A Serene Single Bedroom in an Un-Orphaned Villa Serena

Once an orphanage, a gated 1913 Italianate property near downtown and north of Montrose found new life in 2003 as a 15-unit condo re-dubbed Villa Serena. Its historic pedigree encompasses city, state, and national recognition. A corner unit on the ground level quietly made its market debut on Monday, with a $299,000 price tag. The 1-bedroom home last sold in 2010 for $210,000 — down from an asking price of $245,000 at that time.


This week’s governmental shutdown means there’s no access to the National Register of Historic Places database for a full lowdown on the property.  Fortunately, the Texas Historical Commission has plenty on file about the neighborhood landmark, designed a century ago by Mauran & Russell of St. Louis. The Houston Architectural Guide, meanwhile, makes note of the 3-story property’s arcade-topped loggia beneath 2 stories of now-converted sleeping porches and bracketed eaves. The 21st century repurposing of the former DePelchin Faith Home was done by HHN Homes, with Kaldis Interests as historical consultants and Spencer Partnership as project architect.

Now, about the listing: It’s a 1,349-sq.-ft unit featuring high ceilings, exposed brick, hardwood floors, and a combo living-dining-kitchen floor plan:

Floor-t0-ceiling shelving and light-diffusing shades remain with the unit, identified in the listing as “1E.”

Warm-toned cabinetry makes the most of the limited wall space in the opened-up kitchen, which has electric appliances and enough of a countertop overhang to form an informal dining spot:

Beneath and behind all the landscaping lies the unit’s private, narrow patio area. It’s just off the kitchen:

Most of the unit’s doors land in a shared entry hall, with no 2 of them looking the same. From left are access to the laundry room, the building’s interior hallway, the unit’s mechanical room, and the bedroom:

Pulling the camera back from there, a short commute up the gallery-style hallway toward the main room, there’s a storage closet:

There’s only that 1 bedroom, but it’s big, and it appears to have some of the plaster peeled back to reveal the building’s structural underpinnings:

Natural light is indirect — it passes through a set of interior windows after bouncing around the adjacent 5-ft.-deep sun room:

There’s also only one bathroom, but it comes with 2 separate sink cabinets.

In the the shared, public portions of the historic property, meanwhile, there’s a mashup of adapted but original architectural flourishes and conduits for modern conveniences (like air conditioning). The set of glass doors in the background of the photo below leads to the gated parking area at the back of the half-block property:

Roof overhangs and tree canopies shade the grounds, located east of Montrose Blvd. where the original street grid shifted its orientation from true north to catch the prevailing breeze from the southeast. The listing calls the area “where Montrose meets Midtown.”

The palm trees, live oaks, and heavy landscaping hide the gated grounds from the street. On the property, however, the later additions to the building emerge — such as the single-story side wing in the photo below:

Parking, also located behind gates, includes 2 covered spaces designated for the unit:

The unit comes with a $580 monthly fee.

28 Comment

  • Wow … far cry from the Emo’s and Club Some days that were housed on the first floor. Anyone remember the algae stricken pool as well as skateboard half pipe that was in the courtyard? Or better yet, the outdoor bathrooms that had no doors and long lines … shy guys need not apply. Those were the days.

  • Excellent repurposing, but I’d never live in any place that has fees. 580 a month is what a lot of people pay for a 1 bedroom apartment. I realize what they say the fees are for, but I mow my own grass, know how to repair things (correctly) and clean my own pool and I have an Dog for security and I assure you it didn’t cost me anywhere near 580 a month!

  • The largest component of maintenance fees is usually property insurance but agree that $580 is a lot of clams

  • Having lived in a 100-yr old building in the Heights converted to 18 lofts/units, I would guess the largest expense in the $580/mo fee is the building insurance for areas defined as “common areas”. In addition, there’s annual city permits/inspections (elevator, fire sprinkler and alarms) to be renewed and private garbage collection (doubt they have 15 individual city-issued trash recepticles that are rolled to the curb). And a capital reserve for future structural repairs (eventual roof replacement, hurricane repairs deductibles). Oh, and water/sewage. We had one water bill each month for the whole building and lawn sprinkler system. So, I’m not surprised by the $580/mo fee.

  • About 4 or so years ago (maybe longer) I looked at buying a place on the 2nd floor of this building. While it looked nice on the outside, closer inspection revealed some serious issues with the place.

    The kitchen finishings had poor workmanship and poorly thought-out planning (for example, you couldn’t open up a drawer because the oven door handle blocked the drawer from opening, the microwave was shoe-horned into a cabinet and opening the door rubbed against the cabinet finishing, etc.) The exterior windows were ill-fitting, and because of the property’s historical designation, couldn’t be properly insulated for the weather. The bathroom’s furnishings was oddly placed, and the interior rooms were cut-up and not particularly liveable.

    I applaud the rehabbing and re-purposing that was done (and as I recall, the agent stated that the project wasn’t profitable to HHN but was done more out of a labor of love–one wonders if that was true or if HHN did the work for other reasons), but the asking price simply wasn’t supportable and, as other have noted, the condo fees are outrageous for what you get.

  • Wow, this is the former Emo’s? Looks amazing. I’d never actually seen it in daylight back in the day.

