COTE DE TEXAS: An Surprising Before & After!!

An Surprising Before & After!!

Last week I showed a house in Frisco designed by Lisa Luby Ryan Design & Build.  The owner,  a single woman, had just moved there from Houston to be near her family.  Faced with an empty house and wanting something that was finally hers, alone, the owner turned to a designer she had first seen on blogs and in magazines – and that was Lisa!

In fact, it was a small cottage that Lisa had totally transformed which had caught the eye of the new home-owner.  You know the house – the one that was featured in Veranda.

The small, one story cottage, had been renovated by architect Frank Ryburn and Lisa beautifully redid the interior.  For some reason, this house captured the hearts of many of us, probably because it was small and cozy yet Lisa filled it with beautiful antiques, proving that going small doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxuries.

The cottage appealed to a whole range of people from singles to young couples just starting out and also to empty nesters – those who aren’t ready to move to a high-rise just yet.   This small luxurious cottage fit the bill for so many types of families.

When this cottage was sold a few years ago, I wrote about it HERE.

Last week after I published the story of the Frisco house – an eagle-eyed reader wrote to inform me that this cottage had been put up for sale, yet again.  And, he said, the house had been remolded, yet again.

He told me that there were some major differences between the old renovated cottage and the newly renovated “cottage.”

Get ready to be surprised.

I was surprised.

Totally surprised…

Originally the small cottage was clad in orange brick with a plain, green door.

The house is not quite that old – it was built in 1951.   The owner was a recent divorcee whose ex-husband never liked French antiques.  She did.   This was her chance to finally have a house filled with the French antiques she loved.  After a chance visit to Lisa’s store Vintage Living she hired Lisa to create a French inspired decor.  Frank Ryburn was hired to make the architectural changes.

Ryburn kept the size and the footprint of the house the same.   One decorative change was when Lisa added a most charming gate to the courtyard.  The 18th century gate was purchased in Provence by Lisa and the home owner.   Other changes were the white painted brick, the black accents, and the stone flower pots which all helped to add to the house’s curb appeal.

The courtyard was original to the house. 

The original courtyard with its brick floor.  The dining room is the room on the right which juts out of the front facade. 

So much curb appeal!   So charming!!   The curved brick sidewalk was another addition.

Why mess with perfection?

Well, if you have a small house that sits on a very, very valuable piece of property – and said house has only one bedroom, what do you do to increase its value?

You go up…


An entire new floor was added to the charming cottage.   It is now two stories. 

I know, I know.  I couldn’t believe it myself!!!

BUT, it is a VERY interesting Before & After story and since we all love Before & After  stories…


First, notice that besides the addition of an entire second floor (gulp) – there were not many changes on the first floor.  The charming antique gate remains, but the two concrete pots are now gone.    The dining room on the right – it’s roof pitch is much higher now.  There is a new front door and there is a new overhang with columns, which I don’t care for that much – but you do need coverage from the elements at the front door.  Perhaps a black & white striped awning would have been more in keeping with a one story cottage, oops!  I mean, a two story cottage.

Is this still a cottage?

The builder, Jeff Gilbert, installed new landscaping which does soften the facade more.  Additionally, they also added landscaping in the courtyard.

I would have added a round vent or element at the top of the dining window.  It is just screaming for a round architectural detail right there!

What is also very pretty about this house is the garage is back loading, on an alley.

The biggest change is structural - when adding the second floor, the entire first floor ceiling was raised about a foot.  The front windows were also raised to accommodate this change and the front door is now taller than the previous one.

Notice that the second story was clad in wood.  The builder added gray painted shutters on the second story.

And, what you really don’t notice – until now – is that the front door has been pulled out a foot or two away from the house.  This small change allows for there to be just a tiny bit of a foyer inside the house.  TINY.  But, just enough to create a pleasant effect, although I do wonder why they didn’t pull the door out more to make the foyer even larger?

AFTER:  The new, taller and  more substantial front door.  New landscaping was planted in the courtyard.  The same lanterns remain.  I still think the overhang is a bit dramatic and too extravagant for this style of house but it’s very nice. 

BEFORE:   The back of the house opened onto a large brick patio with a fireplace that had an antique French mantel, thanks to Lisa Luby Ryan.   This patio was a new addition installed in the previous renovation by Ryburn.

Another view of the back yard.  The master bedroom is at the right side of the house. What was never really discussed or revealed before now, was that there was no garage.   There was a driveway, but there was no covered parking at all.

And, what you never saw before was that the house is located on a very short, back alley and rather than fence the back yard – the owner had left it open to the alley, totally exposing the house.  But, since very few houses are located on the short alley, I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot of privacy issues.  Since there was no garage, there was a long driveway to park cars on.

