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Building a Legacy While Building a Home

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Story by Emily Robertson | Photography by Darren Harris | Harris Visual Media

Sixteen years ago, Gabrielle Bush worked to turn an old tobacco barn into a 6,000 square foot family home for her and her five children. Now, all these years later, her unique home led to her thriving wedding business, Cason’s Cove, and even more future plans to help others learn how to build and design their own beautiful spaces.

Gabrielle looked at the 75-year-old barn on her land in Plano as a space with lots of unforeseen potential, but as a stay-at-home mom, it was a project larger than she thought she could handle, but she had determination and a little ingenuity.

“At first, I just said we would close in the barn and get a living quarters finished for a period of time and then later on we would build a brand new home farther down in the farm,” Gabrielle said. “It was such an accident that we decided to make this our permanent home, but also such a blessing and it created a really unique space for our family. In a good way, things happen that make you stronger, makes your family closer and makes you learn things you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.”

Gabrielle, along with her children and several extended family members, built the six-bedroom, five-bathroom home by hand for around $30 per square foot, using any and all refurbished materials they could find.

“The trim of the windows is the old barn wood that was on the outside of the barn and we left the beams that were already a part of the barn’s structure,” Gabrielle said. “All the stone in the home was secondhand stone and all the brick was free from a house someone tore down, so we really did so much scavenging. I would drive past a job site and see stuff they were trying to get rid of and that’s how we would build different things.” 

For the items Gabrielle couldn’t find secondhand, she still wanted everything to fit the look of the rest of the home, so she enlisted her young children to help with distressing. “We have a large kitchen and when we got a bid for someone to put in cabinets it was going to be astronomical, so we got Lowe’s in-stock cabinets and I distressed and beat them up to make them look like they were old or custom cabinets,” Gabrielle said. “We sanded the corners off on the cabinets and got hammers and the kids helped beat them up and we all stained them. When you learn how to do things that just add a little character to something, it can really look unique.”

That family group effort mentality contributed to many areas of the home, from her brother helping to dig footers and frame the house, to her children painting rooms, to her youngest son Clayton, now 21, standing as a young child in the kitchen window, eager to learn and ready to help with the build. But she will be the first to tell you, much of the knowledge she has now came from lots of hard work and some trial and error.

“I have learned things the very hard way but now I know what footers are and now I know what ridge boards are,” Gabrielle said. “I can’t do all the work now that I did at the beginning, but now when I’m telling people what I want, people are amazed that I know what I’m talking about. It blows their minds.”

Gabrielle says she strives to have a home that is both beautiful but functional since she raised five children in the home and now has several grandchildren who love to play in the house. When she originally built the home, she included a laundry room on each level to handle laundry for the large family and she has added a playroom loft, complete with a slide and ball pit for the next generation of her family. And while she says she rarely spends much money on any one piece in her home, one of her favorite items in the home is a end table from her living room that she purchased at Steamboat Salvage in Bowling Green, which is made from Chinese roots. Gabrielle said that if she had to sum up her style, it favors an Italian feel, utilizing stone and stucco and then mixing in metals and woods.

“Now I’m leaning more towards a modern European farm house, but everything I use in my home is typically something I find thrifting or secondhand,” Gabrielle said. “I love stores in town like Lulu’s Fine Home Furnishings and Design or Steamboat Salvage because they have so many one of a kind, beautiful pieces. And as styles change, I still seem to find my way back to similar things. I love stone. I love black, tan and white.”

Gabrielle’s unique design received lots of attention as she was working as a photographer on her farm, taking family pictures. “When I moved to Bowling Green, I had my kids in preschool and people asked who did our pictures and it was just me taking them, so I started in photography that way,” Gabrielle says. “And then once we turned the barn into our house, I turned a garage into a studio at the bottom of the hill and I started taking family pictures and kids pictures.”

In October 2012, a family from California asked to host a wedding at her farm and home. “I asked the bride when the tent was coming for the event because it was going to take place in the fall and the weather was unpredictable, but they hadn’t budgeted for a tent, so I let them use our house,” Gabrielle said. “We felt like it was a chaotic disaster and my kids were helping but we realized we couldn’t keep doing weddings here like this.

Gabrielle, who had started taking pictures for weddings also, wanted to host weddings at the farm and take pictures for couples, but she decided she needed to create a venue that was designed to be a beautiful space, accommodate a large wedding and would photograph well. She modeled the venue after the feel and look of her home that so many people loved.

“I decided we needed to build something we, or anyone else, could photograph, and I had an eye for photography, so as we were building the wedding venue I kept that in mind,” Gabrielle said. Cason’s Cove wedding venue, just down from Gabrielle’s home, now hosts as many as four events per week from April to November each year. It can seat up to 350 people at a time and Gabrielle doesn’t mind to share her piece of paradise with the many visitors that come through each year.

“It is neat to see people from all over the world, from England, to Oregon, to California, and let them enjoy something that is a piece of heaven to me,” Gabrielle said.

Now, with a thriving wedding business, Gabrielle has her sights set on a new venture: helping others to create beautiful homes, no matter their budget or skill set. “I am terrible at math and I didn’t have a blueprint but I built a house and just got my contractor’s license,” Gabrielle said. “We’ve learned how to do things the cheapest way we can by finding free materials and thrift shopping. So you don’t have to be highly educated to figure things out, you just have to have a will. We want to go in and be hands on with people, teaching people the things we’ve learned and helping people.”

Her farm, her home and her wedding business all require lots of her time and attention, but Gabrielle wouldn’t trade it for anything. “We love our home; it is private and beautiful,” Gabrielle said. “We truly believe that this place was created because of God’s strength he gives within all of us and it’s my mission to share this piece of Heaven with everyone I can.”

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