After 10 years, Kate and Mike Bendewald left the community they created for themselves in Denver to return to Texas. And they’re grateful for the reception they’ve been given. Twice, while talking to Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley, Kate was moved to tears as she talked about the friends they’ve made since their move back in February, especially the folks in their Woodway neighborhood they encounter on daily walks.
Kate is a self-employed interior designer, which is what she did in Denver, and Mike is chief operating officer for Texas Energy Aggregation, which helps universities, municipalities and state agencies by leveraging renewable energy. Kate and Mike have two children: 5-year-old Nell, who just started kindergarten; and 2-year-old Mona.
WACOAN: You just moved here, correct?
Bendewald: We just moved back to Texas after a 10-year stint in Denver.
WACOAN: Were you doing design work in Denver?
Bendewald: I sure was doing.
WACOAN: And Michael?
Bendewald: He transitioned from the nonprofit world where he did sustainability research in the world of renewable energy.
WACOAN: What brought y’all back to Texas from Denver?
Bendewald: It was primarily for his job, but also my family is here. We didn’t have any family in Denver. We have two daughters, and we just wanted to be closer to family. They’re in the Austin area.
WACOAN: What got you interested in interior design?
Bendewald: Well, it sounds cliché, but I’ve always really known that this is something that I would do. I was raised in that world by my mom, who didn’t do it professionally. She was a teacher, but she was kind of a weekend decorator for friends and it was so much fun.
I loved seeing how she helped families and friends fall in love with their homes again. So that stuck with me, and now I do it because I get that satisfaction in helping people transform their homes from a place that maybe doesn’t feel like them. Maybe it just lacks good function or the layout or personality that really reflects who they are. What I try to do is help families reimagine their spaces, whether it’s a renovation or just a makeover in a way that reflects who their family is.
WACOAN: I saw on your website a guide to your favorite colors. Is that right?
Bendewald: Yeah, I just put that out. I love color, and I know that people struggle with what I call ‘analysis paralysis’ when it comes to picking colors. So that is 80 of my all-time favorite colors that I’ve used on projects over the years. I go back to them over and over again, and they’re classic and timeless.
WACOAN: Is there one that’s your very favorite?
Bendewald: You’re going to laugh at me. It’s Decorator’s White.
WACOAN: Why Decorator’s White?
Bendewald: I’m a big art lover, and I really love how art pops off of white walls. But I would say my favorite classic white is Decorator’s White.
WACOAN: What kind of art do you like?
Bendewald: I love all kinds of art, whether it’s three-dimensional art, for example, what you see on the wall there. Or modern art. But I also love framing kids’ artwork and putting that up right next to a really nice piece of art. And I love how that juxtaposition comes together.
WACOAN: How did you choose this house?
Bendewald: Well, I had been stalking it online from Denver for a few weeks prior to us coming in and taking a look. It was the second home we looked at, and I just instantly fell in love. We probably looked at another 15 homes after that, and I just couldn’t be bothered with any of them. It was really love at first sight.
What we love about this home is two things. We’re homebodies. We are home a lot. And we love to entertain. Nothing fancy but just casual get-togethers with friends, and this home felt like it had the space to let us do that. And also since we have a lot of friends and family that don’t live here, we liked having an extra guest space that would allow friends and family to come visit and stay and feel comfortable.
But really, it’s just a well laid-out home. I know that there’s some history with the architect who designed it that’s well known around this area. And so we feel like it was a thoughtfully designed home.
It was built in the ’70s, which feels like an upgrade from our Denver home that was built in the ’20s. I loved our Denver home, and I really love older homes. This is about the newest home I would consider purchasing it. I just prefer older homes. I would consider anything ’70s and earlier to be older. I personally just like the charm and character that they come with.
WACOAN: How long have you been here?
Bendewald: We moved here in February.
WACOAN: You said you liked to entertain and have friends over. How have you met people since you’ve been here?
Bendewald: We go out for walks, and we meet some of the neighbors and families that way. I meet people at yoga.
