Story and Photos by Courtney Warren
My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to take one past-its-prime, picnic patterned-adorned barn of a barbecue restaurant and transform it into the welcoming gathering destination in Ellis County.
Mission conclusion? My design vision has brought new life to the interior of Bluebonnet Barbecue, a newly-opened eatery on Highway 287 in Waxahachie.
My design firm, Courtney Warren Home, had worked previously with the restaurant’s new owners Collin and Katie Harwell on two of their homes. We quickly established a trusting professional relationship, which proved to be beneficial as we conquered out biggest mountain yet- a large commercial restaurant renovation in the midst of a Covid quarantine.
When Katie first heard the old Pit Stop BBQ restaurant down the highway was for sale, she immediately told Collin, knowing he was a talented grill master with a treasure trove of amazing family recipes. They decided yes, it was a viable business venture, but yikes! The run-down barn feel of the restaurant interior was a total turn-off. They couldn’t phone me fast enough to ask for help creating a unique atmosphere for their new Ellis County dining spot.
“We knew what we wanted the overall space to feel like and the image we wanted it to portray, but we weren’t quite sure how to get from point A to point B, Katie says. That is why we brought in Courtney Warren Home. Courtney and her team handled the details and made sure each tiny decision matched the overall feel we wanted for the restaurant.”
I was very excited to take on this commercial project! The minute I walked in this space, I could envision what I wanted it to be. Katie and Collin’s trusting faith in my design ideas made it easy to bring all the elements together to create the fresh upgrade the space needed.
Katie says of the end result at Bluebonnet, “What started out as a dark, unwelcoming, outdoor feel has been turned into a bright and clean space full of southern charm and hospitality-exactly the mood we were wanting our customers to have when walking through our doors!”
Following design brainstorming and product vetting, my team and I got to work on the clean modern farmhouse look the Harwells imagined. To kick off this unique space, the entry called for an immediate wow factor upon arrival–a wall of custom “bluebonnet” color subway tile featuring the restaurant logo.
I further set the rustic mood with concrete floors, exposed brick and an industrial garage door leading to the party room. Vintage-style ceiling tile and herringbone reclaimed wood carry the repurposed vibe throughout the spaces.
Ever proud of our past, we pulled in other flashbacks to a long forgotten era–reproductions of vintage Ellis County maps and survey notes of the land, as well as photos of the farmland the restaurant now occupies. The Harwell’s grateful nod to those who came before also includes photo displays of the farmers who formerly owned the land. Has anyone spotted those in the restaurant? Message me and tell me where for a special treat!
In addition, the Harwell’s customers are reminded of the land’s history when they see the plant wall and mossy garden boxes in the Bluebonnet. Other heritage notes include a butcher block meat carving station with views into the kitchen, a gallery wall of vintage breadboards, and of course–an enormous Texas flag.
I knew I wanted to create for Bluebonnet BBQ’s patrons an appealing interior that would invite diners to sit and enjoy great conversation with loved ones. While smart and stylish, nothing I chose for the design looks too fancy or precious. There’s lots of galvanized metal (lighting, chairs, condiment trays) and painted, stained, and distressed wood finishes— totally what eating BBQ in Texas should be!
Even newly-made merchandise shelving was crafted by my builder to look like old apothecary cabinets. These attributes of yesteryear carry over into the restrooms, as well, where wall mounted schoolhouse cast iron sinks provide a generous washup space with old-school style.
Take it from me, there’s nothing country, antiquated, or ho-hum about these interiors. My team and I loved brainstorming new ways to create a lively energy that’s fresh and up-to-date with our mix of crisp white subway tiles and matte black metal, natural woods, greenery, and bright pops of blue.
Everyone knows a restaurant’s ambience is a big part of the total dining experience. Besides good eats, I wanted to ensure Bluebonnet BBQ atmosphere would be memorable enough to return for. It is warm, inviting, current and fresh,—and the final result exactly matches the Harwell’s inspiration. That’s the highest compliment a designer can receive!
We are so proud of how the amazing the Bluebonnet interior turned out. I can truly say it showcases my team’s design experience and expertise. I am looking forward to more missions, both residential and commercial— especially if like this one, they include taste tests of the amazing BBQ and chocolate cake! Because if Ellis County needs more of anything, chocolate cake has my vote!!