Closer to It All

By Kevin Tankersley

Weaver family renovates home in the city

Pictured: Photographs by Kathryn Krueger, kathrynkrueger.com & Grace-Marie Brunken, grace-mariephotography.com

When Tessa Weaver and her dad answered the door on a recent evening, the 4-year-old was disappointed to see it was only Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley on her doorstep and not the delivery person bringing the Chinese food her family had ordered for dinner. But the meal arrived a few minutes later, and Tessa, her 7-year-old brother, Jack, and dad, Clint, gathered around a small round table in the office to eat, while Casie Weaver led a tour of the house the family has occupied for just over a year now.

Casie and Clint, both 36, have been married for 11 years. They met at Baylor, where she was studying real estate and marketing and he was studying English and history. Clint later earned a business degree and is now a certified financial planner. After working at Boozer’s for a few years, Casie is now a stay-at-home mom. Clint is from Beckville, an East Texas town of about 800. Casie grew up in Woodway.

The family previously lived out near McGregor and had plans to build on a lot they owned in Hidden Valley. But with the kids’ school and their church located in Downtown Waco and with Clint’s office also in Waco, they reconsidered and bought a home in an established gated area near Ridgewood Country Club.

WACOAN: What’s the name of your neighborhood?

Weaver: Well, there are two different things. It’s Fish Pond, but it’s now called Club Estates.

There’s an historical marker [as you enter the neighborhood]. A long time ago, right beside Ridgewood [Country Club], there was Fish Pond, with a little clubhouse and a place to go fishing. It was connected to Ridgewood, so if you were members at Ridgewood you could use Fish Pond.

Hack Branch bought this land and developed it into a neighborhood. The pond past our house is part of the neighborhood, and in the very back is a place where you can go to the lake. It has its own dock. It’s just a neat, neat place.

We bought this house, it’s been almost three years now. We gutted the entire thing and redid it from three walls up. All the outside exterior is different. It was brick, so we put slurry over it to make it look French, and we added shutters and did all these windows. The roof is still the same.

The house was built for a single elderly woman, so it wasn’t great for a family. My husband is a financial planner and has an office literally three minutes down the street. When we were looking at where we wanted to move — we lived out toward McGregor — we had a lot out in Hidden Valley and had always planned on building.

But our kids go to Waco Montessori, and that’s downtown. And we fell completely in love with the school. Since we weren’t doing Midway [schools], we didn’t need to be out on that end of town. And we go to First Baptist Church of Waco, which is downtown. Their school is downtown, and Clint’s office is right here in the middle of town.

A family friend owned this house, so we came to look at it. In general, [the residents of this] neighborhood in this gated part are older and retired. We’re the youngest people by about 30 years. I was kind of worried about the kids and we wouldn’t have friends here. But moving here has been one of the best decisions that we could have made.

We’re right in the middle of town. We’re close to all the kids’ friends. We have people over all the time. All of our neighbors have been precious to our kids. They love having life in the neighborhood now. The kids ride their bikes down the street. We fish in the pond. We have a golf cart we ride around on. It has been such a great decision. Clint can come home for lunch because we’re three minutes from the office.

A family friend was selling it, and Clint said, ‘Just go look at it with me.’ We came in and it was a beautiful home, but it wasn’t functional for a family of four. We talked about it and talked to an architect and ended up deciding that this is going to be a big project. We loved the neighborhood so much and how centrally located in town it was and the big backyard and mature trees and the pond for the kids. It was just a really cool place right in the middle of town.

We found a contractor and he was, bar none, one of the best things we did about the whole job. It was Aaron Krumnow; he’s A.G.K., Builder. He is just a fantastic guy and also a fantastic contractor. He went above and beyond to make our vision come to life. I did all of the interior decorating, and my parents are great at visual spaces and different things.

We had an architect in here, and he told us one thing. We got the plans, took them to Aaron and he said, ‘That can’t happen because we’re working with a remodel, not a new structure.’ So he told me which walls couldn’t move, and I went home with the original house plans and a piece of see-through paper, and I redrew the plans by myself, then he drafted it. We had already done all this work with an architect, and it didn’t work out. Aaron is such a good carpenter; he knew exactly what could and could not be done with an existing structure.

