Distinct Design

By Kevin Tankersley

Waco couple custom builds their forever home

Pictured: Photos by Cecy Ayala

The home of Kathleen and Joe Seaman doesn’t look like any other on their block. It’s gray brick, for one thing, and 8-foot-tall double front doors, painted teal, certainly jump out from that. And the roofline of their house isn’t as steep as most others in their neighborhood.

“I don’t like super traditional.” Kathleen said. “I don’t think we’re uber-modern. We’re kind of in between, but we both do like clean lines and simple stuff.”

The exterior color palette extends throughout the house, with “blues, grays and blacks instead of brown,” Kathleen said.

Before moving to their new neighborhood on the edge of Waco, near Hewitt, Joe and Kathleen, who have been married nearly eight years, lived in a 2,200-square-foot home in Sendero Springs. In late 2018, they made the decision to build. Working with Realtor Roman Novian, that home sold before actually hitting the market, so Joe and Kathleen — with dogs Milo and Luna in tow — moved in with her parents, Linda and Jack McKinney. They lived there for a year during construction of their new home.

“So that was fun, living in a tiny room with two dogs,” Kathleen said, laughing.

One reason Joe and Kathleen chose to build in this particular neighborhood was the absence of a homeowners’ association, which hadn’t been the case in their previous location. The layout and placement of the lot was another consideration.

“We liked that it backed up to a creek, so we were only going to have two neighbors instead of everyone all around,” Kathleen said.

And it’s in the Midway Independent School District, where they would like any future children of theirs to attend. Kathleen is a 2004 Midway graduate, and Joe graduated from there in ’06. Their parents are nearby as well.

“His parents, [Denise and John Seaman,] are 2 miles away, and mine are 3,” Kathleen said. “So we just knew that when we moved, we were going to stay in this area, close to family.”

The couple met with a few builders and decided to work with Russ Davis Homes.

“We liked their demeanor, their quality of work,” Joe said.

Kathleen had some ideas that she wanted to incorporate into the new build. Davis and his project manager, Brandon Warford, were receptive to those.

“If there was something that was a bit of a stretch, they’d explain why,” Joe said.

One wish that Kathleen had was tall cabinets in the kitchen, and she certainly got those. The cabinets — painted in Sherwin Williams’ Indigo Batik — extend to the ceiling, and a stepladder is required to access the top shelves.

The adjacent dining room features a table made specifically for that space. It’s from Black Swamp Furnishings, in Bryan, Ohio. Kathleen and Joe found the furniture maker on custommade.com, a site that began as a hub for jewelers who make custom wedding rings but has since expanded to include artisans who create clothing, games, luggage and more.

The Black Swamp table in the Seamans’ dining room typically seats eight but can be expanded to accommodate 12, though it is a tight fit, Kathleen said.

Another desire of Kathleen’s was a laundry room that connected to the closet in the master bedroom.

“I 100% wanted that,” she said. “The [laundry] baskets get heavy. I remember in college, having to cart your laundry all the way down to the basement of the building to go to the laundromat.”

The laundry room is large enough to accommodate a second refrigerator, which is beneficial during family gatherings. Kathleen said she and Joe are taking over some of the holiday hosting duties from her parents.

“Everyone brings pie or their side dish or whatever, and you’ve got to have fridge space for that,” she said. “Or there’s a lot of alcohol. You’ve got to have a place to put that. My family has always had an outside fridge and freezer. So when we moved in here, we had them build this room big enough, knowing that we wanted the fridge to be inside because being in the garage with the Texas heat is just so hard on an appliance.”

Also in the room is a sink and a large countertop for folding clothes. The floor in the laundry room is a geometric patterned ceramic tile, called Union Square, from Interceramic.

“I knew I wanted a fun tile in here,” Kathleen said. “We were going to go pretty simple throughout the house, like with vinyl plank and then tile in the bathroom. So I didn’t want to do a fun tile everywhere; it’s kind of trippy. I did not want something floral or ornate. That’s not my style.”

The master closet, just off the laundry room, is spacious, enough so that Kathleen is able to keep her numerous pairs of shoes in their boxes.

“I had this type of shelving because I keep all my shoes in boxes, so I just needed big spaces,” she said. “I think it keeps them nicer. It keeps them from getting scuffed up. Keeps them together. My mom keeps hers in boxes, so I think it just trickled down.”

Much of the rest of the closet space is occupied by her work clothes. Kathleen is a communications manager for ProTradeNet, the vendor relations division of Neighborly, where she’s worked for six years. She’s also a frequent contributor to the Wacoan. (She recently began graduate school at Texas Tech University as well, studying strategic communication.)

