Austin’s First Firehouse Transformed Into “Palazzo Lavaca”

by hookedonhouses on February 2, 2012

Hard to believe this used to be an old fire station. It’s now the Venetian-inspired Palazzo Lavaca in Austin, Texas, but when it was built in in 1890, it was known as the Protection Hook and Ladder Company No. 3.

It has undergone a couple of major transformations over the years. Here’s how it looked when it was first built as a fire house, back in the 19th century:

It was later purchased by the Steiner ranching family, and in the 1940s opened its doors as Capitol Saddlery. For decades it was the place to get your saddles and boots in Texas. Legendary boot maker Charlie Dunn created them for everyone from Al Capone to Peter Fonda.

Current owner Giselle Koy, who describes herself as a professional muse, is responsible for its current incarnation as an otherworldly “Venetian Palazzo.” She spent two years refurbishing the old building.

After attending a party here, writer Michael Barnes reported: “The brain takes a few minutes to adjust to Palazzo Lavaca…. It recalls scenes from Anne Rice’s vampire novels and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.”

The house is available for photo shoots. Here’s one I came across on Style Me Pretty featuring a bride and groom. Seems like it would be the perfect place to film a movie, too. Or an episode of True Blood

This is not your ordinary kitchen. Wow. From a different angle you can see the cabinets and the sink under the window:

You can rent Palazzo Lavaca for events or spend the night. According to the Palazzo Lavaca website, “This sexy and sophisticated getaway was designed for an intimate rendezvous, a much-needed retreat or an escape from paparazzi.” Next time the paps get too much for me, I’m booking it!

Want to live here? This unusual property is on the market for $4.4 million. For more photos and information check the listing by Sotheby’s or the Palazzo Lavaca website.

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Brigid February 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

Good Morning Julia! Thanks for this one~loved the history, and the pics…such a great one-of-a-kind place to live!!! Have a great day!

Jalon Burton February 2, 2012 at 8:20 am

Wow – words can’t really do this space justice! I love when old buildings are refubished and utilized – but this… again – WOW!
Thank you so much for sharing… I have to book mark this one!
Have a great day

Linda @ MyCraftyHomeLife February 2, 2012 at 9:00 am

I just can’t believe that it was a firehouse. This is so beautiful.

Karena February 2, 2012 at 9:00 am

A truly unique property!! Eclectic taste, bold colors, and then a very serene master bath for relaxation!
Art by Karena

Luciane at February 2, 2012 at 9:28 am

Bongiorno, Julia! :-)

How are you doing? This is so grand! Everything is really well done. But you know me, I dream with a little cottage.

By the way, thank you so much for your email the other day. It’s always so nice to hear from you.


Luciane at

Mike February 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

Personally, I think it’s kind of gaudy, but hey that’s just MHO. I like some of it, and I love old firehouses converted into residences. But this one just doesn’t appeal to me.

Rachel February 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I couldn’t agree more. The makeover has hardly done this beautiful building (and it’s history) justice. And like you, I’m a sucker for a converted firehouse. FIngers crossed that the next owner does it some justice!

Jane February 4, 2012 at 11:07 am

Agree to the over the top and gaudy feeling. Where is any hint of the former history, a nod to the firemen – more than just a passing nod? But the rebel in me has a bit of admiration for someone willing to buck the crowd. In this case, the homeowner’s vision just doesn’t resonate with me. Different tastes,,,

Brandy February 2, 2012 at 9:32 am

Is that a La Cornue kitchen?!? If it is OMG!

hookedonhouses February 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Not positive, but it looks like it, doesn’t it?

Sarah @ housecrazy February 2, 2012 at 9:57 am

I actually really like this latest reincarnation of an old fire house! It is classy and gaudy at the same time, but done in a very artful way. It fills up one’s senses, rather than overpowering. Great find!

Jennifer February 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

That place is so. beautiful. I love any space that has a history…a story especially one that is brought back to life like this one. All the furnishings and decor are so fitting to the space. Great post Julia!

Pat February 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

It’s better then tearing it down! I love the bathroom, other then that, I’m not to sure. I wonder if its in a downtown city setting of on the outskirts of Austin?
What are the requirements to become a “professional muse”?

Bethany February 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I was wondering that to. I’m guessing family money/independently wealthy.

Molly @thewaffler February 2, 2012 at 10:39 am

Love that bathroom. And I agree — would make a great movie set.

TeresaD February 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

It’s in the heart of downtown Austin- near the capitol, governor’s mansion, state history museum, etc. I highly doubt it would have been torn down in such a historic and prominent district.
That said, I think it’s gorgeous work, I’m just not a fan. They style isn’t “Austin” at all, and I don’t think they’ve done anything to highlight the history. For being such an important structure, I think it will get lost in all of the other high-end event venues we have.