If there was one thing that we would choose to change about this house, which we might do at some point, is to create a little seating and patio area out front, just to have that connection with our neighbors. We had that in Denver and loved it.
WACOAN: Can you show me around the house?
Bendewald: Yeah. This area, which most people would consider a formal living area, is what we call the game room. We like to play games and this is where we hang out and play games after dinner. This painting [above the fireplace] is by Hayley Mitchell. She’s an artist from Austin. I just love it. It has almost that Frida Kahlo feel to it.
And this is an antique carousel horse from, I believe, the 1920s. It just sits there, and I love it. I just thought it was cute and couldn’t resist, but I like the way it just sort of plays off of the more modern art above it all.
This [Alias word art] I got at Laverty’s [Antiques & Furnishings]. It’s just very graphic and simple. It makes you think, why did somebody choose that word?
Besides painting, we changed out all the light fixtures in the house. There wasn’t anything totally wrong with them. They just weren’t our style, so we replaced him with some more modern ones. This one [above the dining table] is a modern brass mobile. I feel like lighting is kind of like jewelry. You can really change the way a room looks with just one cool piece of lighting. And this is a papier-mache bird, maybe a heron. I have this love affair with animals.
WACOAN: And this is the den?
Bendewald: Yeah. This is where we hang out. We are big family movie night people. And I wanted a big sectional where we could all snuggle up together.
And this is a gallery art wall that I put up, probably one of the first things I did when I got here. It’s a collection of things that I’ve had, things that I bought when we got here. This is a family tree that my husband’s family did, one of his ancestors, and it goes way back. But [the wall is] a mix of pictures of my kids, art that I’ve done, printables from Etsy. It’s a mix of high and low.
WACOAN: The floor-to-ceiling windows in this den are awesome.
Bendewald: Aren’t they? They’re so simple, and I love that they don’t have any mullions on them. It’s just a real connection to the outdoors. It’s a huge feature to have that unobstructed view. We feel very fortunate to have [the backyard].
WACOAN: I assume you spend a lot of time outside, with a pool and everything.
Bendewald: We are constantly outside and, besides the house, it was the backyard that we really fell in love with for obvious reasons. We love the live oak trees, which you don’t have in Denver, and it felt like coming home. We feel very lucky to have as many as we do. It stays super cool out here. The kids can run around and swing. My husband made that swing.
We’re huge music lovers, and the house came with a sound system. We basically wake up on Saturday morning, brew some coffee, turn on the music, and it stays on all weekend.
WACOAN: What do you listen to?
Bendewald: We listen to a lot of different types of music, but I’m a huge classic country music fan. Anything ’80s and earlier, I love. Music is a huge part of our lives, and that’s one of the things you can’t really see, but it’s an experience you have as you interact with the home. [The sound system] is inside and out.
Here’s our kitchen. This is a bustling area during dinnertime and usually the kids and dogs are right under my feet, but we love it.
WACOAN: Who does the cooking?
Bendewald: I cook a lot of pasta. It’s easy, and the kids eat it. The one thing we changed is when we first moved in, there was a high-top bar [just off the kitchen], and it was not practical for having young kids. We got rid of that and put in a sofa and chairs. It’s kind of like a banquette. It’s leather, so it’s wipeable.
We literally live at this table. We do so much. Last weekend, we just had Legos on the table all weekend long. We eat dinner in [the dining room], and this kind of becomes an activity table. And I like it because the kids can hang out with me while I’m cooking. Or friends and family can sort of gather around while I’m cooking and they’re sort of out of my hair, but we can still stay together.
So it’s not an open concept living and kitchen space, which I know is what people really love. And at first, I wasn’t sure about that idea, but when we did this little casual seating situation, I felt like it made up for that. And now I love it. Now I don’t know if I would ever have an open concept because the whole house will smell like bacon and you see all the dishes. And here we can sort of shut the door and walk away from it. I love that, and it works for us.
