Hidden Gem

By Kathleen Seaman

A family moves from the Upper West Side to West Waco

Pictured: Photographs by Carol Embry, pictureitsoldwaco.com
Special thanks: Palmer Davis Design

Location, location, location. It’s still arguably the most important factor when it comes to choosing a home, and it’s what ultimately drew Pam and Brian Jones to their new home in Woodway.

The Joneses have been married for more than 30 years and have six children ranging in age from 9 to 27. Pam is from Oklahoma, but her missionary family spent a few years of her childhood in South Korea. Brian was born in Virginia, has lived in Rhode Island and Minnesota and went to high school in Dallas, which is how he ended up at Baylor University for college. As a couple, they’ve lived on the East Coast, West Coast and in central U.S.

Brian is the co-president of an investment firm based out of New York City, and after spending the last seven years living in an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Joneses were ready to move again.

“We were evaluating what was best for our family and where we wanted it to be. We really felt that God was leading us to Waco because of the great schools and faith and family values,” Brian said.

While in town for homecoming and to visit their oldest daughter, who currently attends Baylor, the couple also looked at potential homes with real estate agent Blair Gulley. Just west of Highway 6, they discovered a home that sits on more than 5 acres and is surrounded by another 12, which was also up for sale.

“This was a great opportunity because of its location and the fact that you’ve got this land right there and everything else. Blair was originally the one to say, ‘Hey, you guys really need to at least think about this one,’ so we give her a lot of the credit for getting us to focus on it,” Brian said.

According to Brian, the extended acreage is mostly flood plain, trees and creeks, so it’s not land that can truly be developed, but they ended up buying the house along with the neighboring parcel.

“The location was fantastic from everybody we spoke to. It didn’t mean a whole lot to me at the time because I had not spent that much time in Waco,” Pam said. “But as I have been here and traveled around, it is just a great location.”

What wasn’t as great was the interior. The home had great bones, but the former owners’ style — traditional New Orleans-flair with warm reds, deep greens, bright yellows, ornate rod iron scrollwork and bold wallpaper — wasn’t the Joneses’ style, so they knew they were in for a full remodel. Gulley referred them to Palmer Davis Design.

Throughout their marriage, the Joneses have built or substantially remodeled five homes, but this time around, they were forced to be a little less hands-on. Brian and Pam first spoke with Jill Davis in January 2020. From there Brian and Davis had a weekly check in, and the intention was for the family to visit Waco every month or so as the renovations progressed; however the pandemic changed those plans.

“Once the pandemic hit, it really made it to where, OK, now we’re going to do almost everything exclusively through FaceTime or phone calls because they weren’t able to travel. They had to put a lot of faith in me that I could get them what they wanted,” Davis said.

According to Davis, the entire first phase of the project, which is when you’re really setting the groundwork, was done via long distance.

“We sat with her and told her our thoughts, what we’re looking for, what kind of home we would like to be in and what’s important to us,” Pam said. “She took it and just kind of ran with it.”

The first item on the list was to rework the existing floor plan so it was more functional for the Joneses needs and the size of their family.

“When Brian and Pam were looking for a house in Waco, they wanted something that was large, because they have a large family, but there wasn’t much on the market,” Davis said. “But this one, they were really drawn to for the location. It just wasn’t conducive to how their family would operate. If they had their [grown] children and grandkids come stay with them, they needed lots of bedrooms and lots of bathrooms, and it wasn’t really set up that way.”

The home already had a master suite plus a spare bedroom and bathroom on the main floor and then two additional bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. By taking space from the unnecessarily large attic, the Joneses added a third bedroom and bathroom to the second story for their youngest son. His room includes a small study nook and desk, and his en suite bathroom features a vibrant cobalt blue tile in the shower. They also took more space from the attic to create a bathroom that’s a dream for most adults, let alone the 12-year-old daughter it was designed for. It’s spacious and modern with white floors and cabinets, a dual-faucet sink with a linear drain, a separate vanity with concealed pop-out outlets, a deep soaker tub with a geometric backsplash, a stand-alone shower and access to a walk-in closet.

“Our other daughters are a little bit jealous of their youngest sister,” Pam said. “They’re like, ‘Mom, did you see her bathroom?’ It’s a bathroom for a princess.”

The previous owners also had a room for animals, such as birds and reptiles, but you could only access it from the outside. The space from this room was incorporated into what Brian calls the “WeWork” room. It’s a transitional space that’s equipped with several adjustable stand-up desks so he or guests can use it as an office, but it can also be used as additional guest space. It has an en suite bathroom, but since this bathroom has direct access to the outdoor living area and will be used often once the pool is installed, its details are more earthy and rustic.

