — in order to cash their Social Security checks.
“It’s almost impossible to believe what happened here,” Williams says in the episode.
Knowledge of Puente’s murders didn’t deter the couple from buying the home in 2010.
“They purchased the home because it was greatly discounted in price,” Uzyel tells The Post. “But it was time for them to take ownership and give that home a second chance. And the first step in the design process was analyzing what happened there in terms of the murders.”
Puente gave her victims crème de menthe laced with poison, Williams and Holmes recall during the episode, and would keep dead bodies in what is now the couple’s bedroom for weeks before burying them. Newspapers dubbed her the “Death House Landlady” after seven bodies were found in her backyard in 1988. (A particularly terrifying discovery? One was just a torso.)
“It’s striking because there were so many bodies in such a small yard,” Holmes says in the episode.
The couple wanted to use the former burial ground as a play space for their grandchildren. So Uzyel and Welch spearheaded a complete makeover of their front and side yard complete with a new fence, playground for the kids and sitting area with a fire pit.
The murder makeover theme continues throughout the series, the brainchild of “CSI” producer Josh Berman.
Another couple — whose renovation appears on a later episode — lives in a house where a husband chopped up his wife. A third property featured has a living room where a man murdered a woman.
In most of the cases, Uzyel and Welch worked with local detectives, who explained how the horrific events unfolded, so they could determine where to focus their attention. Their redesigns span bathrooms, living rooms and basements, depending on where the gruesome crimes occurred.
Of course, this isn’t the type of work the designers are used to.
“Typically, I bring my portfolio and tape a measurer to my redesign consultations,” says Welch. “With these homes, we have to do things like use a solution so we can see blood residue on the floor [or] know there were body parts were in the freezer and a dead body in the bathtub. It’s just a different thought process going into the equation. We can’t just throw some pretty pillows on a couch and call it done.”
The grisly crimes also led to supernatural sensations.
“I normally don’t believe in ghosts and spirits,” says Uzyel. “But in one of our homes, when we walked into the room, it had a ton of static. Your shirt started moving, and your hair started puffing up — and the owners kept saying they felt a spirit there.”
Welch adds, “We were affected. There was an energy in each one of those houses, and you definitely feel it.”
Along with ripping out walls that could have still housed murder weapons and digging up dirt that might still contain body parts, the team also performed some spiritual work to rid the houses of bad vibes.
“We have a nice little toolbox that we use, where it’s a psychic or a medium to remove spirits,” said Uzyel. “We also did a lot of our own sage clearing.”
Ultimately, the design duo is trying to help homeowners get over the stigma of what happened in their properties.
“Not only did Mikel and I make the homes beautiful, but we also gave them ownership of it,” says Uzyel. “It now belongs to them, versus the history that it holds. It’s a new space, and we’re really proud of it.”
Here is the “Murder House Flip” trailer: