Open House

By Kathleen Seaman

A builder and realtor opt to renovate their existing home

Pictured: Photographs by Carol Embry, pictureitsoldwaco.com

You can’t recreate an 85-foot-tall pecan tree in your backyard.”

Clif Hooper co-owns KC Construction and his wife, Lisa, is a realtor with A.G. Real Estate. Instead of using their industry knowledge to build a completely new home or buy a more updated one, the couple decided to stay where they are and renovate.

“Knowing what she knows as a realtor and what I know as a builder, you’re not going to get this anywhere else,” Clif said. “We love the house. We love the neighborhood. And just the location.”

The couple was born and raised in Texas but lived in Kansas City for 15 years where Clif was a home builder and Lisa was an interior designer.

“In ’09, the secondary mortgage crisis left us, like many builders, high and dry,” Lisa said. To be closer to family, the couple decided to move back to Texas. This included a career change for both of them.

“I did design my whole career and got ready to move to Waco, but design is such a referral-based business. I thought, I’m not going to be able to make a living, not knowing anyone,” Lisa said. “I felt like with real estate, I could still use my staging and everything. I love everything home and I love people, so I thought that was a great fit.”

In addition to the construction business, Clif works full-time as a hearing instrument specialist for Livingston Hearing Aid Center.

The established neighborhoods of northwest Waco are known for their larger lots, homes with character and towering live oaks and pecan trees. When the Hoopers bought their home back in 2011, the trees were what drew them to the property and one of the reasons they still love it today.

“Chip and Jo [Gaines] sold it to us. They had had this house for a couple of years, and it never would sell,” Lisa said. “They had done some work on it, some updating. They’re such a big part of our story because they were willing to owner-finance for us because of our bankruptcy. We didn’t have money to put into the house to renovate, but it was move-in ready. They had done enough to it.”

Still, that didn’t stop the Hoopers from giving their new home at least a little bit of an update right off the bat.

“Literally the day we moved in, the movers were supposed to be here, but they were late,” Clif said. “My brother-in-law and I tore down the wall that separated the living room and dining room. We did that work immediately.”

After that initial project, the Hoopers waited awhile to make any more big changes. Then about six years ago, they created a master plan for the entire property. Phase one of that master plan included the addition of an outdoor kitchen and living area, a screened-in porch, landscaping and the construction of a carport, with the intention to one day incorporate the existing garage space into the house.

Finally, in March 2020, the Hoopers pulled the trigger on the interior remodel.

“We really had second thoughts about doing it because that was at the height of COVID,” Clif said. “We were concerned about people coming in and out of the house. But I own the construction company that did the work, and honestly, we needed to keep our guys busy. So, I just said, ‘You know what? We’re doing it.’”

The couple planned to live in the home throughout the entire renovation process, so they started with just the master suite and a spare bedroom at the back of the house.

“We moved out of there — up to the front bedroom — and gutted it,” Clif said. “It was kind of an experiment to see what all I was going to have to do. Sucked all the old insulation out of the attic and found lots of bad stuff, so realized we were going to have to do it all. The electrical needed to be redone. All the plumbing needed to be redone. We just kind of used [the remodel of the master suite] as a feel for what I was going to have to do with the rest of house.”

In the master bedroom, new large windows look out over the outdoor living space and French doors access the screened-in porch. The craftsman-style wainscotting on two of the walls helps visually divide the room into distinct spaces for the bed and Lisa’s vanity.

The Hoopers’ new bathroom is outfitted with floating vanities — a feature that Lisa had seen in a hotel. Modern but functional, the design makes mopping much easier.

“I love the beautiful things, but function is really my passion,” she said.

The new master shower was originally doorless, but after using it a few times, they realized water kept getting all over the floor. Now it has a half-door, which keeps the water in, but is still less glass to clean than a full door. The couple also now has separate closets. Lisa’s is in the main bedroom, while Clif’s is accessed through the bathroom and is actually the home’s old tool shed. It was integrated into the house but still has some of its original shiplap and even splashes of old paint on one of the walls.

When the master suite and spare bedroom were complete, the Hoopers moved back into their room, put most of their furniture and belongings in storage and then got busy renovating the rest of the home.

“We took it to the studs, the entire house,” Lisa said.

The No. 1 item on Clif’s punch list was raising all the home’s 8-foot ceilings.

