Allison and Fernan Rodriguez thought they were ready to build a house from scratch.
The couple had long lived in the Kessler Park neighborhood of Dallas and wanted to stay close. They had already moved once when they had children—Luca, now 7, and Coco, 4—but soon needed more space. They, too, longed for a home that better suited their tastes.
“We wanted to build new construction and we wanted a Spanish-style temporary home,” says Ms. Rodriguez, 38, who helps manage an orthodontic practice started by her husband.
The couple put their house on the market in 2018, immediately found a buyer and began planning to build a new home. But then they saw a listing for an old house: a former convent owned by the Catholic Church.
It wasn’t the Spanish-style house they dreamed of, and it was far from perfect. The 1926 red brick building was listed “as is,” for $599,000. With the exception of an altar area, it looked like it hadn’t changed since the 1960s, and new systems were needed, including plumbing, wiring, and windows. It was also infested with fleas.
Still, they liked the overall vibe of the place. “We saw the potential of this neglected home,” says Dr. Rodriguez, 45.
“Her bones are so beautiful,” said Mrs. Rodriguez. “We just really wanted to bring her back to her glory days.”
They weren’t the only ones who thought so. The property inspired a bidding war, and the pair ended up paying $650,000 when they closed in October. Then they found a rental home to live a few blocks away and turned to Maestri Studio, an architectural and interior design firm, to oversee the transformation of the building.
“We wanted to respect the bones as much as possible, but give it our personality,” said Ms. Rodriguez. The plan, added Dr. Rodriguez, was to faithfully restore the exterior, but also add some bold elements to the interior to give the house a modern sense of style.
When their architect, Eddie Maestri, toured the house, “one of the things that struck me was that it had really beautiful plaster picture frames and interesting historical details,” he said. “We really wanted to build on those things.”
At first he hoped to keep them. But many walls had to be broken down and the plaster removed. “We had these beautiful details all over the house that were gone,” he said. “So we remade them.”
At the same time, Mr. Maestri wanted to pump some new energy into the project, so he teamed up with Katie Paulsen, an interior designer in his studio, to remix the moldings, which now zigzag and saw in unexpected ways, adding arched doorways and oversized moldings. above built-in wardrobes for more architectural detail.
He also made strategic changes to the floor plan to better serve a busy 21st century family. He extended the kitchen into a former porch to support its role as the heart of the house and created better access to a breakfast area. The space above the porte cochère was enlarged to accommodate a full bathroom and a generous closet for the primary suite. He turned the attic into a playroom and designed a detached garage.
Finally, Mr. Maestri and Mrs. Paulsen used Art Deco details, a nod to the age of the building, introducing repeated geometric shapes and lots of copper.
The kitchen is the family’s favorite room. “We wanted to go bold,” said Dr. Rodriguez. The designers provided black and white concrete floor tiles in an asymmetrical pattern, black-and-brass cabinetry and doors that swing open to reveal a coral-colored walk-in closet. The adjoining breakfast room has walls covered with green grass cloth, reminiscent of the free-form malachite.
But the new powder room, which Mr. Maestri had tucked under the stairs, is perhaps the boldest of all, with Christian Lacroix wallpaper resembling playing card collages, emerald-green star-crossed floor tiles, and a large copper sink atop a black one. marble vanity.
By the time they finished reworking the 3,950-square-foot home, “we pretty much got a new build,” said Dr. Rodriguez, in the shell of an ancient house. “Everything except the exterior walls is new.”
Including landscaping and pool, the project cost approximately $1.2 million, and the family moved into their new home in July 2020.
“We love it,” said Dr. Rodriguez, but now that the project is complete, they miss the thrill of renovating.
“We enjoyed the process,” he says. “It wasn’t one of those things, like, ‘Oh, what a nightmare.'”
That’s why the couple is now working with Maestri Studio on a new office for their orthodontic practice, and they don’t rule out renovating again if they encounter another dusty treasure.
“We are ready for another project,” said Dr. Rodriguez.
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