A Simple, Creative Space

By Caitlin Giddens

The Griffins create a retreat near Cameron Park

Pictured: photo by Rachel Whyte, rachel-whyte.com

Maggie and Byron Griffin have only lived in their North Waco home for two months, but you can’t tell. The rooms are perfectly curated, decorated with friends’ paintings, eclectic pieces and stacks of books. It’s an artful, peaceful home full of stories and family heirlooms.

“We wanted the things in our home to look like they have a story,” Maggie said. “A lot of what’s in our home are things that we’ve collected or bought together as a couple. We chose to decorate with our interests, our passions and our work so that people can get a sense of who we are when they walk in our doors.”

The Griffins have been married for two years. They met as students at Baylor University and stayed in Waco because of their jobs. Maggie worked with the Waco Arts Initiative and joined AmeriCorps, a partner of Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas. AmeriCorps members serve in schools and nonprofit agencies, mentoring, tutoring and advocating for children and their families. After graduation Byron got a job in the biology department at Baylor. Now he teaches fourth through sixth grades at Lake Air Montessori Magnet School. Maggie works in the Spiritual Life office at Baylor and is a freelance calligrapher.

“Neither of us even considered leaving Waco,” Maggie said. “Both of us were fortunate enough to have jobs in Waco as soon as we graduated, and many of our friends stayed in Waco as well. As our friends have moved on for various reasons, we have lingered. It has always felt right. That’s why we decided to buy our home so that we could root ourselves here for the foreseeable future. Waco for us is a place of both nostalgia and opportunity.”

While looking for their first home, the Griffins searched for an older house that was unique — anything but cookie-cutter. That’s what they found in their two-story American Craftsman-style house.

“We didn’t have a needs list when looking for a house; we had a wants list,” Maggie said. “We would walk into a house and see if it felt like our home. Byron was worried if it was in a safe neighborhood, and I looked at how it could be decorated.”

Then they found a 1940s house in North Waco, and they knew they had found their home.

“We fell in love and made our offer the day we saw the house,” Maggie said.

Byron added, “The house wasn’t on a website or on Zillow. When our realtor, Travis Baucom, sent us a photo, we knew this was it.”

The Griffin’s neighbor, Henry Smith, had recently remodeled the house. Maggie described Smith as a “neighbor to Waco.” Smith and his wife, Kathy, made the home their passion. They rebuilt nearly everything in the house. They fixed the electricity, plumbing, insulation and windows, installed heating and air conditioning and replaced all bath fixtures. They also rebuilt part of the roof and the back porch.

“I had rebuilt several houses in the past, and now that Kathy was retired, she said she could help me,” Smith said. “I really didn’t want to, but she was persistent. I seriously did not know what I was getting us into as the little house was in much worse shape than I thought it was.”

Kathy passed away in 2012, but Henry kept working on the house, determined to make a beautiful home. When he met the Griffins this year, he knew he had found the right homeowners.

“They were going to be the perfect fit,” Smith said. “And they still are. To see the little house lit up at night, potted plants on the front porch and people coming and going — Kathy would be so proud.”

In addition to the years of labor, Smith created a home that aligned with the Griffins’ design aesthetic. He stayed true to its character, adding antique furnishings from other houses in Waco, estate sales and flea markets around Texas.

“We are so grateful for all the work Henry poured into our home!” Maggie said. “Many times when people purchase a house, they know nothing about it other than the information the realtor can provide. They don’t know the history or what’s behind the walls or under floors. The first day that we came to see this house, Henry came over and gave us a detailed tour, sharing not only the stories of the house but his stories as well. He welcomed us into the neighborhood, and because of all the blood, sweat and tears he poured into this home, it felt like he was welcoming us into the home too.”

griffinhome-home2

After moving in the Griffins made minor changes. They remodeled the wooden floors and added a fence in the backyard. If they ever needed a helping hand, they knew where to look.

“As we were renovating, we would walk over [to Smith’s house] and ask questions and borrow tools,” Maggie said. “It is so comforting to have him as a neighbor and a source of knowledge on the home. We are also thankful for all the thoughtful choices he made when renovating.”

The Griffin’s house is nestled in a neighborhood by Cameron Park, surrounded by greenery and trees. That was a selling point for Byron, who enjoys nature and recently joined the local Texas Master Naturalist chapter.

“You can see the trees through the windows, which is one reason we don’t have curtains,” Byron said.

“We also wanted to let in the natural light, which was one of my favorite things about the house,” Maggie said.

The outdoor light fills the home with a soft glow, accenting the artwork displayed on the walls. In the living room the focal point is a moody blue painting by one of the Griffin’s friends. Maggie’s calligraphy work is also displayed throughout the house.

“A lot of our friends are extremely artistic, and we like supporting our friends,” she said. “I also display my [calligraphy] work because it makes me happy.”

