A Space to Connect

By Gretchen Eichenberg

The Whyte design a home full of comfort to embrace life as a family

Life is busy — but oh so good — inside Rachel and Luke Whyte’s Modern Tudor-style five bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home located in Badger Ranch, just off Highway 84 in Woodway.

Raising five kids aged 9 and under while running multiple businesses, the Whytes are constantly on the go and consider their home a place to connect and embrace life together as a family of seven. They wanted plenty of space — but quality space both for their individual pursuits and also where everyone can gather as one tight-knit unit.

A friendly neighborhood with lots of kids, plenty of nature surrounding it and proximity to the office and some of the kids’ activities are just a few of the boxes the Whytes checked when they decided to land in Badger Ranch and build their dream home from scratch.

“Our biggest goal in this house, as home builders, was to showcase our style and what we could do to make their dreams come true. We wanted to show them, ‘Hey, this is our style, this is our design.’”

Arches are a theme in the Whyte home and that is first evident in the heavy arched wooden door designed and constructed in white oak by Marvin Kegerreis at Kent Mill & Supply.

Just inside and to the right of the entry is a small study, which serves as a library and piano room for the family. The walls are painted a deep Greenblack by Sherwin Williams, giving the room a quiet ambiance.

“I wanted this to be a moody, cozy space,” Rachel Whyte said. “There’s a fireplace, so right now in the winter, it’s really cozy. I grew up in a house that was kind of Tudor-style as well, and when you walked into the house on the right side was our piano room. So, it’s nostalgic for me.”

Across from the study is Rachel and Luke’s office where they run Whyte Oak Homes; Waco Tours — yes, the vans you see around town — Old Bethany, a special events venue located in Lorena; along with several Airbnbs in the area. With iron glass storefront doors, lots of storage and clean walls — painted in White Duck by Sherwin Williams — this space is all about functionality.

“I wanted it to be a little different and add some texture into the space,” Rachel said, “but also, I wanted it to be see-through so that I could see who’s coming in, who’s coming out. We have all of this storage where we keep our tile and wood siding samples for the homes that we’re building.”

Just past the study and office, there is a spacious entryway with curved staircase and iron railing.

“It ended up being bigger than we needed it to or planned on it, but, you know, that’s how it goes,” Rachel said. “I wanted it to be grand and curved. That was kind of my biggest desire — and to have a really pretty chandelier.”

Heading toward the family room, a hidden mud room is set behind an arched door on the way to the garage entrance. It’s filled with five lockers — one for each kid to store his or her belongings on the way into the house. There’s also a bathroom with a much-loved light fixture and a reddish wallpaper that Rachel said is one of her favorite spaces in the house.

“I found the light fixture years ago while building someone else’s house and was excited to get to use it,” she said. “And I just loved
this wine color. It’s always been one of my favorite colors. It’s beautiful. When I found the wallpaper, I knew it would be perfect.”

The Whyte’s dining, kitchen and family room is the definition of open concept — and has space for much more than even their large family. Double islands offer seating for 11 at one and a massive workspace at the other.

“I follow somebody on social media who has a large family in Utah, and this is kind of the layout of their kitchen with the double islands, so that was my inspiration initially,” Rachel said. “We’re able to host a lot of people, which we love. We hosted in our old house, but now there’s even more space.”

The Whytes lived in a “Fixer Upper” house — specifically the “Chip 2.0” house — for eight years, which was featured on season three of the hit show on HGTV.

With Dolomite countertops in Matarazzo and white oak cabinetry with lacquered brass pulls throughout, this kitchen feels pristine despite all the little mouths that are fed here daily.

“We have the black countertops by the range because we wanted to break it up a little bit, so it wasn’t all the same,” Rachel said.

One of the features Rachel values is her extra-large stainless steel Ruvati undermount sink with cutting board and strainer attachments that make food prep a breeze. The gas range and double ovens — one with a built-in air fryer — are Monogram by GE.

Another arched doorway leads to the butler’s pantry, just off the kitchen. Though it’s not a space meant for public view, it’s stylish just the same with walls of Cornwall Slate by Sherwin Williams and all the small appliances and extras — like built-in water bottle filler — that do not need to take up space in the kitchen.

A huge wooden dining table set in a nook off the kitchen seats 10 and is another of Rachel’s favorite features.