She did, however, allocate one corner of the closet to Joe’s uniforms. He’s a sergeant with the Waco Police Department, a role he’s held for the past four years. He’s been with Waco PD for nine years.

The master bathroom features a long, deep soaking tub, where Kathleen often spends time reading or watching movies, thanks to a tray that extends over the tub. And, for the first time in his life, Joe, who is 6-foot-1, gets to enjoy a nice soak.

“I’ve never really fit in a tub until we got this one,” he said.

Kathleen, at 5-foot-2, said she’s never had that problem.

In the master bedroom, there’s a door just a couple of steps away from the king-sized bed that leads to a large, covered patio. It’s convenient for letting the dogs out at night, Joe said.

“The porch didn’t start out that big,” Kathleen said. “But then we told the builder we’d really like a door to the patio in our room. They’re like, ‘Well, to do that, we need to extend the patio. You want it to be covered.’ And it just made the patio huge.”

That outdoor area, complete with a seating arrangement, came in handy when the couple hosted a celebration for Kathleen’s sister, Marlene, who is getting married this month.

“We just had her wedding shower here, and there were 50-something people here,” Kathleen said.

The patio, combined with a large, open living room that contains a sectional sofa that was bought specifically for that space, means “there’s a lot of space for people to hang out,” Joe said.

The house, at 2,700 square feet, is five bedrooms and three baths. The largest spare bedroom is used as Joe’s office and game room. A couple of desks hold computers and monitors he uses for online game playing, as well as a 3D printer and a space where he paints and airbrushes game pieces. A game table that is 4 feet by 6 feet dominates the space. It’s used to play the game Warhammer. Two glass cases contain painted miniature models that comprise various armies that are used in the game. It’s a strategy game with a big learning curve, Joe said. He’s been playing it for 10 years now.

The game room is one reason that Joe and Kathleen built a home instead of buying an existing house. If a house is equipped with a game room, it’s usually on a second floor, and since they consider this their forever home, “we did not want to be in our 60s with stairs,” Kathleen said.

Another of the bedrooms serves as Kathleen’s office. She’s been working from home since March 2020 and will continue to do so for most of her workweek for the foreseeable future.

“People were just as productive, if not more so, working from home,” she said. I like being home with the dogs all day. I like working in pajamas. I like my commute being 20 seconds instead of 20 minutes.”

Kathleen’s office is also home to three bookcases, each of them full. (There’s another bookcase in the main bedroom that is also stuffed. It’s Kathleen’s “to-be-read” collection of books. She reads about 100 books a year.)

The office bookcases contain mostly books in the romance genre, which makes up about 99% of what Kathleen reads.

There are also several editions of Harry Potter books, including Gaelic and Icelandic versions of “The Philosopher’s Stone,” as well as “tons of copies of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Jane Eyre,’ things like that,” Kathleen said.

Sitting on the shelves in front of the books are many Funko Pop figurines. Some are Harry Potter-themed; there are a few of Ariel, from “The Little Mermaid;” and some are of “Wizard of Oz” characters. “There was a time in my life when I would only answer to ‘Dorothy,’” Kathleen said.

Another bedroom is set up as a nursery, complete with a white crib.

“We do not have a child,” Kathleen said. “We are licensed to foster. We started the process last July. We’ve been licensed since November, and we’re just waiting.”

They’re hoping a fostering situation will lead to an eventual adoption, but admit that, since they would like a baby, “a lot of people want an infant, so we’ll probably be waiting a while, which is fine,” Kathleen said.

The exterior of the house is covered in that gray brick, called Gray Mist, which the couple found at Bilco Brick, in Lancaster.

“I didn’t want brown,” Kathleen said. “I wanted gray, and nobody in Central Texas had gray brick. We’re the only gray house in the neighborhood.

The pitch of the house’s roofline is a bit less steep than others in the neighborhood. While the standard pitch for houses in their neighborhood is an 8:12 ratio — meaning the roofline goes up 8 inches every 12-inch span, the Seamans’ roof is a 5:12 pitch, rising just 5 inches.

“It’s a little shallower to give it more of a modern look,” Kathleen said.

The teal double doors, with a frosted glass panel near the top, are painted in Sherwin Williams’ Oceanside.

Even though there’s a “no soliciting” sign in the front flower bed, sales people still ring the doorbell.

One of those visitors hawking merchandise did manage to make a sale, however.

“We have solar panels,” Kathleen said. “Of the many solicitors, that’s the one that got us. We’ve had them since March. We’ll see after a full year whether they’re really saving us money.”

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