Having lived in their Woodland Heights century-old cottage since 2001, homeowners Pam and Greg Roche wanted to add a back yard pool. More specifically, they wanted a pool they could actually see from somewhere other than the closet of their bedroom.
Their redo solution “grew and grew,” she recalls.
So did the timeline, which stretched to 22 months from the nine months they’d anticipated. Still, the renovation project was “less stressful than buying a new house,” she says. They had looked elsewhere, briefly, during the peak of the housing market, but quickly decided: “We like our house. We like our neighborhood.”
Now completed, the three-phased transformation added 600 square feet for a new master suite and converted their previous bedroom into a den with pool views. The project also gutted and renovated the kitchen, an update they’d long discussed since built-in appliances from a previous owner’s redo were dying off and replacements didn’t fit. Plus, the teal-and-pink tilework just had to go, she says.
They also opted to replace the cracked slab of the garage and quarters, a feat that meant hoisting up the structure during the work.
For about nine months of the overhaul, the family of five (three boys, two cats and one dog) had bivouacked in that 900-square-foot garage apartment. Her advice in such circumstances: Try to have fun in your temporary digs. “We turned our garage apartment into our ‘groovy London flat,’ or as much of one as we could. We even had a life-sized Austin Powers gracing the stairwell.”
UNFAZED BY PHASES
The vintage home has had its share of redos, including a small one a decade ago by the Roches. Having discovered a previous owner’s architectural plans (never executed), they were inspired to resolve the home’s awkwardly configured space upstairs, a ‘30s update tucked under the eaves. Their 2006 revisions netted a bedroom and bathroom without altering the single-story bungalow’s single-story roofline. It also tweaked a few amenities downstairs.
The more recent project, meanwhile, had more obvious impact as it shifted the home’s floor plan from its original rectangle into more of an “L”-shaped flow. The lot-and-a-half property was able to accommodate that change as well as the pool that started the whole mushrooming effort. The home’s footprint gained about 600 square feet. HCAD indicates the four-bedroom, three-bath home now weighs in at around 3,490 square feet.
“We wanted to do right by the home,” Roche’s account of the project says. For example, each of their projects has tried to match the period’s millwork, five-panel doors and use of transoms.
And yet the results are functional for 21st century living.
Woodland Heights’ historical and home tour materials date the Roche’s home to the 1908-ish start of the 600-lot development by William Wilson. The property initially belonged to Travis Elementary School’s first principal. Back then, the school was across the street, where the Spark Park now sits.
The current owners have met previous owners, including the ones credited with saving the porch-front property from the wrecking ball in 1978. At the time, the home had been divided into several rental units, its yard a parking lot.
Roche, an engineer who is a project manager for large construction projects, is used to being accountable for budgets and timelines. She has (and has needed) a sense of humor about how the family home project skewed beyond projections as delays racked up for a variety of reasons.
“Initially, I was going to manage this home project like one of my work projects,” she said. “I soon realized that that wasn’t in the best interest of all.”
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