You might not know “Bella Villa” by name, but if you’ve spent any time around the M Streets, you’ll likely recognize the palm tree-flanked building on the corner of Miller and McMillan Avenues. For years, it’s stood out not just for its striking Italianate-style architecture (and, y’know, the palm trees), but its tragically derelict state. Several of the windows were blown out, and anyone hoping to get a peek inside would have been thwarted by a wall of wooden boards. Delicate lettering spelled “Bella Villa” (meaning “Beautiful Villa” in Italian) above the entryway, somewhat ironically. But the building had clearly been something grand, and possibly had the potential to be so once again.
Thankfully, someone noticed. Two someones, actually. In 2017, Landmark Commission members Mike Berrer and Daron Tapscott took to City Hall to make the case for the nearly century-old Bella Villa, once a swanky apartment building for young professionals along the Vickery Place electric streetcar line in the ’20s and ’30s, to be named and protected as an official Dallas landmark. They won their case, convincing the commission that the building has served as a symbol of Vickery Place.
It was a timely move—Bella Villa had just recently been purchased by Indio Management, which manages apartments throughout the M Streets and beyond. Though the buyers were initially unaware of the initiation, they were on board with maintaining history. “We embraced it and obviously supported it,” says Seth Bame, president and founder of Indio Management.
Indio hired Architexas, an architecture firm that specializes in historic preservation, along with designer Wren Homsey, perhaps better known as “The Wrenovator,” to bring the building back to life. Renovations began in January of 2018. “The challenge with this property is appeasing so many interested parties. It sits within the Vickery Place preservation district, so obviously that has its own constraints. Then it’s also a historic landmark,” says Bame. “When we got in there, we had to reengineer the foundation to ensure the building could last another hundred years. That was probably the hardest part—everything else was just fixing what was there.”
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Originally recognized under the name Bella Villa, this building was a hidden gem waiting to be Wrenovated. Working with @indiomanagement we are brining this beauty back to life. #thewrenovator #wrenovator #dallasdesign #dallasremodle #mstreetsdallas #apartmentrehab #rehab #historicdallas
In keeping with the building’s historic Mediterranean charm, Homsey updated the 24 units’ original features to make them more functional for today’s living and tastes. The archways, glass doorknobs, hand painted tiles, and telephone nooks—all consistent with the 1920s style—blend beautifully with more modern features, such as dark kitchen cabinets and apron sinks. “Whenever I work on projects, it’s important for me to make people feel like they’re living in something unique,” says Homsey. “My goal for this one was to keep the soul of the building.”
Last night, Bella Villa hosted on open house for potential new residents, and anyone in the community who may have followed the unique building’s journey (I heard it was very well-attended). If you weren’t able to make it, you can head to the slideshow to take a virtual tour.