In the master suite, the bedroom was extended to create a sitting area as well as walk-out access to the back patio. The master originally had two large walk-in closets, which was more than the couple needed, so one of them was turned into an 8-by-8 walk-in steam shower. It’s finished out with different sizes of travertine and quartzite on the back wall, and it has multi-shower heads, including a hand-held and a rain shower head, body sprays and a linear drain. One of Pam’s special requests since she’s cold-natured, the bathroom has heated floors throughout, including the shower floor.

The original floor plan didn’t have a powder bathroom on the main level — “You have this large house, and then you have guests come over and they have nowhere to go to the bathroom except to go through a bedroom,” Jill said — so the existing pantry that fit under the stairs was turned into a half-bath.

To replace the pantry space lost to the half-bath, the kitchen now has floor-to-ceiling cabinets that have retractable doors which tuck back into the cabinets, as well as a butler’s pantry on the back side of the kitchen and off of the utility room. The utility room also offers additional storage space and houses a full-size second refrigerator and two sets of washers and dryers.

A chef’s dream kitchen, the renovated space has a quartzite island and countertops from MTTS Granite & Marble, double sinks, a gas range with a main oven and auxiliary oven, an additional wall oven with an Advantium microwave, a warming drawer and a 48-inch refrigerator and freezer. Local metal fabricator Steve McCraw created the polished nickel and stain brass range hood.

“My kitchen is awesome,” Pam said. “It’s functional, but beautiful. Jill said, by Texas standards it’s not large. I’m like, ‘If you saw my kitchen in New York, you would know this is large.’”

Another item on the Joneses must-have list was more lighting and more windows.

“We like lights everywhere. We love how spaces can be lit up, and [the home previously] did have windows, but they weren’t great windows,” Pam said.

Brian had worked with a lighting designer on a previous remodel, so he worked closely with Davis on all the home’s lighting.

“He was very conscious of what kind of lighting he wanted to use everywhere and was very intentional with that,” Davis said. “Every inch of it was updated. He wanted to make sure we were on the cutting edge but also that we were being environmentally friendly as well.”

All the home’s exterior lights were sourced from Dealers Electrical Supply and the majority of the interior lighting fixtures are from The Village Lamp Lighter.

The living room was revamped with a set of three-panel sliding doors that create a 20-foot opening off the dining area out to the back patio.

“We love to live inside and outside,” Pam said. “We go in and out. We like front porches. We like back porches. So, Jill gave us a big door, two giant sliding doors.”

The formal living room’s original arched windows were also updated and replaced with two sets of French doors and upper windows that climb all the way to the ceiling. The sitting area’s focal point is a 65-inch Napoleon fireplace.

Off of the formal living room is the library. Outfitted with blue built-in cabinets, packed shelves and a patterned grass cloth wallpaper, the splash of color is a departure from the rest of the home’s largely muted color palette.

“We love books and learning. I love the fact that we can have all of those in this space together and have that as a real center of warmth in the house,” Brian said.

With all its additions and expansions, the home now has five bedrooms and 6 1/2 baths, and it clocks in at just under 6,000 square feet.

“The New York apartment was certainly a whole lot smaller,” Brian said. “When we first moved there, we had most of our kids still at home. So we had four kids sharing one bedroom. So, a very different setup. This is the first time these kids have had a room by themselves. They’ve always shared with at least two other people.”

As Pam said, most New Yorkers live vertically, so she’s been excited to stretch out horizontally into this new space.

“We’re in every room,” she said. “We’ve got kids studying here, the fireplace is on in this room, and Dad’s back in the office, and the kids are upstairs in their rooms. There are a lot of our friends that live throughout the U.S. and the world who have Waco as a tourist destination. We expect to have a lot of visitors, and so we wanted the house to be able to work for us when we had those visitors.”

The family officially moved here in August, and the interior renovations are complete, but the Joneses still have a few plans to carry out, including a pool — construction is already underway — an outdoor living space and a garage with second-story guest quarters.

While their second oldest daughter finishes her senior year of high school in New York, the two youngest children are currently being homeschooled by Pam, but in the fall, their son will start at Valor Preparatory Academy and their daughter will start at Live Oak Classical School.

“We probably didn’t realize it at the time,” Pam said, “but as time goes on and we’re spending more time navigating around, we’re learning that Waco’s a real jewel.”

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