Heart for Hospitality

By Heather Garcia

Couple builds pool house with versatility in mind

Pictured: Photos by Jennifer Pisarcik, icometotheephotography.com
Special thanks: Palmer Davis Design

When Michael and Jennifer were planning to add a pool house to their property, they saw the opportunity to accomplish two purposes at once: having a fun space for their family to hang out and serving others through hospitality.

“We wanted to add this space on to have extra entertaining area but also to have a space for family and friends to come and visit,” Jennifer said. “We also wanted to create a home for missionaries to come for furlough if they needed a place to stay.”

Michael is a Waco native and entrepreneur with businesses in town and around the country. Jennifer grew up just down the road in Temple and is a stay-at-home mom, who spends much of her time volunteering at her kids’ schools and at Bible Study Fellowship. Michael and Jennifer have three kids, ages 8, 11 and 13. In 2016, the couple built a beautiful two-story home in Woodway, and at the end of 2020 they started dreaming and planning for their next big project – the pool house.

Michael and Jennifer knew they wanted help executing it, and early on they hired the team at Palmer Davis Design to bring its design expertise and create a one-of-a-kind pool house.

“We had heard about Palmer Davis from some friends and loved the work they did for people that we knew, so we decided to go with them,” Jennifer said. “They made the design process so easy. They took care of the whole process from the ground up.”

Once they elected to use a designer, it made all the rest of the decision-making easier.

“When we built our main house, I didn’t have a designer to help me, and it was so overwhelming,” Jennifer said. “With Palmer Davis, they do all those selections for you, they take care of every detail. They narrow down all the choices based on what you really want. That was so helpful to have only a few things to choose from, instead of everything all at once.”

One of the primary requests from Jennifer was that the pool house and the main house have a coherent style.

“The first thing we do with someone is we do an in-home design consult with them,” said designer Jill Davis. “Just being in their space you get a real feel for what their style is. With this one we knew, of course, they have that traditional look to the house with the light area colors and this very homey feeling. So we knew that we needed to incorporate that.”

Once the plans came together, construction started at the beginning of the year with hopes to have the space ready to go for summertime.

“We broke ground on that project in January [2021] and then hit ‘Snowvid’ in February, so we were having to work around that a little bit,” Davis said. “We had everything torn up and were trying to get the plumbing lines and electrical lines so we could tie into all the existing. So there was a little maneuvering to work around that and stay on some sort of a timeline.”

Thankfully the winter storm did not hold up the process for too long, and the dreaded supply chain issues experienced around the country did not hinder construction either.

“We were able to work with all of our local vendors, like Ferguson, and order items that we knew would be in stock when we were ready for them,” Davis said. “Truly, the only delayed item that we had was all the furniture we ordered.”

In the meantime, Michael and Jennifer used some of their own furniture, and everything was ready in time to host a party for their son’s baseball team at the beginning of the summer.

“They met their deadline exactly, which never happens in building. I was very impressed,” Jennifer said.

The roughly 1,800-square-foot pool house is not just a cool hangout spot or a convenient place to change in and out of swimwear, it has everything a family might need to live in a standalone space, independent of the main house. The goal was to achieve a uniquely versatile space that’s fun, open and inviting but can also be used for privacy, rest and rejuvenation.

The downstairs of the pool house becomes an extension of the backyard pool area when two giant sliding glass doors are opened. There’s a large sitting area with a TV, a ping pong table, and a small dining table in the main room.

“We wanted an open space down here for entertaining, and of course the kids love to play ping pong and hang out,” Jennifer said.

The open space concept matches the style of the main house, helping to establish that seamless flow from one area to the next.

“I just like how refreshing it is when you walk in,” she said. “It feels so refreshing and welcoming. Everything is bright and airy and exactly how we want people to feel when they come into the space.”

The large sliding glass doors were one of the design elements that originated from the Palmer Davis team.

“They wanted lots of windows, lots of big open areas for them to see out to the pool so it could be a space where you could go both outside and inside and feel like you’re all still together,” Davis said. “That’s where the idea [started]. Let’s do a really big door that we can open when the weather’s nice and be able to leave it open and people come in and out and have space to go in and play games then come back.”

