1930s Texas Teardown Gets a High-Tech Makeover

Despite being considered a lost cause, Vernon Tyger saw potential for his dream home.

Vernon and Lynn Tyger at their West University Place home.

Everyone has a dream home. Some people want a pool, some need a great location, and others love endless closet space. It just so happens that Vernon Tyger’s dream home had a leaky roof and a collapsed sunroom.

Before he purchased the home back in 2010, it was 1,836 square feet of eyesore to the people of West University Place, a small town in Texas that’s surrounded by Bellaire, Houston, and Southside Place. In fact, the city wanted it torn down. The neighbors wanted it torn down.

“This is a pretty high-end neighborhood,” says Vernon of what’s now known as the Wroxton Project (due to the street name). “The house right across the street from it is worth over $1 million — and they were looking at a house with boarded-up windows.”

Where lawmakers and neighbors saw a dilapidated danger zone, Vernon saw the potential for his dream home. He was used to flipping houses, but this one was special. The architecture, the space and the location made him think this could be a permanent residence for he and wife Lynn. She certainly deserved it after his house flipping led to five moves over a six-year period!

So in 2010, Vernon and Lynn purchased the place and began renovations on their new three-bedroom (four, if you count the bed in the sunroom), 2.5-bathroom home.

“I don’t think it could’ve been in much worse shape. It hadn’t been lived in for 15 to 20 years,” Vernon says. “You could look up through the garage apartment and see the sky through the roof.”

First, he wanted to restore the garage apartment to the way it was in 1939. It had apparently been tweaked into a separate living space at one point. Local residents were worried that the couple was planning to rent out the space.

Next, he wanted to make the home energy efficient, which included taking out the Sheetrock, redoing all of the windows, and installing a two-stage air conditioner. He also added foam insulation, sealed off the attic, and insulated under the roof rafters. “I’ve always wanted to go all out on the house,” he says. “The goal was to make it an energy-efficient home and get it LEED certified. Now, we’re a candidate to be certified LEED Platinum.”

Of course, he also wanted to give this home a modern makeover, by adding technology. Vernon had renovated homes in the past, using Niles Audio as a whole-house audio solution. For this one, he wanted to go all out. With the help of independent installer and friend Jonathan Hughes (who Vernon calls “the mastermind of the electronics”), the home received security cameras, lighting and other home automation aspects. He also wanted that same Niles system. That all changed, though, after he went to a CasaTunes demo.

“With [that Niles system], you have to have a controller in each room,” he says. “With CasaTunes, you can just use your iPhone.”

Not having that controller expense was a plus, but this decision was based purely on convenience. Currently, Vernon has two CasaTunes CT-8 multiroom servers set up, so he can access thousands of musical options in 10 areas of the home, all through his iPhone.

In May 2012, the couple could finally move in. While it’s not the ultimate Electronic House, it has all of the amenities Vernon could ever want, inside a classic structure.

Another perk of the location: Vernon lives very close to a neighboring park. In fact, he’s so close, he can access his Wi-Fi network using an Ubiquiti BULLET-M2-HP 802.11 B/G/N M2HP outdoor antenna that’s mounted on the side of the house. Measuring about the size of an umbrella handle, the antenna allows Vernon to access his home network from two blocks away.

Other features include an HAI (now part of Leviton) system for lighting, which ties into motion sensors and security. He also has six Vivotek IP8362 security cameras and a Vivotek NR8301 stand-alone 8-channel DVR to keep an eye on the surrounding property.

One of Vernon’s favorite features is his 32-inch Samsung UN32ES6500F HDTV in the sunroom. While it’s not exactly an extra-large, eye-popping screen, it does have a pretty unique setup. He attached the TV to a swivel mount, so it can be shared between the sunroom and the adjacent living room. “I’m not real big on having TVs everywhere. It takes up a lot of space,” he says. “This allows the same TV to be used in both rooms.”

Despite the age and condition of the home, Vernon says that it was a pretty straightforward install. And frankly, it was worth that extra effort — and even the aggravation. “I’ve always wanted to go all out on the house,” he says. “Most people thought that the house that I bought was a teardown. I just like to fix them.”

For a closer peek at Vernon and Lynn Tyger’s home and some of the technology in it, check out our 1930s Texas Teardown Gets a High-Tech Makeover slideshow.

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