Bigger isn't always better. That's a lesson Linda and Mike Lessner learned the hard way, after building a 5,000-square-foot house outside Austin in 2002. After moving in, the couple realized that it was wrong for them. "My husband wanted to be able to bike to work. I wanted to be able to hop to the store. We wanted to be able to walk to a city park, and we didn't need all that space," says Linda.
So within nine months of moving into the new house the Lessners sold it. They found a 1940 tan-brick, Cape Cod–style house on a double lot, in close proximity to schools and shops, and within biking distance of Mike's dental practice. There was no question the house needed a major renovation: With two first-floor bedrooms, two baths, an outdated kitchen, and a bowling-alley-like attic bedroom, the house was too tight a squeeze for the Lessners, who had three children then and now have four.