“With all the trees that are so gorgeous, it was just so dark,” Clif said. “We came from a house in Kansas City that had really tall, expansive ceilings. The big deal for me was to be able to raise the ceilings and get them vaulted and just add more light in the house, more windows and just open it up.”

The couple worked with interior designer Lee-Ann Harvey of Flourish Home & Design on the floor plan. While the footprint of the bedrooms remained mostly the same, the living area was transformed. They tore out most of the walls, leaving only a wall between the dining room and kitchen. The sunroom, which you used to step down into, was demolished then rebuilt with the floor raised to the same level as the living room and then a gabled roof was added, which extends to also cover the outdoor kitchen. The sunroom is multipurpose with a sitting area as well as home office workspace for Clif and Lisa.

After taking the existing garage into the living space and raising its floor to the same level, the Hoopers added a laundry room, a pantry, a half-bath and a den and expanded the kitchen. The original kitchen didn’t have room for an island, but now it has a central island with an attached table. The countertops are Taj Mahal quartzite with an eased edge and leathered finish. The table is their previous kitchen table.

“I wanted to be able to use it but didn’t want the traditional breakfast room and table that you have to walk around,” Lisa said. “So, we had it notched out to connect it to the island.”

The refreshed kitchen also has lots of custom storage space, a coffee bar and a second sink. Leaded glass windows that were part of the original front windows were repurposed on cabinet fronts in both the kitchen and dining room. Again, a fan of function, Lisa loves her elevated dishwasher as well as a paper towel nook that dispenses one roll while storing several others behind it in a drawer.

“I love the kitchen design for all the little cubbies and nooks and crannies,” she said. “I had back surgery back in ’06, so the raised dishwasher is a big deal for me because you don’t have to lean over as much loading and unloading that.”

The countertops as well as the custom cabinetry were completed by A&V Professional Custom Cabinet.

Before the renovation, the home had a cramped utility room and window off the kitchen that housed a small pantry and the washer and dryer. Now the Hoopers have what Lisa called a “dirty kitchen.” An enlarged pantry, it’s where the prep happens, and it’s a place to hide the mess of dirty dishes while keeping the main kitchen clean when entertaining. The dirty kitchen also has a door in place of its former window.

“We had so many steps because our lot slopes so much,” Lisa said. Instead of parking in the carport in the back, “Ninety percent of the time I would come to the front door and unload my groceries there. When we got ready to renovate and add the pantry, this was a window, so we put a door here. I can come directly into the pantry to unload the groceries.”

By closing up a hallway and combining a small hall closet with the old AC closet — the AC unit was moved to the attic — this created a space for Lisa to have her dream “junk closet.” But most people wouldn’t call it junky since it was efficiently organized by their daughter-in-law, Casey Hooper, who’s a personal organizer with The Art of Neat.

On the exterior front of the home, the Hoopers added a sitting area, a covered front porch and a covered entry for the exterior pantry door, which all have a metal roof accent. Lawns of Texas did the landscape and hardscape design.

The Hoopers’ son and daughter-in-law, their two young granddaughters as well as about 20 other family members live here in Waco. Their daughter lives nearby in Fort Worth. In the remaining spare bedrooms, the Hoopers made a few updates to make the space more functional for their many guests. The two granddaughters have claimed one room and often sleep in its twin beds, but Lisa and Clif are also prepared for future grandchildren. Tucked away in the room’s custom built-ins and hidden behind sliding barn doors is a baby crib.

The front room was rearranged to have a walk-in closet, and the hall bathroom was turned into the room’s en suite so the space can offer more privacy for overnight guests. The Hoopers also got rid of the existing pink bathtub, trading it out for a modern standalone shower.

“We rebuilt the house,” Clif said. “Left the frame, added some, moved some walls. But even the walls, it’s all new sheet rock.”

While the walls were open, the insulation was replaced with spray foam, and now the home has all new windows, doors, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning system. Practically everything is new, except the hardwood, which is the original flooring re-stained.

Lisa and Clif remained in their home the entire renovation. While renovating the main part of the house, the couple used their screened in porch as a makeshift kitchen, outfitting it with a microwave, a toaster oven and the refrigerator. They regularly used the outdoor kitchen and its cooktop for meals, and then the spare bedroom was set up as a space to eat in and watch TV.

“Honestly, it was quite fun,” Lisa said. “But after eight months, it was time.”

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