The first floor also has a kitchenette in one corner, complete with a stovetop, microwave-oven combo, refrigerator and freezer. It’s a compact space, but it has all the essentials you would need to cook a meal or serve up some pool snacks. As Davis said, “It’s very efficient in that small little kitchen.”

The windows in the kitchenette open up to create a walk-up bar area with bar stools sitting at the counter outside. Jennifer said the kids often enjoy lunch out there in the summertime.

Next to the kitchenette is a bathroom, which has a door leading to the main living area as well as an exterior door for easy access when the kids (or adults) are dripping wet from the pool. The bathroom also has a stackable washer and dryer, another important amenity for families who might use the pool house for an extended stay.

The bedrooms are upstairs along with an interior balcony that serves as a sitting area with a view of the wooded backyard. Jennifer said they wanted to create a quiet spot where someone could relax with their morning coffee.

The balcony also has a second entrance that can be accessed by climbing a ladder from the downstairs and entering through a hatch in the floor, treehouse-style. “Just something fun for kids to have,” Jennifer said.

When dreaming up ideas for the pool house, the couple knew they wanted some fun, custom elements to make the space stand out.

“Michael was wanting something unique, like the hidden access stairway and making it very kid-friendly and fun for them,” Davis said.

The first bedroom upstairs is a bunk room with yellow walls and colorful jungle animal art prints.

“It’s fun to have little sleepovers, and if families do have kids, this is a great space for them,” Jennifer said.

The built-in bunk beds were custom designed by Palmer Davis.

“They wanted to make sure [that kids] had a cozy spot,” Davis said. “So we came up with a cool design for that with little niches for their books and outlets for their phones, or whatever they may have.”

Adding color on the walls in the bunk room was not something Jennifer originally thought she wanted.

“They kind of got me out of my comfort zone a little bit with design, and I just love how it all turned out,” Jennifer said. “I like very monochromatic, neutral colors. I didn’t even expect to bring any color in this space. To bring in the different shades of blue and the yellow and different accessories, to bring those pops of color was so nice.”

Davis said she was inspired to bring in some bright colors by the atmosphere of the main house.

“It was a very happy, sunny space to me, so I thought bringing in some of the brighter tones and happy colors would be a nice complement to all of the white finishes that we had everywhere.”

The Jack-and-Jill bathroom upstairs is small but still has a shower with a bathtub “in case any families have little kids they wanted to bathe,” Jennifer said.

The master bedroom has a king bed and keeps with the neutral color scheme throughout most of the rest of the pool house.

“We just wanted a very serene space for anyone staying,” Jennifer said. “We’ve been able to host some missionary families, which has been such a highlight of the year. Just to be able to welcome them home from overseas and give them a space to rest and relax and rejuvenate. It’s been so special.”

In order to provide privacy, when needed, Michael and Jennifer worked with Phoenix Landscapes to build a walkway on the opposite side of the pool house that leads directly to the teardrop brick driveway. Guests can go directly from their car to the pool house and enter through a door next to the stairwell. Custom white linen curtains, when stretched across the large glass doors, hide the pool area and transform the pool house into a cozy guest house.

“Jon [Ramos, owner of Phoenix Landscapes] was really integral in tying it all together. There was an old pool deck there that we had to excavate when we started,” Davis said. “Jon came in and redid all the pavers and connected it, the cool stepping stones and the turf, the walkway between them and the lights. He was the one who came up with the awesome outdoor design.”

The family is coming up on a year of having the pool house, and Jennifer said they’ve gotten lots of use out of it, whether it’s their own kids hanging out and playing ping pong or they’ve invited a baseball team’s worth of kids over to enjoy a pool party and play games. They’ve also hosted extended family as well as missionaries from their church, Antioch Community Church. Jennifer said they’re open to serving any missionaries who need some respite.

“They are very sweet to lend it out to anybody that needs a space,” Davis said. “It’s great. I would live there.”