  • what always got me about the fees is that they never appear to be based on square footage so those in the upper echelons of the building with large penthouses are paying the same rate as those on the lower end. is this incorrect, do any of them ever pro-rate the fee based on square footage?

    so does that also mean that basic utilities such as electric would be included as well, was always my understanding.

  • I understand that fees have to be paid and I stipulate that you’re probably correct that it’s de rigeur for a place like this, but it’s a real turn off to a lot of prospective buyers, I’d rather buy a house for 300000 and keep it up myself and not have a 600 dollar bill every month on top of my Mortgage, Insurance, property tax, electric bill, water bill et.al, but hey, that’s just me.

  • That building is haunted. A friend of mine saw a little boy ghost in there when a cabaret club called “Risky Business” was in the buildng. That was back in the late ’80s.

  • Cute place, but yeah, high maintenance fees. I pay $275 less than that on my 1956-era condo, and it includes 24-hour concierge services and basic cable TV.

  • Many condos fees are based on sq ft. $580 isnt horrible considering it has a pool. It does seem a little high though since it is a 2003 renovation. I would hope that means they have a healthy association nest egg. As they get older the fees tend to increase. I would be careful of any condo that has low fees, it probably means they handle things through special assessments. Nothing wrong with SA, but it can be a surprise to a new homeowner. I am sure most of it does go to insurance. That fee covers everything exterior. Roof, windows, main structure, etc.

  • Speaking from experience, condo fees are usually based on a percentage of ownership in the complex which is derived from the square footage of the unit and a portion of the total common area of the property. Each complex may include different elements to comprise the fee. Where I lived it included basic cable, water, building insurance, management fees and upkeep of the common areas including the lawn and pool with another portion going into reserves for future repairs or capital improvements. Our dues were nominal since the property had a history of fiscal responsibility. Other properties may have an all bills paid component and others may be self managed and have security patrol layered in. Any prospective condo buyer should verse themselves of the reserves and dues before making a purchase.

  • Many times the fees do pay for water, waste water and trash. Sometimes even cable but less now-a-days cause who wants cable anyways? That is in addition to the obviously things like building itself, the grounds and insurance.

  • Shannon, I think we are all happy that you won’t live here. I know that some people enjoy gardening and yard work, and I am happy for you/them. But, some of us would rather sleep in, then head to kegs and eggs on a Sunday, instead of mowing our lawn. And obviously you haven’t looked for an apartment in quite some time. Sure, you can find one for $580, but I’m not sure that it would be someplace you would feel comfortable/safe. Not everything is for everybody, but to each their own.

  • It was also a gay disco called “The Farmhouse” many many moons ago.

  • I remember going Emos and club some……those were some crazy times.

    I’d love to buy a place there if for noting more than a contact high but for the $500+ a month fee….forget it. When I went there I lived in a $350 a month 2400 Sq, Ft. artist loft on the east side of downtown.

  • I’ll live where ever I like

  • Oh yeah : Emo’s and Club Some: those were some jammin’ clubs; they were preceded in the late 70’s by the Tea for 2 Thousand groups huge(2000+ attendees)funding raising parties. One theme was Halloween ala Alice in Wonderland.During the Emo’s era,there was a theatre oon the opposite side of the building.The theatre companies in Houston put on some really good,cutting edge productions.And do I remember that nasty pool. A few intoxicated patrons probably did end up in the slimy algae muck..Thank God the developer saved the building (it is virtually impossible to get around ANY historic designation)And the majestic ,huge old oak trees tie the building to the site.In the 1950’s/60’s it was the Eagle Club ( a private,membership BYOB club. Texas DID NOT have liquor by the drink until 1970/1971 !!!! The fricking Southern Baptists didn’t want anything legalized.Of course the douche wads were doing the very thing they were publically against. Hollyfield Properties owned the property for several decades. Overall it is an amazing piece of Houston history.

  • FYI: New condo buyers should carefully read the HOA’s conditions, covenants, and restrictions to determine if the HOA is subordinate or not to your mortgage. If not, then they could theoretically put a special assessment on your property and if you do not make payment they can foreclose on you in 30 days.

  • lol at a 1 bedroom apartment for $580/month

  • Clair a lot of less fortunate working class people live in 580 or less 1 bedrooms, look around parts of SE & SW Houston and maybe the near north east, not everyone can afford The Galleria and west inner loop.

  • Ah emo’s, what happened?! Wasn’t there a bowling lane in the basement?

  • Maintenance fees, common areas, special assessments…all great reasons to buy a single family home on its own lot with a sturdy fence on 3 sides (preferably 4). Bonus: you get to piss in your backyard whenever you want.

  • Shannon, why compare other areas to here? Of course some areas cost more to live, there’s a reason for it.

  • Back in the 80’s there was the Farm House (dance club) and on the upper floors there was a bath house. Later, the Officer’s Club was on the first floor, on the right.

  • Will never forget watching a drunken Pasadena redneck do the perfect faceplant on that half-pipe at Emo’s.

    Houston was a great town back then.

  • I remember Emos from back in the 80’s, moved back to H town and couldn’t remember where it was – now I know, I cant imagine this is it, I vaguely remember a band playing on the second floor and getting beers from the glass doored office ..

  • Wasn’t that once a club called “Boccaccio”