Where the window over the sink is, used to be a golf cart garage. The whole house was basically gutted to three walls, the front wall and the side walls. There was no back. We extended the house and built the [back] porch. So there’s nothing in the house that hasn’t been remodeled.

WACOAN: How far out did you extend the back of the house?

Weaver: Oh, my gosh. I don’t even know. As a matter of fact, we don’t even have the exact square footage because of some of the different things we did. There used to be an elevator in the house, and we took that out.

Funny story, actually. Tessa and I got stuck in it. When we were working on house plans, we would come over here all the time. We owned the house for two years before we got finished with everything and moved in. Tessa was 2 at the time and wanted to ride the elevator.

She and I got stuck, and my mom was on the outside and was about to call 911 to come get us out because we could not make it work and get out of it. We just decided that for a young family, we didn’t need that, so we changed some things.

WACOAN: How long were you stuck?

Weaver: Probably about 30 minutes.

WACOAN: And how did you eventually get out?

Weaver: It started working again. It was the craziest thing. It was like the power to it went out because it was dark in there. I’m in there with my 2-year-old, in a dark elevator. A home elevator is not big like a commercial elevator. It was small and dark.

WACOAN: Like being in a closet.

Weaver: Exactly. And I’m claustrophobic.

WACOAN: As am I. I wouldn’t have even gotten on the elevator.

Weaver: To be in that with your 2-year-old and be claustrophobic, it was a long time.

My mom, bless her heart, you could hear her outside. We were talking to each other through the doors, and she was being very patient in trying to get us out.

So since stairs are not hard for us, we took that out and made an extra closet upstairs and a little laundry room up there. There was an attic upstairs that we made a media room and playroom. There was no formal dining space and only one living area, so now we have the media room, a family room and the living room. Then we added the formal dining room.

All the porches are new, and we have a big patio outside that is new as well. It’s great for entertaining and having big family things or friends.

WACOAN: When did you move in?

Weaver: We moved in June 2016. It was closer to July. We moved in June, but they were still working on everything.

Aaron’s guys are so wonderful. They helped us move from our house. They touched up our old house and fixed everything for the new people moving in there.

We moved in midway through June, and the guys still had touch-up work to do, so they were living with us from about 8 in the morning to 5 at night every single day. We woke up and the guys would come work. They were here through August. They were polite.

My kids had Nerf gun wars with Aaron’s guys. They kind of became part of our family. We lived here while they worked here. It was just a really good experience all the way around.

WACOAN: You said you owned the house for two years before you moved in. Was it under renovation that whole time?

Weaver: No, it wasn’t. We had it about a year before we ever even started the renovations. During that time we were doing our house plans and figuring out what we wanted to do. The layout of the house was so difficult to work with, with what we wanted to do, knowing we needed a dining room and a family room. It took us a long time to figure out the interior spaces of the house.

It took us a while to decide on a contractor as well. We interviewed a few people. The day we met Aaron, Clint and I both said, ‘This is the guy.’ Once we interviewed him, it was, ‘When can you start?’ We bought the house in October 2014. They started working in July of ’15, and we moved in that following June.

WACOAN: It seems like it might have been easier to build from scratch.

Weaver: It would have been so much simpler and so much cheaper.

WACOAN: What prompted you to spend the time and money and effort to remodel rather than just build?

Weaver: Building from scratch absolutely would have been easier because you’re not working within a confinement. It’s a blank slate.

Doing a remodel, you’re working in a certain space that, really, part of it cannot change. That makes it a lot more difficult, but it also makes it more expensive from the aspect of changing an existing structure and then adding on a space which, for us, was not an option to get the things we wanted instead of just remodeling.

The reason we really decided to do it was because our kids not going to Midway and not needing to be that far out, we would have had a 20- or 25-minute drive into school every day, and back-and-forth. At the time, Tessa was 2, so it would have been driving Jack into school, then coming back home, then driving to get him when he gets out at 11:30 [a.m.]. It was just a lot of driving.

Plus, my parents have just bought a lot over here in The Oaks [at Ridgewood]. They were in China Spring, so we were as far away from them as we could have been being out in McGregor basically. This is about six minutes closer to them, and we’re closer to all of our friends. All of our friends basically lived in town, and we were the only ones out there.

Everything we did was in town. School was in town, church was in town. It’s closer to everything we did. We decided that being in town was the best place for us to be, but we didn’t necessarily know where in town we wanted to be. After being here for a year though, I can’t imagine loving an area more. It’s just peaceful. We go walk all the time. We go to the little pond over here all the time. There’s wildlife everywhere. It’s really a great place for the kids to be.

