Inside Hotel 1928 in Waco

Travel + Leisure
By Jeff Chu

“Look up and look close,” Joanna Gaines, the celebrity designer who hosts the hit home-makeover show Fixer Upper with her husband, Chip, told me when I visited the Hotel 1928. Even with her designer’s eye, she’d initially missed the intricacy of the Moorish Revival facade of the nearly century-old Grand Karem Shrine building.

According to Joanna, the shrine’s character “just felt more layered. We really love that process of highlighting the history of a space and the best parts of its past to give it new life, and the same was true for this hotel. It was a breathtaking canvas.”

Uncovering those layers took nearly five years. On Fixer Upper, Joanna and Chip have specialized in buffing, polishing, and augmenting what’s already there, which turned out to be a particularly valuable skill set for a landmarked building. With the Hotel 1928 — a joint venture between the Gaines's Magnolia Realty and AJ Capital Partners, which owns Graduate Hotels — that included cleaning up the intricate exterior as well as salvaging and refurbishing as many interior details as possible. I noticed some of those restored details as soon as I walked into the lobby: the original terrazzo floors, the painted wooden ceiling beams, the plasterwork moldings. Here and there, throughout the hotel, I saw even more features from the late 1920s — the hotel's name is taken from the year of the building's construction — including transoms and chicken-wire-glass windows.

“We’re truly honored that people are traveling from all over the country, even the world, to visit us in Waco. We want to make their experience excellent and memorable,” Joanna said. “So, when it came to the hotel, we love that it feels like an extension of that intention — and just one more way to invite people in and make them feel at home.

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