Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Aimee and Derek Heckendorn were house hunting all over the city, on and off for a year, when they went to a Lights in the Heights Christmas party and fell in love with Woodland Heights.

“We went to the party and thought, ‘We will live in this neighborhood,’” said Aimee.

They’d fallen in love with the character, history and shady, tree-lined streets. It also helps that it’s closer to their jobs — they both work in banking — and close to parks so that Aimee, an avid runner, can get exercise.

The couple, now married two years and expecting their first child in July, found a home built in 1895 and in need of some TLC. Prior owners had the same intentions — to modernize it for 21st-century life — but none were able to follow through.

The Heckendorns bought the house in November 2018 and started renovations the following January with help from architect Sam Gianukos of Creole Design, contractor Leslie Leppard of Vintage Bayou City Homes and interior designer Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design. They finished work in April 2020.

On March 25-27, the Heckendorns’ Bayland Avenue house will be one of six featured on the 2022 Woodland Heights Home Tour, a tour that includes homes in this neighborhood that was created around the turn of the 20th century as a mostly working-class community that was just a 20-minute streetcar ride to downtown.

When: Happy hour preview, 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday; general admission, noon-5:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Where: 404 Bayland, 420 Bayland, 505 Byrne, 628 Omar, 3524 Pineridge and 729 Redan

Tickets: $25 through March 24; $30 after March 24; www.whcahometour.org or available at Travis Elementary School, Another Place in Time, August Antiques, bespoke by GJCD, Boulevard Realty, Buchanan’s Native Plants, C&D Hardware, Davis Hardware, Eclectic Home, Joshua’s Native Plants & Garden, Jubilee and Kaboom Books. Tickets for individual homes are $10; preview party tickets are $50 and are good the whole weekend.

Many of Woodland Heights’ original homes are still intact in styles popular 100 years ago: Queen Anne, Craftsman, Arts and Crafts, and Colonial and Greek Revival. This isn’t a tour that focuses on bigger, grander homes but those filled with the charm of hand-milled woodwork and tidy details of the 1920s and earlier.

The neighborhood hosts a home tour every other year, featuring only its original homes; new construction isn’t included. The 2020 event was canceled because of COVID-19.

The Heckendorns’ Queen Anne-style abode began its life as a one-story, two-bedroom house, and it grew over time with various owners, gaining a garage with an apartment over it after cars became more popular.

Derek proposed to Aimee in front of the house not long after they bought it, and while she planned their wedding, he worked on the house.

The Heckendorns bought it from someone who’d spent two years working on construction plans and working with the city’s historical commission, since the home is in a historic district. So they were able to use existing plans with some modifications.

They reconfigured the first floor, keeping the original windows and trim, and adding two bedrooms and a Jack-and-Jill bathroom in unused attic space as well as a new primary bedroom suite at the back of the house.

For the new spaces, they had trim made to match the rest of the house. They still have the original wood flooring and found another 600 square feet of never-used red pine flooring in the attic that they could use.

The Heckendorns and designer Cokinos, who also lives in Woodland Heights, hope tourgoers will appreciate how older homes can be updated for modern life. Many are examples of how tiny bungalow cottages can be enlarged to make room for entertaining spaces, home offices and guest quarters.

This nearly 2,900-square-foot home on Bayland has plenty of style, too, from a small home office painted Sherwin-Williams’ “Naval,” to its pretty dining room, which looks out onto a big live oak tree and the street, and powder bath that packs in a lot of luxury.

A fancy La Cornue range is the showpiece of their kitchen, which has a long island and honed, leathered quartzite counters and a pair of antique pendants.

Woodland Heights has lived up to its expectations for the Heckendorns, who hand out candy to at least 900 trick-or-treaters on Halloween night and host their own holiday shindig in which Aimee’s dad poses as a fairly authentic Santa Claus.

“He’s very convincing — and the 4-year-old across the street believes he’s really Santa,” Aimee said.

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