A Texas Designer Gives an 1898 Folk Victorian a New Life Outside of Austin

Near Georgetown, Texas, interior designer Claire Zinnecker rescues a storied Victorian—and turns it into her family home.
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Before Austin-based interior designer Claire Zinnecker became enamored with a charming 19th century folk Victorian, she wasn’t looking for a project—in fact, she wasn’t looking for a house at all. That changed, however, when an intriguing historic home came onto her radar in the most unlikely of ways—an ad on Facebook Marketplace. Living in East Austin at the time, Claire’s aunt showed her the listing for the Victorian fixer—dropped ceilings, linoleum and all—and Claire was immediately enchanted. "It was love at first sight," she says.

Interior designer Claire Zinnecker lives in the Georgetown, Texas, home with her husband Adam Mink, along with their two dogs and two cats. "We needed to make this a livable house, make it work for our family, but also respect its original story," says Claire.

Interior designer Claire Zinnecker lives in the Georgetown, Texas, home with her husband Adam Mink, along with their two dogs and two cats. "We needed to make this a livable house, make it work for our family, but also respect its original story," says Claire.

Beneath layers of muddled, era-spanning modifications, Claire saw glimpses of the home’s original bones. "I knew I had to bring her back to her original glory," she says of the historic dwelling, lovingly named Ida after the home’s original owners, Swedish immigrants Gus and Ida Anderson.

To add complexity to an already daunting renovation project, the home was located in downtown Austin on land slated for development. To save Ida, the home was moved from the city to a five-acre parcel near Georgetown, Texas—about 35 miles outside of Austin. Claire and her husband Adam, who owned the rural land, welcomed the change of scenery brought about by the move out of Austin. "It’s close to bustling city life, but far enough away to breathe," Claire says.

Although hard to pin down, Claire loosely describes the home’s style as "European farmhouse." "It’s a mix of old and new—mostly old," she says.

Although hard to pin down, Claire loosely describes the home’s style as "European farmhouse." "It’s a mix of old and new—mostly old," she says.

With Ida relocated and newly rooted in her permanent home, the renovation project could begin in earnest. The approximately 1,700-square-foot home was reconfigured from a two-bedroom, one-bathroom layout to a three-bedroom, two-bathroom plan within the dwelling’s existing envelope.

Although Claire quickly braced herself for a project—"I love a challenge," she says—it was a bigger undertaking than she bargained for. "I was reconstructing a house," Claire shares. "The house first needed to be stripped down, and then essentially rebuilt in a lot of ways."

Through the renovation, dropped ceilings were removed and original details—such as the original wood floors and moldings—were preserved. Because of a limited budget, Claire and Adam opted to do much of the work themselves.

Through the renovation, dropped ceilings were removed and original details—such as the original wood floors and moldings—were preserved. Because of a limited budget, Claire and Adam opted to do much of the work themselves.

Historic details from the 1898 structure—high ceilings, original floors, trim, and old hardware—were preserved and highlighted, while updating and upgrading the home to make it livable and comfortable for the young couple. Ida’s original site was just dirt, meaning it needed the works—infrastructurally speaking—in terms of power, septic, propane, and water. In the days of yesteryear, the original home would have been warmed by fire, and reliant upon natural ventilation for cooling. Although window units were added at a later juncture, the lack of modern heating or cooling capabilities left little to be desired for Claire and Adam. "I couldn't imagine spending another summer like this past one in Ida, drenched in sweat," Claire recalls. "And I don’t want to freeze in the winter."

Turning to Trane Residential, Claire was eager to incorporate a modernized, efficient solution for heating and cooling the home—a home the couple hoped to be comfortable in for years to come. Carefully weighing their options, Claire chose to implement a dual-fuel, or hybrid, heating system from Trane, which she admits was not on her radar. "I had no idea what hybrid heating was," Claire recalls.

"Even though we sealed up the house as much as possible, these older homes are leaky," shares Claire. To help keep energy costs down, she opted for a hybrid heating system from Trane.

"Even though we sealed up the house as much as possible, these older homes are leaky," shares Claire. To help keep energy costs down, she opted for a hybrid heating system from Trane.

A hybrid heating system combines an electric heat pump, such as the Trane XV20i TruComfort Variable Speed system Claire chose for Ida, with a gas furnace. When temperatures are moderately cold, heat pumps are more energy efficient than furnaces, and homes can be heated quickly and effectively with electric heat pumps alone. In more frigid temperatures, heat pumps become less efficient, and the hybrid system leans on the gas furnace to rapidly convert fuel into heat-saving energy by allowing the furnace to do the heavy lifting. In warmer weather, the heat pump acts as an air conditioner, cooling the air and removing humidity. "I knew I wanted a home that was energy efficient and comfortable," says Claire. "And ultimately, that is exactly what you get with hybrid heating."

Not rushing the design process, Claire strove to find a balance between respecting the home’s history and making it her own. "Every room tells a story," she says.

Not rushing the design process, Claire strove to find a balance between respecting the home’s history and making it her own. "Every room tells a story," she says.

The nimble and efficient dual-fuel system mitigates temperature swings, and provides a comfortable year-round living environment for Claire and Adam. "It kept me cool all through the end of summer—and the hot Texas fall," says Claire. "Now that the weather has finally transitioned, I’m already equipped with a versatile system to warm me up on the chilly mornings. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?"

Learn more about Trane Residential and the dual-fuel HVAC system at trane.com.

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