Ricardo and Daphny Ainslie came across the house that would become their home when they were strolling through the North University neighborhood in Austin, Texas in 2009 and noticed a dejected looking man in front of a compact 1920s bungalow.
"There was a realtor on the front steps, literally head in hand," said Mr. Ainslie, 72, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is also a writer, filmmaker, and musician.
After starting a conversation, the agent informed them that a potential buyer had just canceled a contract to sell the home. “It was because they found so many problems,” said Mr. Ainslie, including problems with the foundation, plumbing, and wiring.
"It took everything," said Ms. Ainslie, 42, a forensic psychologist.
Even so, the couple was looking for a new place to stay, so they asked for a quick tour. When they entered, they were delighted with the 1,800 square foot two bedroom home.
"There was something about the house about that very organic spirit," said Mr. Ainslie. "It had a lot of charm."
They bought it for about $ 370,000 and then hired a contractor to do the much-needed repairs for about $ 125,000.
Years later, when the couple had children and the house felt cramped – they now have two boys, Jorge  and Joaquin  – they realized that there was a solution to this predicament too: They could expand by building high.
In 2017, the couple began working with Ryan Weekley, an architect and managing partner of the PFA Design Group, on a 600-square-foot addition on the second floor that would include two bedrooms. And while the house was still under construction, they decided to take the opportunity to renovate the ground floor as well.
Asking for help they began speaking to Liz MacPhail, an interior designer they had met at their sons' preschool, who were also visiting Mrs. MacPhail's children. The project began when the Ainslies won a design consultation with Ms. MacPhail on a school fundraiser and continued when that first meeting developed into a long-term relationship.
"I have to say I was a little skeptical," said Mr. Ainslie, wondering if they really needed the help of a designer. “But the moment she walked in and started showing us her ideas, I was won over by her. I thought, wow, she has such great aesthetics and a great eye. "
Before long, Ms. MacPhail had come up with a plan to keep as many original details as possible while moving a few walls and doors to make the ground floor less uncomfortable.
"My passion is saving really old houses and saving them so they can work really hard for the next hundred years," said Ms. MacPhail. “We are thinking about how we can get these houses to support our current way of life and at the same time minimally touch them. It's about finding this balance between change and preservation. "
For example, when they decided to cut a new door from the living room to a hallway and cover one of two doors that led directly into the nursery, they masked the changes by keeping the house's already angular paneling and reusing a cobbled-together Appearance. And they expanded the kitchen by pushing into what was previously a screened-in porch.
Knowing the family wanted lots of paint – but to keep it from looking overwhelming – Ms. MacPhail recommended painting walls, ceilings, and moldings mostly white with some black accents to act as a backdrop for vibrant furniture and accessories to serve.
"It's a blank canvas, a very neutral space that has this really fun expression through its furniture and art," said Ms. MacPhail. "We knew that we would only superimpose color and pattern."
In the dining room, they created a round table by placing a large pane of glass on an oversized ceramic pot that was painted with brightly colored flowers and leaves. To furnish the conservatory, they installed a Craigslist rattan sofa and added a seat cushion upholstered in fabric with rainbow-colored stripes from St. Frank. And they installed grass-green fixtures in the new mudroom.
Ms. MacPhail also ransacked the couple's storage boxes in search of decorative treasures. In one she found a small collection of Mexican masks. She directed Mr. Ainslie, who was born and raised in Mexico City and frequently travels there for work, to buy a few more so that she could create an eye-catching installation in the lobby. And on the wall of a new music room, they put a neon sign that Mr. Ainslie rescued from the original location of Antone & # 39; s, a historic music club in Austin.
Construction began in early 2018, and most of the renovation and additions were completed in about nine months. But the couple continued to work on the interiors for a year. In total, they spent around $ 300,000 on the overhaul.
Even after the cost and inconvenience of two renovations, the Ainslies are lucky to have found this special home. "I have a feeling we just won the lottery," said Mr. Ainslie. "All of the things listed as problems were things that had a solution."
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