Articles by

Leah Shafer

Leah Shafer is a freelance writer and Dallas native who lives in Richardson with her fiancé, their baby, his teenage daughter, and a neurotic-but-sweet dog. In her sixth-grade yearbook, she listed "interior designer" as her future profession. Now she writes about them, as well as all things real estate, for CandysDirt.com and SecondShelters.com.

08/18/16 10:41pm
Waco fixer upper

The Shotgun House was renovated on HGTV’s Fixer Upper, and is for rent on AirBnB for $325 a night. It was featured in season 3, episode 12 of the show. Photo: AirBnb

If you’re a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV’s Fixer Upper, then you know their renovated homes are all near Waco, Texas. It turns out several of the owners of these monuments to shiplap and style showing up on popular rental services AirBnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) as celebrity-designed spaces available by the night.

The cable television stars have made their name creating rustic chic homes in this town about 95 miles south of Dallas. And people from Dallas and around the country are flocking to these homes, according to The Waco Tribune. People come to Waco in part to see the Gaines’ Magnolia Market and take part in the celebrity culture.

As the Tribune notes, “the Gaineses themselves tapped into the potent combination of Fixer Upper popularity and the convenience of online booking when they renovated a McGregor house into a bed and breakfast named the Magnolia House. Mere hours after online reservations were made available to fans in February, the Magnolia House had booked customers throughout 2016.”

At least six of the Fixer Upper houses were for rent in the Waco area, according to the Tribune, with a seventh joining that number next month. Most were listed as renting from between $200 to $350 a night.

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08/10/16 2:16pm
celina texas

Chris Hornbaker’s sustainable vineyard in Collin County, where the ranch home’s design is by Texas architect Steve Chambers, AIA. Photo: Stephanie Chambers, Chambers Architects

Celina, Texas, is an area of bucolic fields and green spaces that go on for as far as the eye can see. Back in 2003, Linda and Clark Hornbaker purchased 10 acres of open pasture in this area about 45 miles north of Dallas.

With the rolling hills and peaceful countryside, Linda saw it as the family’s “garden of Eden,” and named the land Eden Hill.

The soil was good, a limestone base with trees bordering the property, making it perfect for a vineyard. Their son, Chris Hornbaker, was an amateur vintner, making pear wine in his kitchen. The family had the bright idea to join forces and create a commercial vineyard and winery. So Linda and Clark studied viticulture and learned how to grow grapes. Chris is completing his viticulture and oenology degree. Jump to see their house and more properties in Celina!

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07/04/16 9:38am
cape cod

In Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Every June, my family and I rent a cottage in Orleans, Mass., for a week, which is in the heart of Cape Cod. Our place is right on the bay, and we watch the tide ebb and flow from our large front porch. We just returned last week and the temperature was never above 80°. Last summer, it was so chilly, we rarely swam. The air smells clean and briny, and the architecture everywhere is like a storybook. If this sounds like paradise, you’re not far off.

cape codLife is pretty sweet in Cape Cod—I’ve had the opportunity to spend many hours driving and exploring the 15 towns that make up its 339 square miles. Cape Cod stretches from Woods Hole in the southwest (where you catch ferries to Martha’s Vineyard) to Provincetown in the northeast (where we go whale watching and fishing).

The year-round population of 220,000 swells during summer months, when many thousands like us flock to Cape Cod for a holiday. I can’t help but wonder what it would cost us to buy a place up there—it’s easy to afford something if your budget is massive, but what about more reasonably priced Cape Cod real estate?

I found three places that I think just might fit the bill.

 

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06/13/16 2:56pm
HomeAway Eiffel Tower

HomeAway’s Eiffel Tower apartment. All photos: HomeAway

If Paris is the city of love, then the Eiffel Tower is one of the most romantic landmarks in the world. Lots of people get engaged there, but what if you could do that, or renew your vows, in an Eiffel Tower apartment?

Vacation rental website HomeAway has partnered with architect Benoit Leleu to design a temporary and totally fabulous apartment inside the Eiffel Tower. They’re running a contest, called the HomeAway LoveAway sweepstakes, which ends tonight at midnight.

The winning couple will receive an all-expense paid trip to Paris, including four nights, June 30 through July 4, in a romantic HomeAway apartment in the heart of the city. On July 2, they’ll join other romantics at a party in HomeAway’s Eiffel Tower Apartment, which was built inside the tower as a temporary space for only one month. Kaitlyn Bristowe and fiancé Shawn Booth from ABC’s The Bachelorette are co-hosts with HomeAway and will celebrate their engagement at the LoveAway event.

This is the first time in history the tower has had an apartment built inside and it’s marvelous!

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04/25/16 3:11pm
Michael Gooden

Rendering of the MC13 House by M Gooden Design

The craze for shipping container homes shows no signs of slowing down, as consumers seek out the eco-friendly, unusual abodes.

One Texas design firm is following up their acclaimed shipping container home in East Dallas with another industrial chic home near Waco, Texas.

M Gooden Design, a residential design studio based in Dallas, is in the design and documentation phase of the MC13 house near Waco. The home will be constructed from 13 locally sourced shipping containers, with around 3,500 square feet on two stories, says founder Michael Gooden.