“I love that the table is surrounded by windows,” she said. “That was another one of the inspirations that I saw on social media and really loved. The table is from West Elm.”

Beautiful woodwork is incorporated seamlessly throughout the Whyte home with work provided by all local artisans, including Hidden Scripture Design, Kustombilt, Kent Mill & Supply and Herrera Custom Cabinets.

“We wanted to be able to use multiple different tradesmen that we love working with and feature them all in our home,” Rachel said.

Off the living room, huge Andersen glass windows and a sliding Andersen glass door offers a sweeping view of the patio and wooded backyard.

The patio features a 25-foot vaulted ceiling supported with Douglas Fir beams which gives a rustic feel.

An outdoor kitchen, complete with a Big Green Egg and refrigerator creates the perfect space for outdoor cooking. And then there are the fireplaces …“I’m originally from Colorado,” said Luke Whyte. “So, we put a bunch of fireplaces throughout our house. Four of them. We love the crackle of wood burning, but also the ease of gas so we have both.”

The outdoor fireplace is made of Lueders limestone, a stone that is harder and heavier than the traditional limestone used in many Central Texas homes.

“It’s not used as much,” Luke said. “It’s a much harder stone than your typical limestone, so it’s harder for them to install.

But I definitely wanted a different kind of stone that was not what you see in every house.”

Back inside, the family room is centered around the largest fireplace in the house, which is made of cast stone and looks naturally cut.

The primary bedroom suite is just off the family room and it’s calm and comforting and, of course, has a fireplace. With 20-foot ceilings, it’s airy and bright — where the parents of five might enjoy an occasional respite. But there’s a seating area big enough for the entire family and soft bedding and furniture that invite calm and conversation.

“It’s definitely bigger than I anticipated,” Rachel said.

“That’s one of those things that you only figure out once it’s framed and it’s like, ‘Oh wow.’ We try to sit in here, Luke and I, to connect after the end of the day.”

The primary bathroom is luxurious, but not overly large — it’s comfy and the details are definitely there. It features a modern freestanding double-ended tub and a roomy shower.

“Something that we did in several of our showers is that we [brought] down the ceilings, because our ceilings are 10 feet,” Rachel said. “We brought them down to make them a little bit cozier so that it was able to get warmer quicker. I love how our bathroom came together.”

A spacious walk in his-and-her closet leads past the conveniently-located laundry room and then to a pass-through that houses a homework desk for the kids — Haven, 9; James, 8; Jacob, 6; Hazel, 4; and Hattie, who is almost 2 — who attend or will attend Valor Prep in Waco.

On the other side of the house is a guest bedroom and bathroom with another alcove shower with lowered ceiling.

Up the curved staircase is the kid zone, where all five children sleep and play. James and Jacob share a room fit for boys, complete with bunk beds and a secret closet where they can store toys and extra ‘guy’ stuff. The boys share a bathroom with another alcove shower.

There’s a small media room with a worktable, which serves as the family’s homeschool area. Part of Valor’s curriculum is that kids are homeschooled on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Down the hall is Hazel’s room, which she will share with Hattie when she gets a little older. With twin beds featuring pink quilts, it’s nothing short of girly. The girls also share a bathroom with a double sink, a shower and bathtub.

Haven, the oldest, has a space all her own. “She picked out her wallpaper and she’s only 9 years old,” Rachel said. “She’s very tidy and organized. She shared with her younger sister for several years and she needed her own space.”

Besides being able to showcase their house to potential clients, the Whytes created a dream home for their family and those most important to them.

“I think our vision behind it was, ‘How do we create a space that both feels homey, but also we can host large groups?’” Rachel said. “We love doing that and we’re able to do that. So, I think as it sits today, it’s a great place for whether it’s kids or adults who come hang out.”

And when they talk to clients about building their own dream home, the Whytes have some advice:

“I think it’s about the functionality or the layout in general,” Luke said “Little things like the ease of access when you’re bringing home groceries — to be able to bring them straight into the kitchen. Or for the primary to have direct access to the laundry room and for the kids to have their own space. But we intentionally left it open so that we can hear them. It’s the different things that clients aren’t necessarily always thinking about. And so, as we walk them through the process, we will work collaboratively to achieve that.”