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Midwest is the Best

Midwest is the Best

Jeni Ruisch

Sarah Karakaian and her husband Nick went straight from Kent State to NYC without ever hitting the capital city. They bought an old home in Astoria, Queens, fixed her up, and rented out the mother-in-law suite in the basement on Airbnb, and the income from that paid their mortgage. Living for free in one of the most expensive cities in the world, they soon realized they made a great team. Such a great team, in fact, that they caught the eye of HGTV. After eight episodes of Beach Flip, they found their new calling: Making homes beautiful and functional. They left the hustle of NYC behind, and on a jaunt through town on their RV tour of the US, they stopped over in Columbus, finding a place to buy, sell, and call home. 614 caught wind of the new arrivals, and stopped by to hear Sarah tell their story, and welcome them to town.

Nick and I decided to join forces and started Nestrs, LLC. We did everything from design, construction, real estate staging, selling kitchen cabinets, and even started a blog. Life in NYC was getting increasingly difficult. In order to work in one apartment in one building you have to get board approval, you can only work from certain times, good luck to you if you have anything large to install, and if the super of the building decides he doesn’t like you, you might as well throw the towel in. We often had to pay someone to just sit in our car while we unloaded furniture and tools. I wanted better weather, and Nick just wanted some place where real estate was affordable and where people had driveways and parking lots. We sold our property in NYC, bought a pickup truck and a 37’ travel trailer, and explored.

I had never been to Cbus before. My very first stop in Columbus was the Stauf’s in German Village. Holy shit! The brick streets…the old homes….I was smitten! Nick and I couldn’t believe how cute everything was. We met up with Carrie Cliffel from the KW Classic Properties office and she treated us like she’d always known us. We were like…is everyone in the Midwest this nice?! We found a run-down fourplex in the Grandview area and fell in love! A lot of Grandview reminds us of Queens, where we lived in NYC. You can walk everywhere and there are a lot of locally owned businesses. Since then, we’ve also purchased another investment property in Schumacher Place.

It started to feel more and more like home. People are SO nice here. And so driven. Don’t get me wrong, ever since I was little I wanted to live in NYC. I miss it very much. But the food scene here is on point. You guys know how to make amazing cocktails. And the residential architecture is on point. Do you even know how hot your real estate market is here?! Investing here is smart.

We furnished [our Airbnb properties] with items we found at local consignment stores and even reached out to local artists and vendors to round out the design. Airbnbs are getting crazy competitive so, as a host, you have to be on your A-game. Guests LOVE when they can experience a bit of the local culture during their stay. We leave a Welcome Packet in our spaces that explain where the art and furnishings came from. We direct them to all of our favorite food spots. If they love the countertop in the kitchen we tell them where they can get it. We share our love of design with our guests and they love it.

Designing Airbnbs is very different from staging a home that’s for sale or designing for a particular client. You can have more fun and try new things. You also want pieces that will last a while and will stand the test of time. If you put quality fabrics and materials in your short-term rentals, you’ll spend less money over time, attract guests that appreciate a well designed space, and create something you’ll be proud of.

I always feel my designs have a touch of what I call Grandma-Chic to them. If it borderlines on something that Grandma would be into, but it’s still likely to grace the pages of home decor magazines, that’s where I like to live. Obviously when I have clients, I do a lot of listening. It’s less about our style and more about what makes them tick. But, I’m a big fan of mixing old and new. Wanna frame an antique doily in a chrome frame? That’s my jam. An elegant chandelier paired with a giant handmade leaning rustic wood mirror? Sounds like a good time to me.

Everyone wants a piece of Central Ohio right now. It used to be that if you were talented and grew up in the Midwest you’d either move to the West or East coast. Now? Talent is staying here. We’re excited to be here in Columbus. Houses here are much much different from old NYC apartments. It’s overwhelming how many people we’ve met here who have giant goals and their missions are all the same…to make Columbus awesome. We’re pumped to be a part of that.

For more, visit, or find them on IG at @nestrs


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