Alamo Heights renovation project expands when part of the 1934 house collapses


Home renovations rarely go exactly as expected. Melanie and Thomas Tucker’s proposed renovation of the three-bedroom, three-bathroom Alamo Heights home they purchased in February not only fell victim to “mission creep,” but also uncovered structural flaws that resulted in a corner of the house collapsed. A project originally budgeted at $65,000 ended up exceeding $150,000.

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While planning their move from Wenatchee, Wash. to Alamo Heights to be closer to family, the couple figured they just needed to remodel the bathrooms. They planned to freshen up the rest of the charming 1934 home with fresh paint and other cosmetic touches.

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Melanie spent much of those first few weeks on the phone, working out details with Monica Beyer, a designer they had hired at New Generation Kitchen & Bath.

“There was a lot of talk about how we’d be having cocktails when this thing is over, that’s for sure,” Melanie joked.

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She also flew to San Antonio several times to get a firsthand look at the state of affairs.

“Thomas came with us in April,” says Melanie. “He walked in and immediately said, ‘No, you have to do the kitchen too.'”

Homeowners Melanie and Tom Tucker sit in the living room of the Alamo Heights home they moved into in late June.

Homeowners Melanie and Tom Tucker sit in the living room of the Alamo Heights home they moved into in late June.

Josie Norris/Staff Photographer

A relatively limited project suddenly became much larger.

Having already remodeled five houses during the couple’s various moves, Melanie said she had many ideas for what she wanted in the new place.

“We love older homes with character and detail,” she said. “I wanted to integrate and update things that were already there.”

She relied heavily on Beyer’s expertise, particularly as the scope of the project expanded.

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Homeowner Melanie Tucker points out details of the recently renovated kitchen in her Alamo Heights home while designer Monica Beyer looks on.

Homeowner Melanie Tucker points out details of the recently renovated kitchen in her Alamo Heights home while designer Monica Beyer looks on.

Josie Norris/Staff Photographer

The couple has five children, two of whom still live at home. Not only did they want to be closer to their family, but they also moved because they have always loved San Antonio. Melanie, 50, a self-proclaimed “house technician,” was born here and is a direct descendant of Alamo defense attorney Johnny Kellogg. Thomas, 66, is an oncologist and works in Uvalde every two weeks.

Despite previous renovations, the nine-decade-old house has retained much of its original charm. Almost every room, for example, has wide, detailed crown molding and large baseboards, and much of the floor is oak. The kitchen floor is hand painted giving it a checkerboard look.

“I love the floor,” Melanie said. “It’s one of the things that drew me to this house.”

The look served as the basis for Beyer’s plan to give the kitchen a warm, European bistro look, but with a modern update.

The centerpiece of this makeover is the freestanding, 48-inch wide, six-burner stainless steel range with a griddle and gold accents manufactured by Italian company Ilve. The range is packed with features including a dual flame burner for quickly heating up large pots and pans, a convection setting and two dual ovens. It’s big enough to hold a turkey on a rotisserie.

“I used to cook a lot with five kids, but this oven is so sophisticated that I have to look up a lot of tutorials to learn how to use it,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to using it for Thanksgiving.”

With the hob, double oven, and microwave removed, Melanie Tucker suddenly had a lot more room to work.

With the hob, double oven, and microwave removed, Melanie Tucker suddenly had a lot more room to work.

New generation kitchen & bathroom

Despite its size, the installation of the stove has opened up the area.

“There used to be a simple hob, but there was also a double oven on the side and a microwave oven on top,” she said.

Once those appliances were removed, Melanie had about twice the workspace and more storage space. They added quartz countertops and a textured white subway tile backsplash that resembles mother-of-pearl in certain lighting to give the space a sleek, updated look.

Perhaps the most dramatic feature in the bistro look is the sentimental Gallic rooster neckline she hung over the sink.

“My grandfather made it for my grandmother and it hung in her kitchen for a long time,” she said.

Perhaps the most dramatic feature in the bistro look is the detail of the Gallic rooster that she hung over the sink.  It's a family heirloom, made by her grandfather and hung in her grandmother's kitchen for years.

Perhaps the most dramatic feature in the bistro look is the detail of the Gallic rooster that she hung over the sink. It’s a family heirloom, made by her grandfather and hung in her grandmother’s kitchen for years.

Josie Norris/Staff Photographer

Neither the Tuckers nor Beyer were afraid to mix things up by installing an industrial-style ceiling fan and a three-ring chandelier above the kitchen table with a touch of mid-century modern design.

“I don’t think we have a style,” Melanie said. “We’re very eclectic.”

They kept several features intact, such as B. the kitchen cupboards with glass front and wooden grilles or narrow strips of wood that divide the glass into “panes”.

“People want everything brand new, but then you kind of miss the uniqueness of things,” Melanie said.

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They removed several cabinets that curled around the corner of the L-shaped room, making room for a sink and a large wine fridge.

She also decided to keep the glass-fronted pantry doors, although it allows her stored foods to be seen.

“I try very hard to keep things organized, but when you have teenagers you have to be able to make it work,” she said. “It keeps the kitchen open without it being just another wall.”

Homeowner Melanie Tucker (left) talks bathroom renovations with designer Monica Beyer (right) of New Generation Kitchen & Bath in Tucker's recently renovated downstairs bathroom.

Homeowner Melanie Tucker (left) talks bathroom renovations with designer Monica Beyer (right) of New Generation Kitchen & Bath in Tucker’s recently renovated downstairs bathroom.

Josie Norris/Staff Photographer

Everything was going according to plan until they started remodeling the owners suite. When the drywall was removed, workers discovered a patch of moisture in one corner.

“I was like, okay, no big deal,” Thomas said. “Big mistake.”

As work continued, about 150 square feet of flooring collapsed into the pier-and-beam crawlspace beneath the home. Luckily nobody was hurt. They concluded that the collapse was caused by a combination of missing support beams and wood rotting due to a pipe leak or rainwater getting under the house.

Fixing the problem set the project back about two weeks. Once that was done, they modernized the bathroom, raising the vanities from about 30 inches tall to a back-friendly 36 inches, raising the showerhead, and removing the outdated body sprayers.

The owner's bathroom has been updated with ceramic starburst tiles on the floor running up the wall behind the old style claw foot tub.

The owner’s bathroom has been updated with ceramic starburst tiles on the floor running up the wall behind the old style claw foot tub.

Josie Norris/Staff Photographer

The bathroom has been further updated with ceramic penny rounds on the shower stall floor and vertical tiles on the walls as well as starburst tiles on the floor running up the wall behind the clawfoot tub.

And for a dose of funkiness, they hung a Sputnik-style chandelier over the tub and kept an old-style silver medicine cabinet left behind by the previous owners to store towels, toiletries, and other bathroom essentials.

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini



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