Lynn and Henry Carville proved you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear when they decided not to tear down a "tear-down."
The owner, an elderly widow, kept two donkeys in a pen in the backyard, where four goats freely roamed. She had raccoons in a cage on the driveway and German shepherds inside.
Lynn Carville's late father, architect John Bani, saw the Walnut Hills home in 1977 at the request of a realtor who was trying to decide whether to sell the property with or without the house. It was a mess, but Bani knew the house had potential.
He and Lynn's mother, Joy Bani, bought the house 'as is,' and sold it to the Carvilles the following day for a dollar more than they paid.
"We looked at the house and thought, 'What have we done,'" recalled Lynn. "The first thing we did was to go to Naylor's to buy a cane knife so we could cut a path into the door."
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Henry Carville, also an architect, and Lynn, a speech therapist, worked on the house every day after work and every weekend. It had to be rewired and needed air and heat.
"There was this weird kitchen with metal cabinets," Lynn said.
The Carvilles hired a small construction crew to help with the renovation. In the process of removing a window, they found a plaster wall full of honey bees with a honeycomb from floor to ceiling. It took experts from the Cooperative Extension Service to get them out.
They removed a fake fireplace in the living room, had plaster expert Bertell Cook take down an eight-inch plaster detail around the ceiling and modernized the kitchen.
Five months later, the young couple moved into the home with a living room, tiny dining room, three bedrooms and two baths.
Over the next 38 years, the Carvilles made several additions to turn the former "tear down" into a real showplace for themselves and their three sons, Brian, Bradley and Brett.
In 1982, they converted the old garage into a den with a Mexican tile floor that extends to the patio area, with a cypress ceiling and large cypress doors where the original garage doors had been. There is even a special alcove for the baby grand piano.
"Once we did the den, we didn't need a big living room, so we swapped out the living room and made it the dining room," Lynn said.
In 1991, they added a hall, small office and master bedroom suite to the east side of the original home. Outside the bedroom they planted Leah Anne's Courtyard, in memory of a twin daughter who died shortly after birth.
"All of the flowers are pink," Lynn said.
In 1996, they expanded and remodeled the kitchen, converted a little nursery to a large laundry room and added a breakfast area and playroom to the back of the house.
"Henry had all of the plans and contractors ready to go the day the boys got out of school," Lynn said. "We got it finished during the summer."
In 2010, Lynn, who describes herself as a wannabe architect, designed a guest cottage with a bedroom planned around her father's wooden bar, which now sports a plaque "in memory of John and Joy Bani." A separate bathroom-kitchen area, which can be locked off from the bedroom, is accessible to friends and family members who want to swim in the pool.
Lynn selected the colors in the home, assisted by her friend Helen Bullock with the fabrics and furniture. The yard is also her project, with help from Wilbur King, who has worked for the Bani family for more than 50 years.
The home is filled with family treasures and artwork, including a collection of pieces of fine needlework done in intricate patterns by Lynn's late godfather and uncle, Thomas "Brother" Neff. The Carville sons are extremely artistic, and their work is also displayed throughout the home.