They lived in a makeshift space on the sun porch for months before their one-bedroom back-house was livable.
Then that back house was home for almost three years before their Winnetka Heights dream home was ready.
Christopher and Allyson Harrison won a Preservation Achievement Award from Preservation Dallas recently for the painstaking restoration of their century-old home on North Windomere.
Allyson Harrison was an interior designer before the Great Recession hit, when she took up a second career as a public-school teacher. But she used all of her design super powers on this two-story antique house. She knew that underneath decades of slapdash renovations, this house had good bones.
“She drew up the whole design exactly how she wanted it, and we took it to an architect,” Christopher Harrison says. “He was like, ‘Why are you hiring me? This design is better than anything you could pay for.’ ”
When the Harrisons bought it, the house had pre-war knob-and-tube wiring and no duct work. There were wires coming out of walls, and the front porch was hanging on by a thread.
When we say “painstaking restoration,” that’s removing and refinishing all of the baseboards in 2,600 square feet of house. They had a dining room window seat rebuilt, as well as the phone nook in the upstairs landing. They used the original “Texas”-stamped bricks to rebuild their fireplace and chimney. They put energy-saving glass in all of the original windows, which were rehung with their circa-1900 weights. They restored two clawfoot tubs, rebuilt pony columns in the dining room (above) and restored a small staircase (below).
The Harrisons had been married two years when they bought the house, and by the time they moved in, they had a 2-1/2-year-old and a baby on the way.
They took their time, and they thought of everything — an electrical outlet in the center of the entry hall floor for their Christmas tree, a kitchen pantry built to utilize a dead space between walls. This house now has storage everywhere. A set of built-in storage drawers on the landing (below) are the exact width of a roll of wrapping paper.
Besides that, it’s a fully automated smart house thanks to Christopher, who works in the technology sector and says they could live off the power grid for about two months because of the home’s natural gas whole-house generator.
Real estate agent Alicia Schroeder of Dave Perry Miller Intown says the Harrisons knew they wanted a challenging house.
“Our goal was to find the ugliest house on the block and make it better,” Christopher Harrison says.
It was the first house the Harrisons bought, and they intend for it to be the only one.
“We’re not the owners of this house,” he says. “We are its stewards.”
Currently, they’re building an outdoor kitchen with a patio using antique bricks sourced exclusively from Winnetka Heights.