The Austin bungalow had charm. But he “needed everything”.

Ricardo and Daphny Ainslie stumbled upon the house that would become their home while walking around the North University neighborhood of Austin, Texas in 2009 and noticing a dejected-looking man outside a compact bungalow from the 1920s.

“There was a real estate agent sitting literally head in hand on the front steps,” said Ainslie, 72, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, who is also a writer, filmmaker and musician. .

After striking up a conversation, the agent told them that a potential buyer had just canceled a contract to purchase the home. “The reason is that they found so many issues,” Mr. Ainslie said, including issues with the foundation, plumbing and wiring.

“It took everything,” said Ms Ainslie, 42, a forensic psychologist.

Nonetheless, the couple were looking for a new place to live, so they requested a quick visit. When they stepped inside, they were wowed by the 1,800 square foot two-bedroom home.

“There was something about the house that had this very organic spirit,” Mr. Ainslie said. “It had a lot of charm. “

They bought it for about $ 370,000, then hired a contractor to do the much needed repairs, for about $ 125,000.

Years later, as the couple had children and their home began to feel cramped – they now have two boys, Jorge, 10, and Joaquin, 6 – they realized that he There was also a solution to this situation: they could expand by building on top.

In 2017, the couple began working with Ryan Weekley, architect and managing partner of the PFA Design Group, on a second floor addition of approximately 600 square feet that would include two bedrooms. And while the house was under construction, they decided that they would also take the opportunity to renovate the ground floor.

For help, they started talking with Liz MacPhail, an interior designer they had met at their sons’ preschool, which Ms MacPhail’s children also attended. The project began when the Ainslies won a design consultation with Ms MacPhail at a fundraising auction for the school, and continued when that first reunion turned into a relationship of many. years.

“I have to say I was a little skeptical,” said Ainslie, who wondered if they really needed a designer help. “But the minute she walked in and started showing us her ideas, she won me over. I thought, wow, she has such a beautiful aesthetic and such a good eye.

In no time, Ms MacPhail had devised a plan to retain as much of the original detail as possible, while moving a few walls and doors to make the downstairs less awkward.

“My passion is old houses and saving them so they can work really hard for the next hundred years,” Ms. MacPhail said. “We are thinking about how we can make these houses support our current lifestyles, while touching them at a minimum. It’s about finding that balance between change and preservation.

When they decided, for example, to cut out a new door between the living room and a hallway and cover one of the two doors that led directly to the children’s room, they masked the changes by retaining and reusing the paneling. of the house, which already had a DIY look. And they made the kitchen bigger by pushing into a space that was previously a screened porch.

Knowing the family wanted lots of color – but in an effort to keep it from looking overwhelming – Ms MacPhail recommended coating the walls, ceilings and moldings mostly in white paint, with some black accents, to serve as a canvas. background to bright furniture and accessories.

“It’s a blank canvas, a very neutral space, that has this really fun expression through its furniture and art,” Ms. MacPhail said. “We knew we were just going to layer the color and the pattern.”

In the dining room, they created a circular table by placing a large piece of glass on an oversized ceramic pot painted with multicolored flowers and leaves. To furnish the lanai, they installed a rattan sofa found on Craigslist and added a seat cushion upholstered in St. Frank’s rainbow stripe fabric. And in the new locker room, they installed integrated grass green elements.

Ms MacPhail also rummaged through the couple’s storage boxes for decorative treasure. In one, she found a small collection of Mexican masks. She asked Mr. Ainslie, who was born and raised in Mexico City and travels there frequently for work, to purchase a few more so that she could create a striking installation in the lobby. And on the wall of a new music room, they added a neon sign that Mr. Ainslie salvaged from the original location of Antone’s, an Austin music club.

Construction began in early 2018, and the renovation and addition was mostly completed in about nine months. But the couple continued to tinker with the interiors for another year. In total, they spent about $ 300,000 on the overhaul.

Even after the expense and inconvenience of two renovations, the Ainslie consider themselves lucky to have found this particular home. “I feel like we just won the lottery,” Mr. Ainslie said. “All of the things that were listed as problems ended up being things that had a solution.”

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