When Vlora Alberga bought the home at 5638 Gaston in 2006, she had been living in Dallas just a year, scouring the city for the right home. When she walked inside this stucco clad 1920s Mediterranean revival, the pigeons that had taken roost descended upon her. To say it was a fixer-upper would be a vast understatement.
The first thing she did was renovate the 640-square-foot guest cottage in the backyard, which is an income-producing property with a full bath, full kitchen, and washer and dryer. She moved in and began the long process of restoring the dilapidated home into the incredible property it is today. Surely you’ve driven by and admired the lovely yellow door and beautiful, rolling front lawn.
Since the laborious restoration, Alberga’s home has become a magnet for magazines and home tours, making the cover of Dallas-Fort Worth House and Home in 2008 and the Swiss Avenue Mother’s Day Home Tour the same year, the 2012 D Magazine list of “Most Beautiful Houses in Dallas,” and the 2013 Junius Heights Home Tour. Visitors have always been amazed by this colorful home with engaging details and Alberga’s “French Carribbean” style.
Alberga is not only a pilot, but she’s the first-ever Jamaican pilot for an American airline, and through her work travels and her cultural heritage she has infused this jewel box of a historic home with vibrant color and art. Listing agent Elizabeth Mast Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty offered me a private tour of the home, and of course I jumped at the chance. There are so many amazing details that you will notice something different everywhere you look. Jump to see more!
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in the three-bedroom, two-full-and-one-half-bath home is how quiet it is. This home may be located off of one of the busiest streets in East Dallas, but once you close the front door, you can’t hear the cars at all. That’s because Alberga replaced all of the windows in 2006 with double-paned, insulated versions. Several other key upgrades to the home have been made, including the roofs on the main and guest houses, as well as the two-car detached garage that feature custom-fired Ludowici terracotta tiles. Mast told me that the roof was replaced after the freak hail storm in 2012 that damaged many historic homes in the area. It took almost a year to get the roof tiles to repair the home, but they come with a 75 year warranty.
The home also comes with dual HVAC with furnaces in the basement and new ductwork, an alarm system, new gutters, and refinished hardwood floors. The floors in the livingroom and dining room are original to the home, Mast said, and feature lovely stained inlays. The main home is 2,242 square feet, while the guest house is about 600 square feet, though it feels larger. The property is being marketed for $519,999, and considering that it sits on a more than quarter of an acre, that’s quite a deal.
But the homeowner is ready to move to New York and is sad to part with this amazing home that has received so many accolades. She chose Mast to represent the property because the Realtor is an expert in the neighborhood and knows where it’s headed. “It’s important to be able to explain the neighborhood,” Mast said of Swiss Avenue and Munger Place. “Everything is changing. It’s definitely on its way up — And I live here, I have a passion for it.”
Mast noted that many of the chandeliers (and there’s even one in the powder bath!) were imported from Italy, and these fixtures add so much glamour to the property, making it sparkle like the perfect engagement ring. With the wide moulding, gilded trim, vibrant paint, and beveled glass in the pocket doors the home has endless charm. “It’s truly timeless,” Mast added. “[Alberga] was able to update the home and still maintain the character. She did a fabulous job.”
What most people remember about this home is the pink dining room. I’m not really big on pink, but for some reason I just love this shade and how it plays so well with the gold leaf trim, sheer curtains, and that gorgeous chandelier with tall bobeches (Mast enlightened me to the term!). The room at one time had blue silk dining chairs, but now features a tufted bench and more subtle ivory upholstery. The furniture was mostly hand-selected by Alberga, found in antique shops and consigners throughout the city and re-upholstered with plush fabrics in a variety of jewel tones. Many selections fit perfectly with the time period of the home, and make it feel like it did when it was built and hosted the toasts of the neighborhood. As Mast explains, this home was quite popular with the fete set at the time, and could have looked like many scenes right out of The Great Gatsby.
The galley kitchen, which connects to the dining room, was remodeled in 2006 and features stainless steel appliances and granite counters, along with plenty of cabinetry with a warm antiqued finish. It’s a modest-sized kitchen, but it fits perfectly with the home and takes advantage of every inch of available space without sacrificing windows.
Of course, we can’t forget the sunroom, which is such a glorious space. Three bays of double French doors line the sides and back of the room, and there are gorgeous arched atrium doors that lead to a patio at the front of the home. This room is perfect for enjoying fall weather or spring breezes, and the chandelier with its delicate arms, the warm sand-colored paint, the silk Roman shades, and that beautiful pink setee … it’s perfection.
As you head upstairs, you’ll note a fantastic feature that is popular with many homes of the period: brass stair rods. I loved this, and maybe I haven’t toured enough historic homes, because this is the first time I have ever seen them outside of a hardware catalog. On the landing is a great little seat flanked by two cabinets with beveled mirrors. It’s a cute little spot where I can imagine a child reading a book.
All three bedrooms are upstairs, and they’re each wonderfully sized. The one at the head of the stairs has a daybed and another sweet chandelier, and the other has a larger bed and ceiling fan with serene views of the backyard. Those two rooms share a wonderful vintage bath with a lovely sink and corner tub and the sweetest crystal sconces you ever did see. Hidden inside the bifold door is one of the most brilliant features of the second floor: a stackable washer and dryer! Never haul your laundry downstairs ever again!
Of course, the master bedroom is the real star of the upstairs, and it does not disappoint. The bedroom is 13 x 15 and feels spacious thanks to the many windows. The wall-mount flatscreen TV allows you to curb your furniture to the bare necessities and let that gorgeous chandelier take center stage. The palette in the master is so warm and subtle, and I love those seemingly translucent lampshades.
Of course, be prepared with your checkbook when you see the master bath, because you’re going to want to put down earnest money on the spot when you see the three stained glass windows that surround the claw-foot soaking tub. And of course there’s a petite chandelier hanging above, ready for you to dim the lights, pop open a good red, and get the bubbles going. Note the antique brass hardware on the tub that is a perfect match for the home. It’s those thoughtful details that make this house really stand out.
There is also a full-sized shower to the right of the bathroom door, complete with frameless glass surround and beautiful brass rainshower head. The vanity features antiqued cabinetry and vintage faucets, and I love that gilded mirror. Travertine tile coats the floors and shower walls, making the room feel warm and insulated.
Like we previously noted, there’s a guest cottage in the backyard that is also an income-producing property. It’s staged with several pieces from Mast’s Lakewood furniture store HESS. Staging is definitely a value-added service Mast offers her clients, she said, because she has access to all the great pieces in her store. If I were a buyer, I’d see if I could negotiate that blue rug! I love it!
And not only do you have plenty of brick patio in the backyard, but there’s a large grassy area behind the guesthouse that would be a great spot for a pool, Mast noted. Could it get any better than a nice cool dip after a long day? Your guests would appreciate it!
What do you love most about this striking historic property?