A few years ago, the owner added a brick-lined parking court along the back alley and she covered up the driveway with grass.   This substantially shortened the green lawn, but it was more practical.  She also added a large brick walkway up to the house.  I’m sure this was done to keep shoes clean.   This was not a perfect solution, but it was at least more attractive than having the long driveway as before.

TODAY:   Now the area is completely different.  There is a two car garage on the right side of the house that is separated from the lawn by a newly installed fence.  The house has been enlarged so that it totally incorporates the former brick patio and fireplace, which is now located inside the house.  You can judge the size of the extension by looking at the tree and seeing how close the house is to the tree now – where as before, the tree was quite far away.

BEFORE:  Originally, the changes to the house were found mostly in the kitchen and bathroom.  Here, in the living room, there is the original parquet wood floor which the owner chose to keep.  The fireplace was updated by Lisa.

The owner says that Lisa allowed her to keep only four items from her possessions:  a side table, a grandfather clock, an iron bed and an abstract oil painting.

LATER:  Lisa added an antique French mantel to the fireplace to dress it up.  She divided the long front room into two seating areas and used a French day bed to separate the areas.  A seagrass rug covers the parquet flooring.

The then-owner said that her ex-husband didn’t like antiques, so she was thrilled to be able to decorate the house with a feminine French-inspired decor which was all her own.   She and LLR twice went to France on shopping trips in order to furnish the cottage. 

Originally, the cottage had two bedrooms and one bathroom, but the guest bedroom was converted into the dining room.    This left the front room to become a double-sized living room.

But, this double sized room was off-balanced.  The front door was in the center of the front wall, but the doorway in the wall that leads to the back of the house was not centered.

To correct this asymmetry – first, Lisa added a mirror and chest on the center of the back wall.   Notice the mirror and chest – they are directly across from the door.    When guests walked in the front door – their eye was drawn to the mirror, not to the off centered opening to the right of the mirror.  This was actually a genius move by Lisa to correct what was an architectural flaw.

You can see the off-centered doorway to the right of the mirror and chest.  Through that doorway is the breakfast room – where there is a Swedish settee.

The house was filled with antiques, art work, and accessories bought in France and at Lisa’s shop Vintage Living.   Most of these antiques have beautiful painted finishes and their patina is what makes them so pretty.   Lisa avoided using a lot of dark brown furniture – instead she emphasized light finishes.

AFTER:   Here is what the front room looks like today.  First notice how the front door is now punched out – creating a tiny foyer.   It looks like about 2 ft were added – and it does make a difference.  

All the dated parquet flooring was removed and was replaced with wood planked floors.   The stain isn’t dark or light – which is a surprise.  Either choice would have been more trendy.  Today most spec builders are using a gray stained wood floor instead of brown.

Another major difference is when adding the second floor (how did they DO that?) – the ceiling height of the first floor was raised about a foot.   It’s a subtle change, but it did affect the built-ins and door heights throughout the first floor.

The decor is obviously staged and although it is nice – it is just not nearly as nice as Lisa’s decor!   Missing are the curtains which added much needed softness to the windows.  I’m sure the new owners installed window treatments when they furnished the house.

And, here you can see that the French mantel remains – although the art work placed above it is too large and it actually dwarfs the mantel.   Lisa had used two small oils above the fireplace, flanked with sconces, which are both long gone today.  

Another change is that there are all new ceiling lights, of course, since the ceiling was raised.

That fireplace is gorgeous.  Just gorgeous!!  Notice the brick work inside it. 

BEFORE:   On the other side of the double-sized front room – Lisa had placed two antique wood doors which lead into the dining room.  The doors acted as a focal point along that wall and they were centered on that wall.  

Notice that the windows formerly sat on the floor.  Today – they were raised about a foot.

In this view – you can see part of the issue of the asymmetrical wall.  The opening into the kitchen is not centered, making that wall so short that the sofa hangs over it.  That always bothered me.  Perhaps the sofa should have been placed in front of the window instead? 

Also, notice how this opening to the kitchen is not cased.

AFTER:  It looks like the doorway has been made smaller but it’s just a distortion caused  by the camera.  Because the ceiling was raised, there is now sheetrock above the opening.

Do you see now why Lisa placed the chest and mirror across from the front door?  Your eye would be drawn right to the centered mirror instead of the off-centered opening as it is in this photo.

BEFORE:  Originally – the door to the dining room was on the left side of the wall and it led into the kitchen.  The dining room was actually a bedroom before the renovation. 