WACOAN: And from what you told me about the neighbors, I assume there’s no loud music and nobody driving fast.

Weaver: No, and everybody looks out for everybody else, which I love. We all watch out for each other.

Right after we moved in, we were playing Nerf guns with our kids. [Clint] slipped and fell and broke his ankle. Bless his heart, it was terrible. We had little friends over, so there were four kids here. I couldn’t get him and all four kids in the car and take him to the emergency room. We have a great friend who came over and looked at him on the couch and saw what was going on and helped us out.

Then our neighbors noticed that Clint’s car had not moved in three days and called me. ‘Hey, we had noticed that Clint’s car hadn’t moved, and that’s not normal. Are y’all OK?’ I told them what happened, and they brought us dinner the next night.

It’s just a wonderful place to be, even though we are the youngest ones here. They have loved on our kids. It’s been a great place for us. It’s been a good fit.
WACOAN: So what can you tell me about the house now that it’s complete and you’re in it?

Weaver: This is the great room. Kitchen, breakfast, family room, kind of all combined.

WACOAN: Who does the cooking?

Weaver: I do the cooking. I love to cook. That was one of my biggest things on a house. I wanted a kitchen that could hold my whole family when we had large gatherings and that I could cook in.

WACOAN: What do you like about your kitchen?

Weaver: Oh, gosh. I really love all of it. Normally when you get into a place and you’re settled, you figure out all the things you messed up on and didn’t do right. Of course, there are a few of those, but we really tried to make it as functional and accessible as possible.

I love having double ovens. My first home didn’t have double ovens. In November, we had Clint’s family for Thanksgiving, and I cooked. I did all the cooking. I made chicken and dressing, and I made sweet potato casserole and tons of things that needed to be cooked in the oven. Having two ovens and a warming drawer was life-changing for me, to be able to cook everything I needed to cook at one time.

I love having a gas stove, and I love my pot filler. Everyone said I wouldn’t use it, but I love it. I can put my pots up there and fill them. I love my sink. That was a huge deal for me too, having a sink big enough to wash all my dishes or have big pots or pans that can’t go in the dishwasher fit in the sink. We did the biggest sink that was available at the time.

Aaron’s guys made this pull-out drawer for all my cooking utensils. My cabinetmaker made a drawer for dishes so we didn’t have to lift heavy stuff from the top cabinets. We really customized everything.

The cabinetmaker and I spent hours and hours together, talking and thinking through all of this stuff. And we designed the shapes of the cabinets together. The cabinetmaker was amazing. I would bring him pictures or draw things, and he would bring me a drawing back and say, ‘Is this it?’

I designed all these cabinets, the shape I wanted them, the style I wanted them. He handmade all of these. Jody Kuehl [of Kuehl Millwork] did all the cabinets.

WACOAN: How big is your island?

Weaver: This I should know because we worked on it forever. It is about 4 1/2 feet wide by 9 feet long.

This is where we gather. This is the hub of our house. If we have friends over, if we have family over, if we have anything, this is where you’re gonna find us.

WACOAN: I like the round dining table instead of square or rectangle.

Weaver: I found this at Honey’s [Home Style] in Waco and fell in love with it. I bought this table before we ever bought this house. I bought this table when we were going to build a house, and I was going to design my breakfast room around this table because I just love that it’s a big round table that everybody can sit at.

I love that it has eight seats. My sister lives with my parents, so she’s always with them when they come. So there’s seven of us all together that eat regularly. When I saw this table, I loved it and purchased it. They kept it for me, very graciously, for almost a year and a half, there at the store, until we decided what we were doing.

When we bought this house, I originally thought this needed a rectangular table because there was so much space between the island and [the den]. This table worked perfectly. It’s perfect. We have loved it.

WACOAN: And this is the family room.

Weaver: This is typically where you can find the kids or us, watching TV in the evenings. We have a media system in the house, and up until a few weeks ago, we didn’t have a big TV in the playroom upstairs. So Clint just got a big TV, so now you can find him there. Used to, this is where we would gather.

It’s great because if someone’s in the den, I can still talk to them while I’m doing dishes. We can still kind of be in the same space, which has been really, really great. It wasn’t quite like that at our other home, so this has been a really neat space for us to have.

