It might sound odd to say that Weldon and Margaret Ratliff’s four bedroom, seven bath home tucked away on 4.5 beautiful wooded acres in Regency Park doesn’t feel like a huge house. A grand circular driveway leading to a majestic Mediterranean style home flanked by stately palms gives the impression of large California luxury. And while luxurious it certainly is, the Ratliffs have created a warmth and functionality that makes their home a place anyone would feel comfortable kicking back and staying awhile.
“We live in every inch of this house,” Margaret said. “There are no formal living areas or a dining room that no one uses.”
Part of the warmth is how the Ratliffs were personally involved in the design of their home — and how they did everything slowly and with purpose.
Weldon, who has a degree in architecture and owned Ratliff Ready-Mix, designed the house. Family friend and builder John Argubright was commissioned to build it. Sadly, Argubright became sick with cancer and died before the house was completed, so Weldon finished the job his friend had started. The 6,200-square-foot home took three years to build.
“Weldon designed every space to be functional,” Margaret said. “It’s a very family-oriented floor plan because we want to share it with our boys and their families. I want the kids to come home and to look forward to spending time here.”
The Ratliffs have three sons: Jake and his wife, Taylor; Zach and his fiancée, Kristen; and Luke, who just left for his freshman year at Texas A&M.
The floor plan centers around an atrium in the center of the home, which can be seen from most of the downstairs rooms. There are no long hallways or rooms that are set far away from the heart of the home — and that keeps the feeling of closeness.
The interior design is modern Mediterranean, which is classic and timeless, while sleek and clean. Waco designer Wendy Sharp was charged with creating the look.
The entryway offers a first look at the atrium — an open, yet cozy patio with a stucco fireplace, an overhead view of the sun and stars and a freestanding solid concrete spiral staircase that leads to the second floor. There’s café seating suitable for morning coffee or dinner al fresco.
Back indoors, another staircase — this one made of richly stained oak and accented by a custom-designed runner made in India and Afghanistan — also leads to the second story. David Meyer designed the custom wrought iron handrails of both staircases.
“David Meyer’s designs are beautiful and one-of-a-kind,” Sharp said.
To the right of the entryway — and with views of both the atrium and the front lawn — sits a massive kitchen and dining area with a separate beverage bar. An antique Italian workbench turned dining table is the gathering spot for family and friends.
“Our table is long and seats 10, but it’s narrow, so it allows for good conversation,” Margaret said.
Limestone accent walls fused with white sand mortar brought in from Kosse, Texas, add an earthiness to the kitchen, as well as the central atrium and a rotunda just down the hall.
The kitchen is both a chef’s and an entertainer’s dream, brimming with top-tier appliances, some of them commercial grade. A crescent-shaped Gaggenau cooktop with four flush mount hibachi gas burners sets the stage for an impressive meal to be prepared for a crowd — Margaret said she’s had 50 people in her kitchen at a recent event she and Weldon hosted.
Step onto the ceramic tile — with the look of hardwood — walkway outside the kitchen and you can’t help but notice the exquisite Venetian plaster walls that are featured throughout the home.
“Segreto [Finishes] of Houston did all the interior walls, as well as fine paint finishes, decorative cabinet finishes, hand-painted murals and hand-painted stenciling,” Sharp said. “They transformed sheetrock walls into works of art with plaster and wax, giving them depth. And to the touch they feel like glass but are extremely hard and durable.”
The depth of Segreto’s craftsmanship can be seen in the hand-painted dome of a rotunda along the walkway. It’s painted with puffy white clouds and almost transports one to a sacred Italian chapel for the moment. The floor of the rotunda is inlaid with travertine, limestone and marble.
A comfortable but elegant den is the family’s hangout space. The plaster walls are the backdrop for Weldon’s hunting trophies and family portraits alike. A stone fireplace adds to the warmth of the room.
“We spend a ton of time in here,” Margaret said, “playing games, watching TV you name it.”
Big French doors lead to the master suite, which is designed in soft, warm grays and silver. An intersecting barrel-vaulted ceiling gives the bedroom lots of dimension — and also houses an 86-inch stainless steel ceiling fan and recessed TV.
The master bathroom features a hand-painted, cast-iron 18th century style bathtub imported from England, which was the very first item purchased for the interior of the home. Behind the tub is a dual-entry open shower.
Margaret’s 16-by-24-foot closet is simply luxurious. The centerpiece is a 36-drawer island topped with Bianco Perseus marble, imported from Brazil, with clothing racks on one side and shoe racks on the other. A glass case serves as a display for Margaret’s colorful collection of designer handbags.
Rounding out the first floor is a bedroom and gaming area belonging to Luke, the Ratliffs’ youngest son.
Upstairs, solid concrete floors provide the ultimate sound barrier from the guest bedrooms, media room and sun deck. More custom wrought iron accents the space overlooking the downstairs entryway, which also offers a close-up look at the modern, orbital chrome-and-crystal chandelier that Margaret fell in love with while on a trip to New Orleans.
Two moderately sized guest bedrooms each have a spacious bathroom and windows with a view.
A full-service media room was added when some extra attic space was discovered and the Ratliffs hated to see it go unused. Sleek black leather theater seats for 10 face a 6-by-14-foot movie screen. Theater lighting and professional sound give viewers the true movie theater experience. A bar with Via Lattea granite countertops, imported from Brazil, completes the look, and a fridge, sink, ice maker and microwave ensure all movie-goers’ needs are met without missing a minute of the show.
A second-story sun deck is the place to be on a hot summer day, as it has a unique second-story swimming pool, which is actually on top of the garage. A curved walkway leads to an intimate spot, which is the best place on the property to see the sunset while enjoying a glass of wine.
But larger outdoor gatherings take place on the back patio, which is down on the main level of the house. Crescent-shaped, this patio is ready both for action and lounging. Silver travertine flooring imported from Tuscany is a virtual canvas for inviting furnishings, such as a cool, white sectional sofa that seats at least eight and a large outdoor dining table for 10. Two designer heat lamps await cooler temperatures, making this space usable most every month of the year.
An outdoor kitchen features a round hibachi grill, as well as a refrigerator, sink and plenty of storage for all the family’s backyard party supplies.
A green grass lawn with two Adirondack chairs overlooks the wooded backyard, which spans several acres and has a half-mile crushed granite walking path that winds through the urban forest.
A powder room on the patio has hand-painted walls that were literally inspired by the trees in the Ratliffs’ backyard.
“I watched [the artist] as he looked at the backyard and then turned around and painted his version of it,” Margaret said. “He also incorporated several types of Texas birds, which I think is really something special. It was a pleasure to watch him work.”
And this home isn’t going anywhere, as it was built to stand up to the nature that surrounds it. He knew building in an escarpment zone on expansive clay soil with a 6 percent slope would be a challenge. Weldon knew extra measures would be required to make his home safe, sound and secure for years to come. He took those measures — and then some.
“We built a floating commercial slab on 156 piers,” Weldon said. “It’s 1,200 yards of concrete in all. This house was designed and built to withstand just about anything.”
And not a square foot of wasted space, Weldon and Margaret agreed.
“The house may be large,” Margaret said, “but the spaces inside are intimate and exactly right for getting together with the people we love spending time with.”