A former convent infested with fleas: how can you resist?

Allison and Fernan Rodriguez thought they were ready to build a house from scratch. The couple had long resided in the Kessler Park nei...


Allison and Fernan Rodriguez thought they were ready to build a house from scratch.

The couple had long resided in the Kessler Park neighborhood of Dallas and wanted to stay in the area. They had already moved once when they started having children – Luca, now 7, and Coco, 4 – but soon needed even more space. They also longed for a home that better reflected their taste.

“We wanted to build a new build and we wanted a Spanish-style halfway house,” said Ms. Rodriguez, 38, who helps run an orthodontic practice established by her husband.

The couple put their home on the market in 2018, immediately found a buyer, and began planning to build a new home. But then they noticed a listing for an old house: a former convent belonging to 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, it looked like it hadn’t been altered since the 1960s and new systems were needed, including plumbing, wiring, and windows. He was also infested with fleas.

Still, they liked the overall feel of the place. “We saw the potential of this neglected house,” said Dr Rodriguez, 45.

“Her bones are so beautiful,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “We really wanted to take her back to her glory days.”

They weren’t the only ones feeling that way. The property inspired a bidding war, and the couple ultimately paid $ 650,000 when it closed in October. Then they found a rental to live a few blocks away and turned to Maestri Studio, an architecture and interior design firm, to oversee the transformation of the building.

“We wanted to respect the bones as much as we could, but give it our personality,” Ms. Rodriguez said. The plan, Dr Rodriguez added, was to faithfully restore the exterior but add bold elements to the interior to give the house a modern style.

When their architect, Eddie Maestri, visited the house, “one of the things that struck me was that it had very beautiful plaster moldings and interesting period details,” he said. he declares. “We really wanted to build on these things.”

At first he hoped to preserve them. But many walls had to be opened and the plaster had to be torn off. “We had these beautiful details all over the house that were gone,” he said. “So we recreated them. “

At the same time, Mr Maestri wanted to inject new energy into the project, so he worked with Katie Paulsen, an interior designer in his studio, to remix the moldings, which now zigzag in unexpected ways, and he added Oversized door arches and serrated moldings above built-in cabinets for architectural detail.

He also made strategic floor plan changes to better serve a busy 21st century family, expanding the kitchen into an old porch to support its role as the heart of the home and creating better access to a small room. -breakfast. The space above the porte cochere has been extended to accommodate a full bathroom and a generous closet for the master suite. He transformed the attic into a playroom and designed a detached garage.

Finally, Mr Maestri and Ms Paulsen riffed on the Art Deco details, nodding to the age of the building, introducing repeating geometric shapes and lots of brass.

The kitchen is the family’s favorite room. “We wanted to be bold,” said Dr Rodriguez. The designers delivered black and white concrete floor tiles in an asymmetrical pattern, black and brass cabinetry, and doors that open to reveal a coral-colored pantry. The connected breakfast room has walls lined with green grass, evoking the freeforms of malachite.

But the new powder room, which Mr. Maestri hid under the stairs, is perhaps the most daring of all the spaces, with Christian Lacroix wallpaper resembling collages of playing cards, floor tiles. star and cross shaped in emerald color and a large brass sink atop a black marble vanity.

By the time they’ve finished reworking the 3,950 square foot home, “we’ve got pretty much new construction,” said Dr. Rodriguez, in the shell of a century-old home. “Everything except the exterior walls is new.

Including landscaping and the pool, the project cost around $ 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 lack the fun of renovating.

“We enjoyed the process,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those things, like ‘Oh, what a nightmare.'”

That’s why the couple are now working with Maestri Studio on a new desk for their orthodontic practice, and why they won’t rule out renovating again if they come across another dusty treasure.

“We are ready for another project,” said Dr Rodriguez.

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