Designer Francois Lévy and his wife, Julie, bought an abandoned 1904 train depot and transported it 50 miles to an inner-city lot in Austin, Texas.
With Julie serving as the de facto general contractor, they renovated it strategically for themselves and their three children. Francois decided to preserve the depot’s open plan by emphasizing vertical circulation. He added a spiral staircase that features load-bearing MDF treads. The attic was turned into a master bedroom and cast-in-place concrete counters were used to add a modern touch to the antique context. As most home renovators do, they added closets and storage space, but unlike most people, they also had to remove restroom stall partitions that had been added clumsily in the 1960s beside what had been the waiting room. Julie salvaged old materials, rescuing windows left over from Habitat for Humanity projects, for example. Since she is not an architect, the search for and use of salvaged materials allowed her to make significant design contributions to the project. As Francois says, “It was a bit like shopping for whatever’s fresh at the market before deciding on a dinner menu.”