AFTER:  And here – the door was centered in the middle of the wall.

The dining room was so large – there was room to place an antique, gray painted desk at one end of the table.  It was centered with the doorway and it served as a focal point.

AFTER:  And  today – the door to the dining room was moved to the right of the wall because the dining room was made smaller in the renovation.

I liked the opening before – when it was centered. 

The reader who found this newly renovated house created this Before & After collage showing all the structural changes:

Thank you!

BEFORE:  The dining room was one of the prettiest room,  as seen in Veranda.  Just gorgeous!  What styling!!

In the real estate photos – you can see how beautiful the chandelier is.  And all those antique papers were framed alike to become one large piece of art. 

Still, with only one bedroom, having such a large dining room seems an extravagance.  If I lived here, I would have turned this into a library/dining space by lining the walls with built-in shelves for books.

At the front window – Lisa placed a long console with two lamps and more blue and white.  The curtains were made from sheets – fabric that Lisa bought in France.  Both public rooms have the same curtains which helps join the rooms together, aesthetically.

Most interesting is that the former home-owner had to be talked into this fabulous table.  Originally, Southern Accents did the photoshoot of the house – and Lisa delivered this table just for that shoot only.  It never left the house after the home-owner fell in love with it.  Southern Accents folded a month later and Veranda picked up the story for their own magazine – which is where we all first read about this charming house.

AFTER:  The new smaller dining room.  Of course the beautiful crystal chandelier is long gone with the owner, I’m sure.    This room really looks boring compared to the Veranda styled dining room.

The back room – the kitchen.  Before & After.   The porch was covered before the Ryburn/Lisa Luby Ryan renovation.  Also added was a wall of French doors instead of the windows. 

Another Before & After of the kitchen.  The brown cabinetry was removed and Lisa created a wonderful new kitchen. 

Marble tiles were used as a backsplash.  There is a fabulous unfinished wood island that is the focal point of the kitchen. 

Along the back wall, a mirror was placed above the sink where usually there would have been a window.  Flanking it are two glass cabinets. 

Notice the cabinetry reaches the top of the ceiling – in these photos.

The view towards the breakfast area and the back bedroom.  Eeek – the parquet floor really was bad.  I’m surprised I never noticed it before!

The hood over the stove was so pretty – the home-owners monogram was painted on it.

Before & After of the breakfast area with the beautiful antique Swedish settee and chairs.  On the left, you can see there was once a door to the left of the breakfast table which was later closed off.

From Veranda – a lovely photo of the Swedish bench and chairs.  Just so pretty.  Apparently this rug was used just for the photoshoot.  There’s a different one in the real estate photos.


This was the one thing I really didn’t care for.  The sofa overhung the wall and it just seemed unbalanced.  Here, you can see the old front door – and how today, it has been pushed back two feet – which does look better.

AFTER:  This view shows how the kitchen remained almost the same.  The main change is there is now a window over the sink which does brighten up the kitchen and the glass door cabinets are now gone.  Another change is the pretty stove hood is gone, replaced with a monstrosity of a hood.   Notice that the glass door cabinets are now flanking the hood.

It’s interesting that the owner left the island behind, because it is actually a piece of furniture.

And finally,  notice how the cabinetry no longer reaches the ceiling – because it is a foot higher now.

One big change was the dining room was made smaller.  The extra space was added to the area behind the kitchen.  Not sure what that room is – perhaps it is just a pantry or the powder room.

And, on the right of this photo, where the breakfast area once was, there is now a built in cabinet.

Here, the area past the cabinetry in what was once the dining room, which was once the guest room.

Here is the reader’s Before & After collage:

Thank you, again!

The biggest change is that the wall of French doors was pushed out to create a new large sitting room – in the area which was once the back patio.  Notice the new stairs that lead up to the second floor.  In the back corner is the door that leads to the garage and laundry room.

This really looks great!  I just wish the styling was a little better.  But, they did a great job of enlarging this space without losing all the charm that was here before.

Whomever bought this house is really lucky.  It’s a great family house now that it is four bedrooms instead of one and it is in a great location.

Here is the view towards the fireplace – which was once outside and was incorporated into the family room.

Through the arch under the stairs is what was once the master bedroom.

And here is a closeup of the antique French fireplace sourced by Lisa, again now styled with a too-large piece of art above it. 

The reader’s Before & After collage:

The reader really did a great job, thank you so much!! 

BEFORE:  Here is a reminder of the fireplace on the patio.  This entire area is now inside the house.  I do think they also salvaged three of the four French doors and reused them in the new family room.

