A Labor of Fun

By Kathleen Seaman

The Bhateleys build a custom home in Cameron Park

Pictured: Photographs by Grace-Marie Brunken, grace-mariephotography.com
Styling by Melissa Hoekstra
Special thanks: James & Reid Home Antiquities

Homes in Cameron Park are hard to come by, so when Dr. Dileep and Melanie Bhateley (pronounced buh-tay-lee) heard about a new subdivision being developed, they didn’t hesitate. It took them less than a day to decide to purchase one of the lots for their future home.

Dileep is the chief of staff, director of the emergency room and a family doctor at the Falls Community Hospital and Clinic in Marlin. Originally from Fort Worth, Dileep attended Texas Christian University, went to medical school in Houston and did medical rotations with the famous trauma surgeon and television personality Dr. James “Red” Duke. Dileep has been practicing in the Marlin community for more than 25 years.

“It’s really a true family health practice setting,” Dileep said. “I see patients as they grow up, and it’s been really gratifying.”

Dileep has two grown daughters. Erika Johnson, a dentist in San Antonio, is married and has a 2-year-old daughter, Emma. His younger daughter, Reena Johnson, is also married and has a veterinary practice in Bourne. Dileep’s two sons-in-law, while both Johnsons, aren’t related.

Melanie is a compliance officer for Alliance Bank here in Waco. She grew up in Groesbeck and lived in Georgia for a stint, but she moved back to Texas to work for the state as a bank examiner. Because this job included a lot of travel, she was able to choose where she lived. She chose Waco as home base for her and her son, Clay.

“I picked Waco because my sister was here,” Melanie said. “She would watch Clay for me. I would travel 75 percent of the time, which is why I [eventually] moved to banking. When a 3-year-old says, ‘Mommy, please don’t leave,’ you start changing your mind.”

That was about 10 years ago and around the time Melanie met Dileep. She was examining a bank near Marlin, and Dileep’s good friend happened to be president of the bank. They were set up on a blind date. They went to the now-closed Elite Cafe, and right from the start, Dileep broke with convention.

“He broke all the rules,” Melanie said. “Don’t eat the bread. Don’t talk about exes. All the rules, he broke them all.”

His disregard for dating etiquette seems to have charmed Melanie because they’ve been together ever since and will have been married for six years in June.

Up until last summer, they lived in Marlin, with Melanie and Clay commuting to Waco for work and school. After doing the drive for five years and since Clay was about to enter junior high at Live Oak Classical School, the Bhateleys decided it was Dileep’s turn to make the commute. They started the hunt for a home in Waco and were really interested in the Cameron Park area.

“We like the park,” Dileep said. “We like to go running, hiking and mountain biking, and it’s just beautiful. It just looks like a different world in there.”

While looking at another property in the area, their real estate agent told them about The Cloister at Cameron Park, a planned residential community developed by Doug and Michele Henry with builder Sorrells & Co. The Henrys’ home, which is part of this new neighborhood, was featured in the March 2017 issue of the Wacoan.

The Cloister is a pocket neighborhood — a small cluster of homes with a shared common space — and according to builder Steve Sorrells, the neighborhood’s 11 lots sold out in just four months. Each of the homes is custom built and meant to have a different style.

“We wanted it to be a fairly eclectic neighborhood,” Sorrells said. “This one is a Tuscan style, to the left is a contemporary Charleston, on the other side is a Sea Island, Georgia, sort-of-style home with a big wraparound front porch. We have a contemporary farmhouse, a Norwegian-style home is about to pop up this next year, which is cool, and a French country is one we’re working the foundation on. Everything is very much unique and individualized — just like the owners.”

Surrounding the lots, 3 acres of common area will include walking trails and a community garden.

“We preserved all that, and we’re wanting to make it very much a social neighborhood,” Sorrells said.

The plans for the common area also include a tennis court, which the Bhateleys can’t wait to use.

“Melanie is a really good tennis player, and they’re supposed to build some tennis courts. That’s part of the [homeowners association],” Dileep said. “She’s going to play a lot of tennis when they get those courts up. She can beat me soundly. She never hits the ball soft.”

The Bhateleys’ lot is about 1/4-acre, and its shape presented some challenges when designing a home that had all their must-haves.

