Brazos Beach House

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Just like Seaside — but in Waco!

Pictured: Family photograph by Chelsea Santos
Home photographs by Sarah Hess, sarahhess.com

They call it “the beach house.” A recently remodeled 1980s ranch-style home in the middle of Woodway is the beach house that Ashton and Brynn Gustafson have always wanted — minus the beach.

“We love to vacation in Seaside, Florida,” Brynn said, “so when we decided to remodel this home, I was inspired by the bright, fresh houses where we’ve stayed. I love the peaceful and serene feeling I get when I’m there.”

And just like that, the ordinary four-bedroom, three-bathroom brick house was transformed into a crisp, breezy beachside cottage that could easily be found along the Florida Gulf Coast.

The Gustafsons are proud Baylor University grads, and that’s how they fell in love with and put down roots in Waco. Brynn’s parents moved to Waco in 2004, and then her brother and sister-in-law made the move in 2006.

“Both sets of my grandparents live in Waco, so there are, like, 25 of us here,” she said. Although the Gustafsons currently live in Wichita Falls, Brynn said, “Waco feels like home too. We’re in Waco a lot. We come to visit family, and we’re here for all the Baylor games. We love to get together with college friends when we’re in town. It really feels like home to us.”

Brynn said her parents always welcomed Ashton and her into their home with open arms, but after the addition of their two daughters, Story, 5, and Sterling, 3, the couple thought it would be great to have their own space in which to spread out and entertain. Plus, Ashton recently expanded his real estate business to the Waco market, giving him and the family even more reason to travel to their Brazos beach house.

“We would love to have a house in Seaside, but at our stage in life, with little kids and a growing business, it’s just not the right time,” Brynn said. “I thought remodeling and decorating this home like a beach house would be the next best thing.”

Brynn’s mother is an interior designer, so she had seen her mom at work over the years and knew she’d have a helpful hand nearby. But Brynn said she was excited to take on a project by herself.

“I remember telling Ashton when he handed this project over to me that it was my very first canvas to paint,” she said. “I was nervous and shaky with the paintbrush, but leaned on my mom, the experienced designer, to execute each stroke.”

The project, Brynn said, was a chance to see what she could do.

“This home was an opportunity to explore and walk out in some of my God-given gifts,” she said. “All for the hope of providing a place of togetherness, celebration and the making of memories.”

But before their home became a beach house, the Gustafsons hired Palmer Davis Design to handle the remodeling job.

“The house was very well-kept, but hadn’t been updated — ever,” Brynn said. “To achieve the look we wanted, I’d say it was a 90 percent gut.”

They put in all new doors and windows, new flooring and paint throughout and remodeled all the bathrooms.

“I was so thankful for Palmer and Davis for helping me execute the construction phase of the project,” she said. “Their trustworthy and kind subcontractors were a joy to work with, and their oversight of the construction project was priceless.”

One of the only features of the home that survived the remodel was the Saltillo tile floor in the entryway.

“We really liked it and wanted it to stay,” Brynn said.

From the moment you walk through the door, an imaginary calming sea breeze begins to blow, illustrated by the wall paint — Repose by Sherwin-Williams — which is prevalent throughout the home.

The kitchen was a major expansion from the original galley-style space. A massive island with white quartz countertops and a farmhouse sink are just right for cooking and entertaining. Faux rattan barstools by Serena & Lily are functional and, more importantly to Brynn, washable. A double oven with a warming drawer and a second oven ease meal preparation for guests. A built-in breakfast nook situated near a long coffee hutch is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before heading outside.

Gold accents can be found at every turn — in the fixtures, drawer pulls, even the KitchenAid mixer — and offer a certain bling to the clean white canvas of the kitchen and family room. Another focal point is an abstract painting done by Brynn.

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The family room is essentially part of the kitchen, by design. Three white sofas don slipcovers from Ikea, making them easy to clean and care for, Brynn said. They frame a heavy, rustic wood coffee table from Restoration Hardware, which sits on a pastel tribal print rug called Elodie from Lulu & Georgia — all of which faces a brick wood-burning fireplace that has been painted white.

No beach house is complete without a bunk room, and that was a must-have for the Gustafsons. With cousins and fraternity brothers who will be welcomed — presumably on different weekends — bunk beds seemed practical.

Story and Sterling share a bedroom. Though there’s enough space for each to have her own room, Brynn hopes to foster their sisterly love by having them share a space. This room features two full-size beds, providing more room for guests.

A spacious hall and guest bathroom offers a wallpaper surprise that almost goes against the clean white, serene feel of the rest of the house — except that it works. Big, dark watercolor flowers are soft and smudge-like, giving the eye a place to rest. Gray quartz counters are sleek, while more gold accents keep the warmth alive.

The master bedroom is large and bright. The king bed is adorned by a ruffled gray bed coverlet by Anthropologie and flanked by gray steel nightstands, creating a perfect mix of feminine and masculine. The bathroom features Carrara marble countertops, a modern freestanding tub and a huge open shower with a frameless door, a penny round tile floor and faux Carrara marble walls. Brynn said she had a very specific budget for her remodeling and decorating, and she was perfectly fine, for instance, with finding a way to reduce her cost by swapping the tile on her shower walls.

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On the other side of the house, there’s a media room with a comfy leather sofa and oversized chairs made for hanging out and watching the big game (or cartoons, as the case may be). The only departure from the Repose walls is here, where they are painted a bright Loyal Blue paint by Sherwin-Williams. There’s a mudroom-style bench with cubbies and hooks for easy storage of everyday things.

“I wanted this room to be functional and fun,” Brynn said. “But really, that was the goal for the whole house. It’s a place to bring people together to relax, have fun and enjoy life, just like we do at the beach.”

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