A Flea-Infested Former Convent: How Could They Resist?

The 1926 Catholic Church building looked like it hadn’t seen a lot of updates in decades. One Dallas couple was attracted to the 1926 building that belonged to the Catholic Church. It looked as if it hadn’t been updated in decades. They had already moved once before having their children, Luca, 7, and Coco, 4, but they were in dire need of more space. Ms. Rodriguez said that they wanted to bring her back to her glory days. As Ms. Rodriguez said, “We just really wanted to bring her back to her glory days.”Credit…Stephen Karlisch”We wanted to build new construction, and we wanted a transitional Spanish-style house,” said Ms. Rodriguez, 38, who helps manage an orthodontic practice established by her husband.The couple put their home on the market in 2018, immediately found a buyer and began making plans to build a new house. They came across a listing for an older house, a former convent belonging to the Catholic Church. It wasn’t the Spanish-style home that they had envisioned and it was far from perfect. The 1926 red brick building was sold “as-is” for $599,000. It was listed “as is” for $599,000. They also found fleas infesting the house. “We saw the potential of this neglected home,” said Dr. Rodriguez, 45.ImageThe couple bought the house from the Catholic Church, which had used it as a convent.Credit…Stephen Karlisch”Her bones are so beautiful,” Ms. Rodriguez said. They wanted to restore her to her glory days. But they weren’t the only ones to feel that way. They won a bidding war for the property, and they paid $650,000 when it was finally closed in October. They then found a rental house to live in, just a few blocks away, and hired Maestri Studio, an interior and architecture design firm, to oversee its transformation. “We wanted to respect and preserve the bones as much possible, but give it our own personality,” Ms. Rodriguez stated. Dr. Rodriguez explained that the plan was to faithfully restore the exterior and add bold elements to the interior to give it a modern style. He initially hoped to preserve these details. However, many walls had to be opened up and plaster had to be removed. He said that there were beautiful details throughout the house that had been lost. “So we recreated them.”ImageThe kitchen cabinetry has doors that open to reveal a coral-hued pantry.Credit…Stephen KarlischAt the same time, Mr. Maestri wanted to inject some new energy into the project, so he worked with Katie Paulsen, an interior designer at his studio, to remix the moldings, which now zig and zag in unexpected ways, and he added arched doorways and oversized dentil molding above built-in cabinetry for more architectural detail.He also made strategic floor-plan changes to better serve a busy 21st-century family, expanding the kitchen into a former porch to support its role as the heart of the home, and creating better access to a breakfast room. The space above the porte-cochere was expanded to accommodate a full bath and a large closet for the primary bedroom. He converted the attic into an entertainment area and designed a detached garage. Dr. Rodriguez stated that Dr. Rodriguez wanted to be bold. Dr. Rodriguez said that the designers delivered with black-and white concrete floor tiles in an irregular pattern, black-and brass cabinets, and doors that swing open to reveal coral-hued walk in pantry. The connected breakfast room has walls lined with green grasscloth, evoking the free-form shapes of malachite.ImageA new powder room beneath the main staircase has walls covered in Christian Lacroix’s Maison de Jeu wallpaper.Credit…Stephen KarlischBut the new powder room, which Mr. Maestri tucked underneath the staircase, might be boldest of all the spaces, with Christian Lacroix wallpaper resembling collages of playing cards, emerald-hued star-and-cross floor tiles and a big brass sink atop a black marble vanity.By the time they were finished reworking the 3,950-square-foot house, “we pretty much got a new build,” Dr. Rodriguez said, in the shell of a century-old home. The entire project, including landscaping and pool, cost $1.2 million. The family moved in to their new home in July 2020. “It wasn’t one of those things, like, ‘Oh, what a nightmare.'”ImageThe project included building a new pool and a pool house with an outdoor fireplace.Credit…Stephen KarlischThat’s why the couple is now working with Maestri Studio on a new office for their orthodontic practice, and why they won’t rule out renovating again, if they stumble upon another dusty treasure.”We’re ready for another project,” Dr. Rodriguez said.For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate