Fixer Upper Season 3, Episode 15

by Joanna Gaines
Published on March 8, 2016

I love a design challenge. Projects like this one are what keep Chip and me going—the Bell family’s house was such a unique project that kept us on our toes from both a construction and design standpoint.

The Bells are the kind of folks who are completely comfortable in a small space, and when they began their home search, we knew they weren’t necessarily interested in a spacious floor plan. After seeing several homes in the Waco area, they settled on the shotgun house—which was roughly 720 square feet. Cameron loved the history of this house and the fact that this was one of the only two shotgun houses in Waco. The biggest issue with this house was that it needed to be moved to another location because the land was sold to a developer. The Bells purchased an empty lot, and we moved the house to the area of town they were most interested in: a spot just a mile away from the Baylor campus.

When we began work on this house, it quickly became clear that it was going to be one of our most unique Fixers to-date. The house had been abandoned and was overrun by critters. We needed to bring this thing back to life, but we also do our very best to maximize every square inch into livable space.

The living space is the first area you walk into. We installed wood floors and beautiful floor length windows. This space didn’t feel cramped in the least. We removed the wall that separated the living to the bedroom and converted this existing bedroom into the kitchen.

To add more space for the Bell family, we added a loft for additional living space. In order to turn this single story into a double, we had to remove the original roof, rework the pitch, and install a new roof and balcony—which added to the curb appeal.

To avoid taking up prime real estate by building a full-on staircase, we installed this ship ladder staircase that’s operated on a pulley system. It can easily be left up, out of the way or lowered down for easy access to the top floor. Not only does it add a practical element, but, with the high ceilings, I felt like it was a really cool design feature in the main room.

The kitchen area would have to double as a dining room, so I designed the largest island that would fit in this space to double as bar seating. I made sure there were as many lower cabinets as would possibly fit for ample kitchen storage. I ultimately decided on open shelving rather than uppers, so the area would look as open and roomy as possible. The clients loved the idea of a retro-style refrigerator, so I chose a color I thought would accent the rest of the space.

We situated the master bedroom, bath, and mudroom behind the kitchen. I had the walls painted this striking teal green to really define and differentiate this space from the rest of the home.

The master bathroom and laundry spaces were a 2-in-1 to maximize the area, but the layout we designed ended up allowing more than enough room for both. The natural light in this room opened it up, and the patterned concrete tile was fun and paired well with the color of the Bells' bedroom.

One of my favorite areas was the loft office area upstairs. This space took the whole project from tiny house to practical home. Having just one living area would’ve really made this house feel cramped, but this large office and sitting room transformed it and made all the difference.

Not only did adding a second story loft add livable space, but it also allowed for this incredible high ceiling that opened up this whole home—making it feel anything but small.

The exterior of the Bell House was completely reworked. We added new siding, a spacious new porch and stairs, a gas lantern, brick skirt, modern landscaping, and a second floor balcony to bring out a little dimension on the top floor.

Ultimately, the Bell project ended up becoming one of my favorite homes we’ve had the opportunity to bring back to life. And this was definitely one of the top five most dramatic Fixer Upper reveals we’ve worked on. The Bell family was an adventurous couple that could see the potential in this tiny house. As always, we hope they’re happy here for years to come.

Photos by: Rachel WhyteOpens in new tab and Jeff JonesOpens in new tab