BEFORE:  And the view from the back.   On the right is what was once the master bedroom.

AFTER:  The old patio is now gone – replaced by the sitting room inside the house.  The garage was built behind what was once the master bedroom.

BEFORE:  Through an opening in the kitchen, was the bedroom.  I don’t think there was even a proper door there – just an opening?  You can see through the French doors that the windows in the master bedroom overlooked the patio.

BEFORE:  And here is the master bedroom – so pretty in light antique woods mixed with modern art.  The French doors overlook the patio.

BEFORE:  Two more antique doors lead to the master bath.  I wonder where those doors are today?

Notice how low the ceiling was – it comes right down to the top of the doorway.

BEFORE:  The vanity with a linen skirt.  LLR layered an architectural relic over the modern mirror.  To the right is the sink.  The shower is on the left side of the vanity.

The marble shower – the bathroom had an odd setup.

AFTER:  Since the French doors on the side overlooked the patio that is now inside the house – new windows were added along the other side of what was once the master bedroom.  The antique doors leading the bathroom are now long gone and all the charm they added is long gone too.  The floor is now the nice new hardwoods along with new lighting.

And the higher ceiling is most obvious in here above the doorway.

AFTER:  The builders kept the master bathroom the same – they just removed the skirt and architectural elements.  The vanity also remained.

AFTER:  A laundry room was added along the same side as the downstairs bedroom by the new garage.

AFTER:  Upstairs, it is all brand new – here is the master suite which overlooks the backyard.  The styling is really not great which is such a shame because the house could look so much better had Lisa done the styling again. 

The master bathroom is huge with white marble and tile floors.

The shower and tub.

And the closet is to die for!!!

There are two more bedrooms – with carpet though.  This one has a great high ceiling.

Each has its own bath.

I have to say that the builder Jeff Griffith did a great job with this renovation.  The new upstairs couldn’t be better and the new family room is wonderful.  It’s hard to believe this 4 bedroom, 4 bath house was once just a one bedroom, one bath cottage. 

But I’m not going to lie.  I miss the old cottage!  It was one of my favorite small house renovations and I know a lot of you loved it too. 

Au Revoir!!!

One note:  that distinctive mirror in the bathroom just recently showed up in another house that Lisa Luby Ryan designed. 

I was looking at houses for sale and lo and behold, there was that same mirror! 

A huge shout out and thank you to Lisa Luby Ryan Design & Build for the past two stories of beauty!!  HERE.


Lisa mixed contemporary art work with antique oils in the cottage.  This piece is so great and it is really inexpensive for its size.  HERE.

White mixed with wood – in the kitchen.   HERE.

These kind of accent chairs are trending HERE.

Love this HERE.

Love this classic chair, anywhere.  LOVE!  HERE.

Another affordable abstract HERE

Classic pillows HERE.

Love this!! HERE.

Designer fabrics and wallpapers and rugs- at a discount.  Seriously!!!



  1. I hate to say anything negative, but bigger isn't always better. And I hate all of the great, thoughtful details that were sacrificed.

  2. The little old house was way cuter inside, and especially from a curb appeal standpoint. But if you need a big house I guess you need a big house. I'm always sad when something older and charming is made less so.

  3. P.S. Just happy that this wasn't something 'Outlander'.

  4. I prefer the cottage, too. I really dislike ceiling "features" like in the new master. The cottage oozed with charm.

    1. I'm so with you; hate those coved-out ceilings. And, in this instance, especially, for what? To highlight the air intake vent and can lights?

    2. Oh my goodness yes! Why on earth would you put in a tray ceiling and then clutter it with vents? We had a tray in our MB and the builder put the air return vent smack in the middle. We made him move it outside the tray to a more inconspicuous spot. The tray is supposed to be a design feature, not a catch-all for vents & pots.

  5. The cottage was charming. The house is now a "new house." It is expensive generic. The parquet was lovely.

    1. Love your comment except for the part about the parquet floors. This style of parquet is always ugly to me. One exception I saw recently was where someone had stained them very dark and then with the white walls they had, the floors actually looked really good. The funny little box pattern didn't really show up that much with the dark stain.

    2. We can agree to disagree about the parquet.

  6. Always a pleasure to read another fabulous blog. Keep them coming. The cottage was a joy. You are right Joni. The sofa should have been in front of the window. That would have driven me nuts. Cheers, Deidre from Sydney, Australia.

  7. Do you know what the pretty white plants around the house are? thank you!

  8. That tray ceiling in the bedroom wouldn't have been so bad if it had a nice light fixture in the middle, but nothing else. Now it's a big ol' mess. And the new "hangover" in the front is called a portico. I do like the portico, but the rest of the house is almost unrecognizable. Loved the pretty parquet - too bad that's gone. It's all so generic now. Charm surgically removed...