Rebecca M. February 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

I agree. It seems the Austin I know and love is slowly slipping away.

Sunny February 5, 2012 at 8:07 am

I use to live a block or so down at 1800. It’s a 5 minute walk from the University of Texas campus.

Capital Saddlery was such a cool pace and they did the most awesome shoe & handbag repair! Wish it was still there!

Old Austin is evaporating…

Rebecca M. February 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

It truly is an amazing transformation. You really have to see it to get the full effect. However, being a long time resident of Austin, seeing such an iconic structure turned into such a place of grandeur seemed ill fitting. But change is not always a bad thing. Credit must be given to Giselle Koy for her vision and her amazing sense of design and style.

Amy @ The Button Casa February 2, 2012 at 11:05 am

I really loved some aspects of this (exposed brick walls, etc) but since I’m more of a jeans and flip-flops sort of gal this doesn’t appeal to me all that much. I do love looking at these kinds of things though. It expands my horizons a bit.

Lisa February 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Have to agree, it’s way too gaudy for me. I would have to repaint every room, take down that massive chandelier and redo that bathroom. That furniture also does not work for me. I have seen some great Firehouse redo’s but this is just too much for me. I can only imagine how much money they spent.

Meredith February 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Wow, totally unique and gorgeous. Looks a lot like the apartments in Sicily with generations of antiques passed down.

Lisa T. February 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

What an awesome space! It’s so cool how is is so grand and aged at the same time. I love all the wall treatments. In the bedroom, the old glass mirrors behind the bed in that inset is just beautiful.

Lisa Antoniou February 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I think it looks a bit creepy…yes, a beautiful bathroom, but other than that I was not impressed.I like light airy spaces that are friendly and welcoming. This was not that.

Wayne February 2, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I actually think the bathroom and master are way too pat for the rest of the space. I know it’s the usual practice to make private spaces less themed then public spaces but I think it’s a bit jarring. The ceilings in that place are amazing.

NJ Cellulose Insulation Contractor February 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

That is some re-do! Definitely impressive. The colors are a bit much for my tastes though. If the colors were a little more muted it would be perfect! I do love the old glass mirrors though. They are amazing.

Kim February 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I love historical buildings that are preserved or renovated. Unfortunately I am not impressed at all with this one. The style makes it look like it’s stuck in the western days from the 1800′s. I wish people who are renovating old historical places, would try and preserve them instead of putting their own style in them.

One of the best historical renovations you featured on your blog was the Post Office turned into a house. To me that is how you do a renovation right.

Jenny Allworthy February 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I love the old facade in the top photo. Too bad it lost all that amazing character on the exterior over the years. The old 2 story windows and the full balcony are awesome. I’d love to see the interior, especially the ceilings. Very cool!

Becky February 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Okay, Ms. Koy MUST have read “The Lady in the Palazzo” by Marlena de Blasi! It is the ultimate, languid, Italian-house-restoration read, along the lines of Frances Mayes’ books except more …. edgy … and a little steamy.

These rooms look very much like the ones described in de Blasi’s book.

hookedonhouses February 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Interesting! Thanks, Becky.

carol miller February 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Oh julia, what a delight…truly eye candy. I’m impressed, the renovations are amazing, just incredable!! This was fun, thanks for this one!

Patience February 3, 2012 at 7:01 am

Wow, that is one stunning house. If I had $4.4 million, I would buy it in a second.

Mary February 3, 2012 at 7:24 am

What an incredible transformation! It’s beautiful with a huge amount of thought and love – but I agree it looks more like a set than a home
Mary x

Juju @ Tales of February 3, 2012 at 7:46 am

I LOVE this place and want that table.

theSavvySeeker February 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

What a beautifully unique space. Wish I knew who did her walls!! Or how they did them…love all of the beautiful, rich texture and color everywhere!

Carolyn February 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Not my style, personally, but looks like she had a fun time creating a fantasy. I wonder if that green wall in the kitchen is original – like it had layers of paint that had worn, chipped or faded through the years? Looks almost like a wall in Pompeii or a setting for the movie “The Wings of the Dove.” Unusual but interesting person.

Wendy February 4, 2012 at 12:24 am

How completely fun. I absolutely celebrate her vision. Consistent and very cool. I can’t speak to how well it fits into Austin, but what I remember of Austin it’s a pretty funky place with a long history of eccentrics. So maybe. Ya.

I wouldn’t want to live there, but I’d die to go to a party there!

Wendy February 4, 2012 at 12:31 am

I forgot to say that I loved the shot of the bride on the teal couch. I want that duvet cover! And how long do you think it would last with my 2 and 4 year olds?

Jennifer C July 10, 2013 at 11:48 am

OMG..this is so me..very unique and European…beautiful job!!

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