“We had to shoehorn it onto a neat lot,” Sorrells said. “We had a great oak in the back that we were dealing with from a view perspective. It’s on a cul-de-sac, so it’s pie-shaped, and it’s a fairly narrow entry to it. It’s fairly shallow as well because we have this parkland behind us that’s part of The Cloister. We were just designing with all those aspects, so we definitely had to go up in elevation to make everything fit on it.”

In the end, the Bhateleys ended up with a two-story, four-bedroom home that’s about 4,100 square feet. The home took about nine months to build, and the Bhateleys worked closely with Sorrells every step of the way. They started with their lists of requirements, combined them with Sorrells & Co.’s expertise, and pieced them together to create their dream home.

“They were very much a fun couple to work with,” Sorrells said. “They were hands-on. They got involved, and they enjoyed it. The owners just crack me up. There are different types of clients in this world — these were some of the fun ones you get to deal with in life. There was a lot of laughter.”

When they started designing, Melanie knew she didn’t want a square house, and she had to have a Wolf gas range. Dileep wanted a front courtyard and a massive staircase. Clay, who’s now 12, wanted his bedroom wall to be Philadelphia Eagles green and have a rainwater shower head in his bathroom. Melanie and Dileep both claim credit for the home’s Mediterranean style with its tiled roof and stucco facade.

“Everybody wanted something, so we just started throwing out ideas,” Melanie said.

During the design process, Sorrells said the family was really receptive to any ideas from his team.

“We pride ourselves on doing design-build work with our clients, and these are ones that are just a perfect example of somebody who can come in and say, ‘Let’s shoot for the moon on this,’” Sorrells said.

From the Bhateleys’ perspective, Sorrells was really good at reining them in. They’re the first to admit that they could get a little carried away when it came to adding to the home’s design, and Sorrells could provide them with some practical advice.

“Steve was really good at saying no,” Melanie said. “We’d get really excited, but when he’d bend his head to the side, we knew we couldn’t have it. He had a look.”

In the end, Melanie got her high-end gas range with a pot filler faucet, as well as a subzero refrigerator, an under-counter microwave, soft-close drawers, a large walk-in pantry, a Sonic-style ice maker and a built-in coffee system that can make espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos or just a simple cup of black coffee.

“The kitchen — it’s mine,” Melanie said. “My favorite part [of the house] is the kitchen and that it’s open. We eat dinner at the table every night. We do homework at the table every night. We’re all always right here.”

One of the home’s most unique features is the interior courtyard. Just beyond the front entry gate, you’ll find an outdoor living area with a fireplace and a custom pool.

“My only addition to the pool was I said it should be tiled, which turned out really good,” Melanie said. “And then Dileep took it a step further and added glow-in-the-dark tiles. He goes a little bit overboard.”

The pool was built by Ocean Quest Pools, and according to the Bhateleys, it’s the only private pool the company has done where the pool is fully tiled. It took over a month for just the tile work to be completed.

“The pool is gorgeous,” Dileep said. “It’s almost more of a water feature, but we put a [swim current generator] in there that you can swim against. It’s real quiet, but it’s an incredibly good workout,” which is perfect since Clay swims for the Heart of Texas Aquatics Team, a local swim club.

Another striking feature outside is the large lanterns stationed throughout the courtyard. The outdoor lamps were installed by The Village Lamp Lighter in Lorena. They’re actually LED, but the bulbs mimic the warm glow of a gas flame.

The home’s interior style features a lot of beiges, grays and pops of blues and greens. Dileep gives credit for the home’s decor and aesthetic to his wife, but throughout the process, the couple made every decision jointly. For the most part, they each got everything they wanted, but there were a couple of points of contention.

“She wanted dark brown trim.” Dileep said.

“Let it go.”

“And it was a death match because I didn’t want dark trim. And I won.”

“He won.”

Another argument Dileep won was over the steam shower in the master bathroom. The steam shower wasn’t in the original plans for the home, but during the process the couple went to Park City, Utah. They won a trip in an auction at the Avance Extravaganza and Quinceañera Gala. The house they stayed at had a steam shower, and once they got home, Dileep had to have one.

“Have you ever been in a steam room?” Dileep asked. “It just feels so good. It opens your pores up. Texas is a little bit hot for this, but I use it two or three times a week.”