Maggie opened an Etsy shop [magpiewrites.etsy.com] in 2012. Since then she’s focused on custom prints and calligraphy mail stamps. She describes her freelance job as a love affair and a chance to speak to the heart. Her pieces, some of which are scattered throughout her home, borrow sayings from poets, authors and musicians.

griffinhome-home5

To develop her craft, Maggie studies typography and design books. She comes from an artistic family that encouraged creativity as well as a passion for home design.

“My grandma is a watercolor painter,” Maggie said. “My mom is very artistic as well, and she was constantly rearranging in our house. I got the design bug from her. I’ve always loved designing and looking at design.”

When you walk into the Griffin’s home, the first room is an open space with a living room and dining room. Byron removed a gate between the two rooms to create more space. The living room is decorated with neutral colors and accented with bright accessories and books. The dining room features an antique table, modern chairs, a bar cart and a telescope — an unexpected decoration Byron loves.

“The telescope was a recent birthday gift Byron received from his sister,” Maggie explained. “We love functional antiques that speak to our interests. Byron loves nature, and we have used the telescope a few times when we’ve had friends over. Like many of the other furnishings and decor pieces, it serves as a great conversation starter.”

Byron also displays stacks of National Geographic magazines from his family. The magazines blend in with the rest of the Griffin’s book collection, which is displayed in the downstairs area.

“We both love books,” Maggie said. “We take a lot of date nights to Barnes & Noble. The Friends of the Library Book Sale is crucial to our collection. We go nuts there.”

Byron added, “You can tell whose books are whose. Mine are all of the animal and nature ones. Maggie’s are mostly about designing.”

Most of the furniture, including the dining room table and the bar cart, came from Byron’s family. The piano in the living room belonged to his mom.

“We did away with a lot of Byron’s ‘college furniture,’ but he did bring some great pieces from his family,” Maggie said.
“Most of my college stuff wasn’t house-worthy,” Byron agreed.

Adjacent to the open room is the kitchen, where Maggie spends her free time. She enjoys cooking and baking while her dogs, Eleanor and Bixby, lie by her feet.

“In our old [rental] house the kitchen was isolated,” Maggie said. “Now I can talk to Byron when I’m cooking.”

In the kitchen Maggie hung one of her favorite calligraphy pieces that reads, “Love God, Embrace Beauty and Live Life to the Fullest.” It’s the benediction at University Baptist Church, where Maggie and Byron first met and still attend.

“I love seeing these encouraging words each day as I wake up, walk down the stairs and let the dogs out,” Maggie said.

Beside the kitchen, by the stairs leading to the second floor, the Griffins have created a small nook. The space features Maggie’s calligraphy and pop-out windows full of plants and knickknacks. This area pays homage to Judith Tye, who lived in the house before the Griffins. Tye served as president of McLennan County Master Gardeners.

“While we never met Judith, we feel as thought this home has introduced us to her in a special kind of way,” Maggie said. “She was definitely a beloved woman throughout Waco, and we are grateful to be able to live where she did. The pop-out windows and the other things she added, like the garden beds and the wonderful landscaping, feel like gifts she left for us. Whenever we think about our home, love and gratitude are the first emotions we feel. Judith and Henry’s contributions are always mixed up in that gratitude.”

On the stairwell the Griffins have created a gallery wall full of artwork they’ve bought together and received from their families. It’s one of the Griffin’s favorite features in their home.

“The staircase is a place that not many people decorate, so for both us and our guests it transforms that space and adds to warmth of our home,” Byron said. “The gallery wall by the stairs is a collection of beloved things that we wanted to see each day as we round the corner.”

griffinhome-home4

The upstairs includes the master bedroom, a small office and a guest bedroom. The brightly colored guest room overlooks the top of the trees surrounding the house.

“It’s like a tree house,” Byron said.

The Griffins are looking forward to welcoming Baylor fans during football season.

“The room is actually Baylor colors,” Maggie said. “I hope guests feel calm — that they’re away from the stressful things of life.”

The office serves as a work and creative space — a place to pursue their passions and hobbies.

“Maggie runs her calligraphy and design studio, Magpie Writes, out of our office space,” Byron said, “and I use that space for my creative outlets of photo editing and guitar playing.”

The master bedroom looks different than the rest of the house, which was intentionally and thoughtfully done. The Griffins wanted a minimalist look to create a peaceful atmosphere.

“We wanted it to be a retreat,” Maggie said. “Our bedroom is just for sleeping, relaxing and being calm.”

While the master bedroom is especially peaceful, the entire home has a relaxing ambiance. When the Griffins moved into their new house, they wanted to create a simple home full of the things they loved.

“We downsized from the rental house we were living in, and that was intentional,” Maggie explained. “We wanted to keep the stuff we wanted around us.”

“We wanted it to be simpler,” Byron agreed.

That’s exactly what the Griffins have created in the past two months: a simple, creative space that reflects their interests, talents and passions.

“So much of our home is a mixture of both of our families’ items and things that we have gathered over time, things we cherish,” Maggie said. “While we had some compromises to make in the beginning of our marriage when it came to decor, we now have a very similar style that centers around pieces that have stories. We have definitely created this home together, and we love that uniqueness.”

Join the Conversation