“It will sit on the top of a hill in the middle of 300 acres, and the aesthetic is a blend of industrial feel with some Midcentury modern undertones in there,” he said. “The clients currently live in a 1950s Midcentury Modern house and we wanted as a design team to remember to that era.”

Gooden and associate Kevan Russell are creating an open concept house. This is possible when using shipping containers because of a secondary steel superstructure within the house that carries the weight and the distributed loads of the containers as they are stacked on top of each other.

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01/29/16 5:43pm

austin street center

If you’ve dreamed of vacationing in Taos, New Mexico, Crested Butte, Colo., or Destin, Flor., mark your calendars for a fabulous silent auction offering stays at three luxury vacation homes in those locations.

The No Place Like Home vacation home silent auction event will benefit Austin Street Center, a nonprofit that has provided emergency shelter, food, and clothing to the most vulnerable homeless men and women in Dallas for 30 years.

“By leveraging vacation properties owned by Austin Street Center supporters and friends, we will be able to provide a unique opportunity to both our donors and auction winners,” said Becca Leonard, development director at Austin Street Center. “Donors will generate much-needed funds for Austin Street at little to no cost to themselves, and attendees will have the chance to win a stay at one of many fabulous spots around the country—only their vacation will benefit the homeless here in Dallas.”

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07/22/15 1:41pm
There's nothing quite like a Texas lake house. This one, at 1901 Park St. in Azle, is located close to Fort Worth. All photos: Briggs Freeman Sotheby's International Realty

There’s nothing quite like a Texas lake house. This one, at 1901 Park St. in Azle, is located close to Fort Worth. All photos: Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty

Lakeshore living is at its finest in the Lone Star State, where these five lake house will surprise you with their views, amenities, and luxury. Take a look at a couple of our favorites places for relaxing this summer, thanks to Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty.

Elegant Exclusive on Eagle Mountain Lake

Texas Lake House

Texas Lake House

1901 Park St., Azle

Listed by John Zimmerman for $2.099 million

Just northwest of Fort Worth is Eagle Mountain Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in North Texas, spanning 8,694 acres. This house has gorgeous views, and the 2.77-acre property is heavily treed with an engineered sea wall and extensive drainage system. The drive-up to the house features street lights from famed Avenue Foch in Paris. The exterior of the home is limestone, cut, polished, and imported from Syria, and solid, double-hung wood Anderson windows create unmasked views of the property while offering the highest energy efficiency. There’s even a boat dock with a lift for two boats. Designed by William Beck and custom built by prize-winning builder Landon Banks, this 5,918-square-foot house has a gourmet kitchen with commercial-grade appliances and a cozy sitting area with a fireplace. All four bedrooms are ensuite, and there are marble, limestone, and designer details throughout.

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06/29/15 4:03pm
All photos: Leah Shafer

Cedar shake shingles for siding is a classic look for cottages all over Cape Cod. They are left unpainted and turn from light tan to a weathered gray over time. Clapboard siding is also commonly seen on Cape Cod cottages. All photos: Leah Shafer

Cape Cod has historic roots in American history, one of the earliest places the Pilgrims settled, later becoming a thriving fishing, whaling, and trading area.

But the romantic mythos of the Cape took off during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, much of which was based out of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port. JFK gave his acceptance speech there after winning the 1960 election, and returned frequently during his presidency. The Kennedy’s Camelot and Cape Cod are inextricably linked in the American imagination.

Today, the year-round population of 220,000 swells during summer months, when many thousands flock to Cape Cod for relaxation and resorts. It stretches from Provincetown in the northeast to Woods Hole in the southwest, and each of the 15 towns has its own individual character and hallmarks.

The sunset at low tide from our vacation house near Oster in Cape Cod.

The sunset at low tide from our vacation house near Orleans in Cape Cod. Stunning.

Cape Cod still maintains a charming, maritime feel, with almost 560 miles of wide, sandy coastline (including the gorgeous Cape Cod National Seashore), and house after house with weathered cedar shake shingle siding and colorful flowers that thrive in the temperate summer climate.

I just returned from a week’s vacation in Cape Cod, where we stayed in a classic shingle-style Cape beach house near Orleans on the inner bay. My fiancé’s family has vacationed there since the 1970s, and I joined them last year for the first time. As someone who spent her childhood summers in Galveston, Cape Cod was an enchanting experience, from windy afternoons walking by the seagrass along the shoreline to driving along winding roads with lush vegetation. The whole week we were there, the temperature never rose above 71 degrees.

Candy just wrote about the Cape for Grand Vie Magazine (read it here), and we both are delighted with the region and intrigued by the real estate market there. As Realtor Paul Grover of Robert Paul Properties in Osterville told her, 68 percent of his buyers were from Boston and its suburbs in 2013, and lots are empty-nesters.

But contrary to popular belief, Cape Cod is not just a haven for the rich and famous. As I discovered, there’s a range of housing available, with many beauties available for under $400,000 (I photographed 14 houses I’d consider classic Cape Cod cottage style that you can see throughout this post).

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