WACOAN: In the dining room, your dining table is long, but it’s not very wide, so everybody’s kind of close together.

Weaver: It’s narrow, isn’t it? I didn’t realize that when I bought it. I bought this table in Round Top, and it’s got a neat story. It’s from France, and it was shipped over here, but it was in a fire. You can see a couple of places on the table that were burned. It’s got these cool carvings underneath, and I just fell in love with it. And I wanted to be able to seat 12 people, which it can.

WACOAN: Tell me about this great piece of art.

Weaver: That’s actually a Kermit Oliver, from here in Waco. That was mine and Clint’s gift to each other when we moved into the house. That is his 2016 [Hermes] scarf. It’s of Texas.

Growing up where we both grew up — my grandparents have a place out in Gatesville, so we’re used to all this wildlife. Where Clint grew up, he had tons of wildlife there as well. When the 2016 scarf came out and it was of Texas wildlife and has all the gorgeous colors, we thought that would be such a neat piece to have in our home.

We weren’t sure where we were going to put it yet. We bought the scarf together in Dallas and had our favorite frame guy, John from Frames, Etc., come up with a frame for it. It was a pop of color in here, and it was something meaningful because it’s Texas and it’s Kermit Oliver and it’s from here.

It was our first art purchase for the house. We get lots of compliments on it because it’s different and it’s colorful. It’s a piece that we both really enjoy. And we don’t always agree on art.

WACOAN: How do you disagree on art?

Weaver: Clint loves photography and landscapes. He actually just found some art he fell in love with, which was of a Central Texas flood. They’re of the trees that had gathered the debris. There are three pictures, and to me, they don’t look like anything. It just looks like a white background and a dirty tree in the middle.

I love watercolors and oil paintings. And he loves those, too, but sometimes we agree on it and sometimes we don’t. But photography like that, I’m just not as big of a fan.

I love having pictures of my kids. To me, a lot of art in my home is going to be my children because they’re growing. We have lots of kids’ pictures. We’ve had both Marlo Collins and Charla Holmes do kids’ pictures. Charla has done the majority of the ones you see in here. Marlo did some when Jack was really little and our wedding pictures.

When you have kids and take their pictures all the time, it’s all you have for your walls.

WACOAN: Can we go outside?

Weaver: This is actually my kids’ favorite place to be. We had a decent-sized backyard but not a huge backyard, and this has been their little haven. They love it.

My father-in-law hung a swing for them a couple of months ago, and Tessa is on it every single day. She doesn’t miss a chance to get on the swing.

The patio has been so fantastic. Right now, it’s 7 o’clock, the sun’s setting and it’s still shaded. It’s been fantastic to have these big, beautiful oak trees to cover everything.

We did a rock pathway so you can get to the back and the front of the house easily. We wanted French [patio] doors everywhere to let light in, so we had all these doors made. You can find Clint out here a lot of evenings reading on the porch or watching a football game or something. This is his favorite place to be too.

We built a fireplace not too long ago, in March. We’ve got a few outside projects that we’ll continue. For our next project, we’ll have a built-in grill area for Clint. It’s right by the kitchen, so it’s easy for him to get to.

WACOAN: Earlier today, I saw an ad for a built-in grill and brick pizza and bread oven that we would love to have.

Weaver: Now that I would love. My kids and I make pizza occasionally. We’ll go buy the dough from Baris, and then we’ll make the pizza at home. That’s one of their favorite things to do. That would be really cool to have a brick oven.

WACOAN: So how much land do you have?

Weaver: We have an acre and a half, I believe.

We’re putting up a fence. The property is really long, but it’s narrow. It goes back a long way. It’s a pretty big space, fun for the kids to go exploring.

We actually have a silver fox that runs across the yard occasionally. And lots of big raccoons will come up on the porch.

WACOAN: What else can you tell me about the house?

Weaver: All the light fixtures are antiques. I’ve been collecting them. I’ve literally been collecting stuff for three years. We had a storage unit just keeping all my stuff that Clint thought that I would never use. I used it all — every piece of it. As I would see things I loved, I would get them.

The master bedroom was the original master, but we just changed things about it. It had big closets on the sides for book and different things. It was a little bit of a waste of space for us. We needed the space in the room for our bed and nightstands. We closed off a closet and completely redid the bathroom. It was done for wheelchair accessibility, and we didn’t need the function of it the way it was.

