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While house hunting in East Dallas, the first thing Shannon Green noticed when she opened the front door of the Junius Heights home was the smell.

“It reeked so bad. It was disgusting,” Green remembers. “I had the door open for like 30 seconds. I didn’t even want to walk inside.”

As an interior designer, Green was looking for a fixer-upper, but she quickly determined the house was more work than she wanted — until she couldn’t get it out of her head.

“I kept thinking about it,” she says. “So I went back and walked through it, saw how bad it was and I thought, ‘OK, I really think I can make this place work.’ ”

It wasn’t until the closing that she learned Junius Heights is a historic district with strict codes about what renovations homeowners can and can’t make. She hesitated.

“I did projects like that in school and I always said, ‘never again,’ ” she explains. But she signed her name anyway, realizing the headache that might come.

She pushed her doubts aside because she loved the mission style architecture, which is the only house of its kind in Junius Heights. There was just something about it. But the house was in shambles, on top of having a nonsensical layout.

“Rooms were open to rooms were open to closets were open to rooms,” she recalls. “The floor plan didn’t make any sense.”

The historic district allowed her to tear down any inside walls, but she wasn’t permitted to tear down some of the outside walls or move windows that faced the street.

“That was one of the biggest architectural challenges,” she points out. “There were times when I drew up floor plans and then realized, ‘Well, I can’t do that because that puts that wall right in the middle of that window and I can’t move the windows.”

On the upside, that means her windows are all 100-percent original. Some still contain the original glass panes, their slight wave pattern a telltale sign that someone made them by hand. Green drew up all the architectural plans herself, and despite having to work around the window placement, she tore down almost every interior wall, which wasn’t always well received by her neighbors.

“Lots of people in the neighborhood thought I was taking down more than what I had approval to do, so I had several times when construction was stopped,” she says.

She had to patch the stucco on the outside, but she left the chipping paint on the cast stone frame around the front door, which gives the home a shabby-chic look. At night a flame flickers from the custom-made gaslight that was inspired by the original lantern that hung beside the door. The trim around the windows, once a drab green, was painted a modern charcoal grey.

The foundation proved to be a major hurdle. She was told that in order to repair it, she’d have to knock down a large chunk of the backend of the house that blocked access to the broken foundation.

“It was literally the first thing I had to do, so immediately there went my budget,” she says.

She decided if she was going to completely take the house down to the studs, then she should rebuild it right. One of the things she loved most about the house was the courtyard in the center, although it originally had very small doors and windows and permitted only small amounts of sunlight. She added larger windows and built a new wood deck to cover the crumbling concrete.

“I love the indoor-outdoor space,” she says. “It lets so much more light into the kitchen and the hallway. I really wanted to maximize that since the house is a U-shape. Even though it’s not an open floor plan, it feels like it is.”

She added about 1,000 square feet to the back of the house, turned the backyard guest house into a garage and added extra storage space.

Attached to the garage, she added a room for her red Labrador, Tabasco, complete with a couch and a shower.

“He, like many Labs, likes to chew things when I’m not home,” she says, explaining that the room acts as his very plush crate.

Like most homeowners, she spent the big bucks in the kitchen. Her cabinets are made in Brazil, a product she often recommends to her clients.

“This is my home but I also operate my business out of here, so I really wanted to showcase some of the companies I work with so people could touch and see,” she explains.

She was thriftier in the rest of the house. She furnished the home in her personal style, which is “eclectic, but overall it still feels very modern,” she says.

She borrowed some vintage finds from her grandparents and combined them with new items. In the guest bedroom, she used her grandmother’s old chest and a table that was once in the lobby of a hotel her great-grandparents owned. In the corner is a tall music box from 1894, and her shelves are adorned with pottery from her grandparents’ time in Alaska.

Her home is a testament to her skills as an interior designer. In the office — which is her “main hub,” she says — she turned what was once giant porch arches into big, wide windows, which make the room’s elaborate chandelier sparkle.

“I got it at market. It’s from California but because it’s made of glass they didn’t want to take it back,” she says. “So it’s a $4,700 fixture, but I got it for $500. I have a lot of things in this house that are total steals.”

In the master bathroom she knew she wanted a vanity with two sinks and a separate water closet, but it’s the shower-bathtub combo that’s truly striking. In order to maximize the space, she put both the bathtub and the shower behind a glass wall to create a “wet area.”

“If I didn’t have my design background I wouldn’t even know to layout a space like this,” she says, “although another designer might not have come up with this layout.”

Based on its charming exterior, guests at Green’s home are often surprised by its expansive interior.

“I like that,” she says. “From the street it looks very unassuming, which is what I wanted.”

Ultimately, everything in the home is just what she wanted. While wrestling with the Landmark Commission to get her renovations approved was a major headache at times, as predicted, she was equally committed to preserving the home’s integrity. It was a messy process, but in the end she and the Landmark Commission found common ground.

“They couldn’t believe what it looks like now compared to the condition it was in before,” she says, adding that it was worth the myriad headaches. “I don’t know if I’ll ever move from this house. It has my thumbprints in every corner. It’s exactly what I wanted.”


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