    1. That type of parquet is probably the only truly ugly type.

  9. I love any of your writings that have to do with Lisa Luby Ryan. This one is no exception. I can pour over her pictures endlessly. I have to admit that I love the "before" much more. I agree with whomever said it earlier. Bigger is not always better. Great post Joni!

  10. I'm desperate to find the partial C couch in the living room. Anyone know the source?

    Cannot tell a lie, I loved the cottage!

  11. I'm mystified that even after going to the trouble of raising the ceiling and adding another floor that they didn't think (or want?) to include any ceiling fixtures other than can/pot lights; the only chandelier/ceiling fixture is in the dining room. Joni, is this abundance of recessed lighting and ceiling vents common in Texas? Ceiling fixtures can be such a lovely finishing touch to a room, that it's odd to me, given the extent and expense of the remodel, that they weren't included.

    I do agree that a simpler portico and MBR ceiling would have helped to retain the charm of the original house.

  12. Interesting post for me as my daughter and SIL are thinking of adding a second floor to their small home. I do agree with the taking up of the parquet; personally, I can't stand it.
    At the risk of sounding like the grammar police, your title should be "A surprising" not "An surprising..." :)

  13. Another exceptional story! I am glad my before/after images could be of use. You actually caught the bump out of the front door, which flew right passed me. Yes, while a nice renovation in some aspects it just doesn't compare to the once charming cottage that is no more.

  14. nailed "Get The Look!!!" Now, THAT IS service!! (Miss the small cottage, too...) franki

  15. I read a while back that can lights were done and yet I feel like I'm seeing them more than ever now. Why would anyone want all that bright, direct light coming out of holes in the ceiling? So much bright offensive light like you're in a big box store or the dentist's chair. WTF?

  16. I also must add that it truly bothers me how the windows are spaced in the master bedroom and one is flush against the wall!! (I assume the chimney of the fireplace is behind the bed wall) How would you even dress the windows.

  17. With no intent to be snide, bigger is not necessarily better. Ann

  18. This home is a dream. I love it has had the chance to be improved again and again. Loved it before and certainly love it now. Really a fun post!

    1. It's no longer cute, especially from the outside.

  19. Joni, hello. I'm not in the design/decor field but enjoy looking/reading. Just one quibble about this and the prior post: as a native San Franciscan, we never call our city "Frisco". It is always San Francisco or simply, The City. Just FYI.

  20. Private Residence | Frisco, Texas

    1. Sorry, Frisco, Texas, for some strange reason your message got lost. What were you saying?

    2. I think they are trying to correct Julie by saying the reference is to Frisco, TX not San Francisco!

    3. Julie cade -

      It's Frisco Texas, not San Francisco CA. We are talking about Texas.

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  22. Can't say this a favorite makeover. The extra space is nice, of course, (and the family will use & enjoy it), but the new layout & design is not going in my files.

  23. Those tall, white vase things on the floor by the window in the new dining room make me want to strangle myself.

  24. The cottage had some flaws for sure , hated the flat door when you entered it . Extremely open garden in the front and back .
    But it had all the cosy charm a small one bedroom house could provide . Done with so much flair by Lisa Luby Ryan .
    Now you have plenty of space but its charm is all gone . A pity really .

  25. Your attention is so good. Actually, GREAT. I know what looks good, but I don't always know why it looks good until you tell me. : - )

  26. I feel Dallas is behind the latest design curve, called Jewel Box homes. It's homes under 3000 sf finished exquisitely for empty nesters. It's such a big trend out West, am in Scottsdale for a visit and their October issue of Phoenix Garden and Home has this months feature on small exquisite homes 1900-3000 sf
    Karen Nickle former Trad Home editor runs this magazine and has a good pulse on the changing home market.
    Would be a pun interesting blog topic Joni
    Kris in Seattle

    1. 3000 square feet is small now??

    2. 3000 square feet is my idea of a huge house!

    3. In Texas that's small anyway in the Phoenix magazine they featured two homes at 1900 and 2200 sf

  27. I like the change in the front door.The rest is just tediously predictable and without any charm.

  28. Wow, the story behind this place is as amazing as the transformation itself! Thanks for sharing, I loved reading about it!

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  30. The renovation seems like it has large expanses of wasted space. The original version was charming and oh so much better decorated.

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  33. Wow, Awesome post. Great transformation story behing it. Thaks for sharing. Enjoyed reading it. pawn a watch