We wanted a bathtub, which it did not have. We have a big shower and the tub, which the kids love. It’s the only tub in the house.

WACOAN: For little people, it’s big enough to be a swimming pool.

Weaver: Exactly. And they will swim in it. We might get everything in the bathroom soaked, but they have a good time and that’s OK.

WACOAN: And back out here —

Weaver: This is the formal living room, which doesn’t get used as much, but we walk through it every day so we get to at least enjoy it because where it’s located in the house, it’s right in the center of everything.

And this is the office. My husband is an avid reader. He loves, loves to read, so he wanted a place for his books. We wanted bookshelves in it and not just a place for a desk. We made it a little bit more of a library than an office, so there’s a desk that we can close off.

The piece [surrounding the desk alcove] was actually on the outside wall originally. We saved it and made it into a transom. It’s Baylor colors, and we’re big Baylor people. It was one of the last pieces of glass that they made at L.L. Sams [and Sons] here in Waco.

The lady who owned this house was Mary Sams Howell. Hobby Howell, her son, is the one who sold it to us. They were a huge part of our church, First Baptist Waco, and we’ve known their family for years. Hobby is a good family friend of ours.

Coming in and making changes to this house was a little bit bittersweet because there were so many special things about it. This was one of those things that had to come out of the wall, but we knew it had to go somewhere. And it just took a little bit of thought to get it in the right spot. When the doors [to the desk] are closed, it lights from the inside. That’s one of our favorite things because it’s special and different and it’s meaningful.

WACOAN: And this is —

Weaver: This is the guest room. Clint’s great-grandmother gave the bed to us. It’s maybe a little over a hundred years old. It’s out of a parsonage in a little East Texas town where her family’s from. She had this bed when Clint was growing up, and she passed it down to us.

This is a Swedish armoire, and my family is Swedish. I loved the piece, and when they told me where it was from, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta have that because that’s my heritage.’

Upstairs is the kids’ space. Where the elevator was, we’ve made into an upstairs laundry space. It was going to be a storage space, but we thought about when the kids get older and have more laundry, and we’re running back and forth down the stairs. That was a thing we didn’t realize we would enjoy as much. We’ve gotten a lot of use out of that.

All the furniture in Tessa’s room was her great-great-grandmother’s. This was my mom’s furniture when she was a child, and it’s been passed down to Tessa. It’s got all the antique carvings on it. It’s a special thing for her to have.

Now Jack’s room. I wanted it to be blue. That’s his favorite color. And we decided to make it a nautical theme.

WACOAN: Jack’s room is blue, and pretty much every other room is —

Weaver: Neutral. We’ve got kind of a beigey-gray color downstairs that’s throughout the majority of the house. The family room has a different color. It’s a little whiter than the other. The dining room is dark gray, which we also used in the playroom. Our room is a soft aqua. We wanted it to be soothing, relaxing.

Tessa chose pink. She decided when she was 2, ‘I want a pink bedroom.’ Throughout the whole process of doing the remodel, she said she wanted pink, pink, pink. When we moved in, she changed her mind, but it was too late at that point.

Now the media room and playroom used to be the attic, which is why you kind of have to walk down into the space. This is the room we didn’t think we were going to be able to make happen.

Because it was an attic, the trusses and the way the floors ran and the way ceiling came in, it was just going to be a really small space our architect told us. Aaron, being such a great carpenter, walked in here and said, ‘Well, I think I can change this and change this and change this, and I’ll give you about five more feet.’

It [originally] would have been a long, skinny room, but he made it a usable space. Our kids live in this room. When they have friends over, they dump every single barrel or box or whatever, and it’s just a complete mess. It’s where we live. We wanted it carpet so it wasn’t as loud in here. Clint’s got his speakers and his TV.

WACOAN: How big is the TV?

Weaver: I think it’s 80 or 85 inches. We’ve used every inch of the space that we have to make it a comfortable place for the kids. And that’s another thing, we built this to be a home. We wanted it to be comfortable for our kids and our family, not just be pretty but be livable. A place where they can grow up and enjoy.

We tried to think it through as far as time frame. If we’re going to live here for 40 years, what’s the best function for the house for 40 years? Hopefully we made good decisions.

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