Now this was a garage, and it got converted into a playroom. This is the world’s biggest liquor bar, and we converted it into an art supplies bar. I’m not saying we don’t imbibe, but we certainly don’t need that much real estate for our cocktails.
I believe that having art supplies out for kids is important because it is sort of a call to action for creative activity. It can inspire them. I tried keeping [art supplies] out and available for them to get on their own, but that proved to be a huge mess, so this is our solution to that. They can still see it, but they have to ask for what they want and I can give them a little bit at a time and let them still enjoy acts of creativity that are spontaneous without ruining the house.
Now, the master bedroom is pretty. We fell in love with that space because there are windows on all sides and it feels like you’re in a treehouse. You can see the tops of the trees, and it’s a really tranquil place.
WACOAN: Besides painting, have you done anything else to the house?
Bendewald: Not a lot. We just painted and changed out pretty much all of the light fixtures. Besides that, I was pretty exhausted from the move. I was just ready to start doing the fun stuff, which is furnishing and decorating it.
WACOAN: What furnishings have you brought in since you’ve been here?
Bendewald: The home prices in Denver were astronomical. So we moved from a tiny home in Denver, where we had all secondhand vintage, which I love and we still brought those pieces, but we definitely had to bring in some new pieces to furnish this house.
WACOAN: What’s your favorite piece you’ve bought?
Bendewald: Oh, that has to be the table in the front entryway. It’s a bone inlay waterfall console table. I just loved how graphic it was, and if you feel that, it’s got a really interesting touch to it. It’s not real bone, for the record.
WACOAN: Where did you get that? Do you remember?
Bendewald: It’s from Anthropologie.
WACOAN: Tell me about this animal skull decorated with roses.
Bendewald: Yeah, that is handmade by an artist back in Denver, and it was one of the last things that I bought. I bought it when I knew that we were moving, and I wanted to bring back to a little piece of Denver with me, but it also felt very Texas. It was custom-designed. She already had some premade, and I was able to tell her what colors I liked and what elements I liked and I let her take it from there. She gets the skulls from Mexico, and they are found. So no animals were harmed in the making of that skull.
WACOAN: What do you miss about Denver?
Bendewald: The weather. I love having four seasons. So that’s been a little bit of a trade-off, but it’s hard to complain when you have the backyard that we do. So we’re grateful for that.
WACOAN: And what do you like about Waco?
Bendewald: Oh, it’s got to be the people, I have to say. And, if I’m going to be a little bit vulnerable, it was a hard move for us, leaving our community. The people here have been awesome. You guys have been amazing and warm and welcoming, and we’re really grateful for the people.
WACOAN: Besides walking in the neighborhood, what else do y’all do?
Bendewald: Swim. We go for a walk and we get hot, and we come home and we swim. We cook at home a lot. I told you we’re homebodies. We go to Austin quite a bit. In fact, we’re going this weekend. We see family, and we go do stuff there.
WACOAN: I like that you have a home office, but it’s not right in the middle of your stuff. You’ve got your own space.
Bendewald: I love that, too, for two reasons. One, it makes work feel like a destination. I can go to work and then I can leave it, shut it off at the end of the day and walk away from it until the next day. But the work that I do when I’m in the middle of a project tends to be quite messy. There’s stuff everywhere, and so nobody wants to see that. I get to contain my mess back here.
My office is the perfect size. I’m able to see the outside area. I can meet with clients here and present to them if I’m not presenting in their home. It’s also the place I go to for inspiration and to get away. This could easily be a little studio apartment.
WACOAN: Are you reading anything good right now?
Bendewald: I’m always reading. I have tons of books that I keep up with. ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,’ by Greg McKeown. I just started that.
WACOAN: Do you have a particular style?
Bendewald: I would call my style very eclectic. I love antique. I love vintage. I love modern. I love classic design. I appreciate them all together. I would just say that the more styles you mix up together, the more interesting a space becomes versus sticking with just one singular style, which can kind of fall flat, in my humble opinion.