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Behind the Design of the Hotel

Published on November 8, 2023

Fixer Upper: The Hotel premiers today! Read on for all the details on how to watch the first episode. Plus, we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how Chip and Jo tackled their biggest fixer upper to date—honoring the history and legacy of an iconic property in the heart of Waco, Texas and transforming it into a cozy boutique hotel.

Last week was surreal as we opened the doors to a boutique hotel in the heart of our town, alongside our partner AJ Capital. What began as a surprise purchase from Chip in 2018 became our biggest fixer upper to date—and now that Hotel 1928 has swung open its doors and welcomed guests in, we can't wait to show you a behind-the-scenes look at the design and renovation journey of this special space just a few blocks from the Silos.

Behind the Building

Photo courtesy of the Texas Collection at Baylor University.
Photo courtesy of Karem Shriners, Waco, TX.

Originally built in 1928 as home to a local social group known for its community outreach and philanthropy, the 53,000 square foot building had been abandoned for over twenty years when we purchased it in 2018. But during its prime, the Karem building served as a gathering place for Wacoans for decades, withstanding town renovations and a tornado in 1953 that devastated most of our downtown.

The task of renovating a building of that size, especially one that held such significance for our city’s history, felt a little daunting at first. But once we invited Ben Weprin of AJ Capital (whose expertise in the world of hospitality and hotels is crazy impressive!) to walk the space with us, our minds were spinning with ideas around how incredible it would be to go the hotel route and restore this landmark property in Waco back into a place that welcomes people in again.

It would be the biggest fixer upper we’ve ever tackled, but thankfully, we had the best partners in the AJ Capital team, who we leaned on throughout the entire process to better understand the world of hotels of this type, where you’re not just building out guest rooms but restaurants and event spaces and wanting to ensure they’re all cohesive and telling the same story. This group is truly the best at what they do, with an incredible roster of projects as proof. They were an essential partner in the design process to help us ensure that this hotel not only looked amazing but functioned beautifully as well.

Design Elements

When we first toured the nearly one-hundred-year-old building, we were amazed by the unique architecture and how much of it was still intact. We knew then that this project would require a thoughtful approach to design, where old meets new, and that our choices would need to be period appropriate but also feel decidedly Magnolia. Being that the property was built in 1928, we had a lot of fun leaning into that golden age of American culture when anticipation was in the air and the future felt bright. We intentionally chose colors and materials that sparked a sort of nostalgia for those roaring twenties.

Many spaces throughout the property were left untouched during the renovation process due to historical significance. We learned a ton from our local historic commission here in Waco who worked with us every step of the way to preserve as much of the original architecture as possible, and our team had to get creative with renovations to honor the integrity of original layouts and finishings. A lot of original elements, including the exterior masonry, terrazzo flooring, cased openings, and walnut wood windows, were saved throughout the building everywhere possible. All new design elements and finishes were chosen to reflect the era-authentic character of the building, grand architecture, and Middle Eastern, Moorish, and revival design influences.

Step Back in Time and Stay a While

When you step inside we really want it to feel like you’re stepping back in time, and that every space would feel like permission to get swept up in that nostalgia, whether you’re dining in one of the restaurants, playing a game of chess in the library, or relaxing in your room. I’m also really proud of the way these spaces honor our hometown—from the black and white photographs of Waco through the years that hang on the walls to the library’s shelves of vintage and historic books, to the storytelling of the building’s rich history—and yet there’s still this feeling of curiosity around every corner. It was that combination of familiarity-meets-discovery that we tried to achieve through design, and then extend across every space you step into.

So much of the work we do at Magnolia begins from a place of hospitality and a heart for a heart for making people feel at home, and this hotel feels like an extension of that intention. Throughout the design and renovation journey our team poured a lot of time and passion into telling the story of our town and finding ways to make guests feel that sense of warmth and belonging. So, it’s our hope that everyone who steps inside this hotel would feel that, and that they’d feel right at home.

Watch it Come to Life

For the next six weeks, watch how our team and AJ Capital work together to transform this historical building into a boutique hotel in downtown Waco, Texas. New episodes will be released every week on Magnolia Network, discovery+, and Max.


Step back in time and stay a while! Book your stayOpens in new tab at Hotel 1928—and explore more of Chip and Jo's fixer upper projects here.