The rest of the master bathroom checked off several other items on Dileep’s wish list. When you walk into the water closet for the toilet, a motion sensor automatically raises the lid and turns on a night light inside the bowl — convenient for trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The toilet is also a bidet, and the water is heated.

“Those are pretty common these days” Dileep said. “They’re pretty reasonable.”

Melanie disagreed, “They are not reasonable. That’s a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a toilet seat.”

The master bath also has a rainwater shower head and body sprays in the shower, dual vanities and a drift tub. A drift tub is similar to a Jacuzzi, but instead of whirlpool, a stream of water more like a calming river current is released. Above the tub is a piece of artwork painted by Melanie’s sister. It’s a re-creation of a cubist painting, “Mixed Doubles” by George L. K. Morris, since they play tennis.

Right off the master bedroom is Dileep and Melanie’s walk-in closet. On first inspection, it looks like just another beautiful closet. There are plenty of shelves for all Melanie’s shoes and plenty of rods for hanging clothes. The top rows even have pull-down rods for easier access. In the middle of the room is a dressing area with a three-angled mirror and a raised platform. But beneath the platform is where you’ll find the real surprise.

“One of Dileep’s family’s requirements is that you have a tornado shelter. That’s a Bhateley requirement,” Melanie said.

The platform can be lifted to reveal a metal storm door and stairs that lead down to the shelter below the home.

“I’m hoping for a tornado that hits just my house,” Dileep said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody else, but you know, we’re safe.”

Also on the first floor is a half-bathroom, the laundry room and a guest bedroom. Upstairs is Clay’s room, another guest bedroom, the media room and a loft that overlooks the living room below. Leading up to the second floor is Dileep’s spiral staircase. The staircase treads continue the home’s dark wood floors, but the risers are faced with mosaic tiles. The circular stairwell is capped by a venetian plaster, domed ceiling.

According to his mom, the second floor is definitely where Clay spends the most time. Not only does it have his room, which has his midnight green wall, a Jack-and-Jill bathroom and a Juliet balcony with arguably the best view in the house, it also has the media room. Maybe modest by media room standards, the room has a 10-foot screen, a projector, plus a home theater sectional with four automated recliners, lighted cup holders and a sound system with plenty of bass to shake the seats. Clay’s Xbox is also set up in the media room.

“We didn’t think we’d be in it very much, so we didn’t build it very big,” Melanie said. “Most people say it’s a waste, but we watch TV in it every night. We love to binge watch shows on Netflix. Our current one is ‘Parks and Recreation,’ and then we’re going to watch ‘This Is Us.’”

The room’s sound system as well as the home’s other smart features were installed by Custom Integrators. From the two control panels located in the kitchen and Clay’s room, a tablet in the media room or their smartphones, the Bhateleys can control the interior and exterior lights, buzz people in through the front gate, view the many security cameras that are stationed all over and play music through the speaker system. Melanie also regularly uses the system in the mornings to video call from the kitchen up to Clay’s room to make sure he’s awake and getting ready for school.

Without a doubt, the home checks off most of the items on the Bhateleys wish list, but there may be a few items that had to be deleted.

“We didn’t do everything because all of [Dileep’s] dreams are kind of pricey,” Melanie said. “We did most of our dreams. Melanie’s cheap. You can just say it.
Melanie tries to follow the budget, and Dileep just says, ‘OK. That would be cool.’”

When discussing the things they like most about the house, Melanie’s is her kitchen — hands down — but Dileep is less decisive.

At first he said the den, but when Melanie mentioned Clay’s favorite, the media room —

“That’s probably mine, too, but I didn’t want to say that because it made me look like a kid. Oh, I was going to say the toilet. It’s heated,” he said.

“Are you sure it’s not the steam shower?” Melanie asked.

“Yeah, probably the steam shower.”

“How about the coffee maker?”


“You can’t pick, can you?

“I can’t pick,” he said. “I saw houses like this [before]. I just didn’t know I could build one like that and make it work. It’s been a fun experience.”

Dileep, Melanie, Clay and their dog, Shelby, moved in June 16, 2017, and they hosted their first gathering in their courtyard on the Fourth of July.

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