A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Finding a Bad House in a Good Neighborhood Can Yield Fabulous Results
By Barbara Canetti
Toni Pitre had an idea. Why not find a bad house in a good neighborhood and flip it as an investment? Lots of folks were doing that and it looked rather simple. But she had no idea it would become an 18-month-long journey for her and husband Alex. It was worth it, however, as the results are stunning.
The brick house, built in 1955, is near the University of Houston and sits at the curve of a tree-lined street. It had a confining fence close to the house and just looked tired — both inside and out. So the young couple rolled up their sleeves and started working.
They ripped out walls, relocated windows, updated bathrooms and gave the enormous family room — with its eye-catching vaulted ceiling — a facelift that changed the personality of the house on Rockwood Drive.
“That window and that room was what made us buy this house,” says Toni Pitre, a pharmacist and mother of two little boys. “I was about to walk away but I really loved this room.”
They started the process by covering the red brick exterior with a white mortar wash (slurry) that is applied in several layers, giving the house a stucco appearance but with the brick texture still showing. This updated the exterior, giving the house a rustic but modern look. Neighbors in the University Oaks area were perplexed by the changes, but watched with interest as Alex, who is a speech therapist, replaced the columns with cedar beams to really give the house a different look.
The living room didn’t need many changes — just updating the marble and slate fireplace and adding an interesting chandelier. The original hardwoods in the living room and throughout the house were in pretty good shape, needing only to be refinished and sealed.
“The house had a confused layout. A big family room was added on in the 1960s and, although it was nice, it needed change,” says Toni.
The room, which opens onto the large fence-enclosed yard, has three glass doors and three geometric windows reaching to the high ceiling. Alex covered the ceiling with cedar-stained wood and extended that look to the exterior overhang. He hand stripped three large beams and stained them to match.
“When you look at this room and that ceiling, it is almost like bringing the outside inside,” says Toni.
Perhaps the biggest challenge was the kitchen. The original was only seven feet wide, but it was 30 feet long. They widened the area and replaced the cabinets with white Shaker style doors and stainless steel appliances. They chose a white quartz countertop to give the room a pristine look. A breakfast room flows from the kitchen, while a utility room and full bathroom were constructed at the end of the house.
“The hardest part was trying to tie the old house to the new addition, without making it look like an old-new layout. We just wanted to make it flow naturally,” she says.
Two good size bedrooms were updated with molding and new fixtures. Because of all the windows, the rooms are bright and sunny. A full bath shared by those rooms was restored and modernized with marble counters and a travertine shower.
A private enclosed stairway leads up to the second floor and the master suite. The room is large and also has several windows for natural light. The Pitres attacked the adjacent attic space to carve out a modern full bath with a honed marble shower and an enviable walk-in closet with nooks for shoes and bags.
“We pushed this as far as we could into the attic to take advantage of the space. We just couldn’t go any further — the ceiling would be too low,” says Alex.
As the couple finished the project, they still had a jungle of a yard to conquer. Once all the debris and rubble were removed, grass had to be planted. Alex transformed the front garden with native grasses and a footpath with concrete patio stones.
“Before we started, it was like walking in a cave but with lots of doors. So many doors. It was all closed off and had low ceilings,” says Toni. “We started out with a plan but, as we progressed, it took on a life of its own. There were surprises every day but it all worked out.”
Door Clearance Center
(Barn door, entry door)
8245 North Freeway
Floor & Decor
11542 Gulf Freeway
Additional locations throughout Houston
Home Staging for Houston
J J Custom Floors
(Hardwood floor refinishing)
Pacific Kitchen & Home
Preferred Air & Plumbing of Houston
2422 East Sam Houston Parkway South
Shower Doors of Houston
14335 South Denker, Gardena, CA
2100 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas
Kirkwood & Hunter Electric Co., Inc.
Aber Fence and Supply
Bayou City Lumber
Bellard's House Leveling LLC
626 County Road 948A, Alvin
Western Brick Company