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A Grand Reveal

by Joanna Gaines
Published on January 25, 2023

Chip and I have a long history with this century-old castle in Waco, Texas. Now that its restoration and renovation are complete, I'm realizing that sometimes the most meaningful growth and the dreams worth holding on to are years in the making.

Twenty years is a long time to hold on to a dream. That's how long Chip waited to get his hands on this mysterious castle in the middle of residential Waco.

Over the years, we’ve heard all kinds of origin stories: the Civil War veteran who finished its construction. The numerous hands the property passed through. The ways it fell into disrepair when maintenance seemed too daunting.

For years the castle sat empty. Graffiti coated the walls. Animals found a new home.

If you’ve followed our story, then you know that none of this scared Chip. It fueled him. Every time we drove past the castle, his eyes grew wider, his imagination wilder—it was more than 6,000 square feet of potential, waiting to be unearthed and restored to its former glory. During the 20 years that the castle went on and off the market, Chip consistently put in offers for a shot at bringing it back to life.

Meanwhile, with every offer that wasn’t accepted, I took a breath of relief. Not because I didn’t want Chip’s dream to come true or because I didn’t want to step into this castle’s legacy and write our own chapter in its unfolding story. That’s the kind of work Chip and I live for. But tackling a project like this—one at that scale with 130 years worth of history—felt daunting. Until one day in 2019 when Chip surprised me with a call—his offer had been accepted, and the castle was ours.

In the years that followed, Chip and I would drive by and step inside often. We’d walk the halls, brushing our fingers against the stone detailing from times past. This place kept us curious. It kept us dreaming. We tossed around so many ideas— some that made us laugh, some that made us wide-eyed with possibility. But still, we waited.

Three years went by before we started any sort of renovation. That may seem crazy, but most projects we take on have a clear role to play as a home or a restaurant or a place of inspiration. The castle was different. Even though we’d waited nearly 20 years for the chance, we knew we couldn’t rush its ending.

Once we decided that the best way to honor this neglected place wasn’t to reinvent it but to return it to its original state—as a home—that’s really when our wheels started to turn.

During the year-long renovation process, we kept coming back to the building’s roots, studying the German castle that inspired its original design and trying to find ways to either restore or replicate its stunning details—its crown molding, wood paneling, and narrow-plank floors.

At the same time, we wanted to create an updated home that could, one day, serve a family well and feel current. Which brings up another aspect that made this project unique to us: We didn’t have a buyer to design for. So, I made one up. I imagined an older couple who love to play cards, sip wine, and host friends and family. Maybe that sounds funny, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that crafting a story would help guide our final decisions.

It turned out to be quite the dance—blending past and present, beauty and functionality, sophistication and charm. As a designer, it stretched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined until we were in the thick of it. But I’m glad we trusted our instincts and swung back to the castle’s roots instead of trying to create something completely new.

During those early days of walking through the castle, I remember a growing sense of anticipation, an expectation that we were about to learn something important. And we did.

The castle taught us that sometimes the forgotten things in life don’t need a reinvention but just a little dusting off. And the deep-seated dreams within you and me are worth holding on to.

Yes, even the ones 20 years in the making. Because in that waiting, pieces in and around us fall into place, letting that which is meaningful and lasting have its way. When we allow ourselves that space to wait, it’s amazing what beauty reveals itself in the end.

Past Meets Present

Preserving the castle’s integrity and original details with anticipation for how its next chapter could unfold.

Above: The drawing room is my favorite space. This is the only place where we painted the original mahogany millwork, and I love the way the light gray brightens up this primary space.

Above: The foyer was one of the simplest spaces to tackle. It didn’t require much to dust off its beauty—just refinishing the original millwork and flooring and updating the light fixtures.

Above: The library was not original to the house, but it felt reflective of the period. We created this nook using similar materials so it would feel as if it had always been there. The arched frame, custom cabinets, and rolling ladder allude to times past.

Above: To make the home more functional, we converted the original dining room into the main kitchen (which was originally located in the basement). This forced us to get creative with our choices—like turning the dumbwaiter into a spice rack and the fireplace into a nook for a new range.

Above: If any house was made for hosting, it’s this one. To provide hardworking prep space in addition to that in the more formal kitchen, we converted a former sitting area into this butler’s pantry. The contrast of the dark cabinetry, bright marble countertops, and original windows creates a cozy, moody look that I just love.

In the Details

Blending old and new, while getting creative with every detail to make this home sing again.

Above: This hall bath didn’t exist originally, so it stretched us to create one that felt seamless to the castle. Details like the custom wainscoting, mosaic tile floor, and shower curtain ring hint at the home’s original style. I loved the deep olive color of one of my step stools so much, we created a paint color from it and used it for the wall paneling.

Above: The pink in the girls bedroom is subtle with a vintage style, and it contrasts with the deep red of the original tile on the fireplace surround.

Above: It’s hard to believe this delicate, inviting guest room is in the basement—which was undoubtedly the oddest part in the castle. Now the basement is set up with a family room, laundry, a card room, and this bedroom for overnight guests to enjoy. The floral wallpaper nods to the wallpaper elsewhere in the house, and the statement light fixture and headboard bring the whole room together.

Above: The antique-inspired walnut vanity cabinet stands out beautifully against the clean, timeless look of Carrara marble tile.

Above: Many original elements shine in this bedroom, including the fireplace mantel and mirror, window bench seat, and flooring—contributing to its stately, classic feel.

Above: Mixing a moody green with other dark hues for the boys room, we also demo-ed and redesigned this mantel (since the existing one wasn’t original) to include a cast-iron firebox that reflects the home’s time period. To reference the castle’s history, we commissioned a portrait of Roy E. Lane, the architect who helped complete the castle.

Above: The card room is Chip’s favorite space. The original wood paneling, millwork, and windows were almost all intact. We simply added a collection of modern, moody accents and a portrait of Captain Abeel, the first owner.

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