By: Malcolm Mayhew
| photography by Alex Lepe | In every aspect of their lives, Melissa and Jamey Ice mix the old and the new, finding treasures in little things that others have tossed aside. They are story collectors, culture builders and curators of their lives and the lives of others.
They also have a discernible respect for historical preservation. Nowhere are these qualities more evident than in the couple’s beautifully restored home in the Historic Fairmount neighborhood of Fort Worth.
Nearly a century old, and one of the largest houses in Fairmount, the 4,200-square-foot, two-story home was built in 1920. The original dark red brick, and large basement and attic, characterize that era.
While imposing in 1920 and restored to its former glory today, when Melissa and Jamey bought the house nine months ago, it was in shambles. The home sat vacant and abandoned for about six years. Most of the windows were broken, the fireplace was caved in, and massive water damage had rotted much of the floor, ceilings and walls. Animals and homeless people had been living there.
Even though the couple had renovated and lived in two old homes before, this project, at first sight, was overwhelming.
“I knew we had it in us, but every project had been bigger than before,” says Melissa. “This one was a much harder project for me to envision.”
The ever the optimist Jamey, however, told Melissa they had found their dream house. “I said, ‘Oh, THAT’S our dream house,’ ” Melissa says laughing at the memory. “There’s a difference between someone moving out of an old house that needs updating versus a house that’s been vacant. Every time we came in, we had to run through the house. If not, we’d get attacked by fleas. It was really awful.” Melissa, 32, and Jamey, 30, were up to the task.
The People in the House They married eight years ago, agreeing from the beginning to work as a couple in restoring and creating. One thing for certain is they live interesting and fulfilling lives.
Built on a foundation of hope, Jamey says, he and his brother Geoff Ice formed the popular rock band, Green River Ordinance, (Jamey plays lead guitar and Geoff plays bass) while the brothers were still in their teens. After recording their first album in their church’s basement, GRO was soon opening for Bon Jovi in Houston and playing gigs every weekend. Then in early 2009, the band released its first major label debut on Virgin Records. Since its release, Out of My Hands has earned GRO coveted spots on tours and on television.
“I’ve been in a band since I was 15 years old and have gotten to travel the country and help shape culture,” Jamey says. “We use our music to give back to charitable causes and to build relationships.”
Melissa and Jamey co-own the eclectic gastropub/coffeehouse, BREWED, on West Magnolia Avenue. It opened in October 2012. At the time, not much was going on in that area. They leased what Jamey describes as a “really ugly” 4,000-square-foot 1950s office building and restored it.
“The restaurant was not opened to make money necessarily,” Jamey says. “We really wanted to create a space that would help shape culture, a place where people could come and have great experiences, conversations and exchanges of ideas.”
Wanting to settle in that neighborhood, Jamey and Melissa bought a neglected old house two blocks away from BREWED and remodeled it. They’ve now remodeled and lived in three houses in the Fairmount District, including their present home.
A homeless man named Carl served as Jamey’s teacher in remodeling and building furniture from scrap wood—one of Jamey’s favorite hobbies.
In addition to the restaurant and his music, Jamey buys and renovates houses with his best friend and neighbor, Jimmy Williams. In 2014, they remodeled 12 houses in the neighborhood and are working on four more.
“I love taking old neglected buildings and bringing them back the way they’re supposed to be,” Jamey says.
Melissa loves taking people who are neglected and restoring their lives back to the way they’re supposed to be.
Less than a year after opening BREWED, Melissa founded The Net, a Fort Worth-based non-profit that supports the homeless, refugee children, and women affected by the sex industry.
“People don’t need things as much as people need people,” Melissa says. “That’s what The Net provides. The people we reach don’t have a safety net.”
Melissa has traveled to Ghana, Morocco, Nepal and China, immersing herself in different cultures and learning about the needs of people. “I was seeing so much poverty in other countries that I wanted to alleviate poverty in Fort Worth,” she says.
This Old House Decorating in eclectic style can end up being cluttered style. Not the case with Melissa and Jamey Ice. Their style is classy, homey and maybe a little bit off-center, which makes it a lot of fun. They paid attention to shapes, textures and neutral wall colors—all the design secrets of eclectic decorating.
“The part of me that likes to host people, likes to share my more eclectic, bold and fun side,” Melissa says. “As far as living life, resting and spending time with Jamey, I like more neutral, cozy feels.”
So, the Ice home’s downstairs has more flair, while the upstairs is neutral soft and provides a sense of comfort.
What’s fun about the downstairs is the intentional hodgepodge. Except for the two mismatched couches, which Melissa purchased, the other furniture came from antique malls, estate sales and garage sales. The couches are a bold modern take on vintage, and the two mismatched garage sale chairs are an unlikely but perfect complement. The overall feel of the downstairs is animal and nature, a sense of being out in the woods.
Deer antlers over the fireplace are adorned with inexpensive plastic mirrored Christmas ornaments. Melissa found them and then sprayed them with gold paint to make them look antique. The living room wall is a traditional gray—one of the many shades of gray you’ll find in the Ice house.
Original French doors lead to the dining room, where the walls are dark gray and snowfall gray. Black doors, which also are original to the house, provide a focal point in several rooms.
In this 95-year-old home, you will find original flooring, moldings and several original light fixtures.
Jamey made the dining room farmhouse table from shiplap that was behind the walls in the old house. “It’s very strong, and I left it the way it was, nail marks and all,” Jamey says.
Melissa enjoys the succulents on the table. “They are our way of doing flowers that don’t die,” she says. “Our green thumbs need that extra bit of help.”
The eight blue, textured-fabric 1960s vintage dining chairs, Melissa and Jamey found at an estate sale.
The most eclectic wall in the house is in the dining room. It’s covered in owl print wallpaper, balanced from bright colors to black and white. Melissa purchased it from Anthropologie. An animal trophy named Victor that belonged to Jamey’s grandfather hangs on the wall.
Jamey’s grandparents’ wedding photo is prominently displayed in the old butler’s pantry, which is original to the house. “They were married for 64 years,” Melissa says. “Their marriage is an inspiration for Jamey and me.”
Farmhouse meets industrial in the predominately white with brass, airy kitchen. Exposed duct work lends an industrial feel. Mirrored glass tiles and a farmhouse sink complete the modern farmhouse style. Hanging over the island are copper pots and pans that belonged to Jamey’s grandparents. Jamey’s favorite thing about the kitchen is the island he made from flooring that came from an old 1950s railroad box car. An old church pew and antique table add to the farmhouse charm.
Melissa and Jamey collect vinyl record albums and 45s from many eras and genres. The 1970s-era record player, which is tucked in a corner of the dining room, sits atop an old file cabinet Jamey restored.
Melissa is a Motown person. Her go-to albums include Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles, as is evident by “Unchain My Heart” playing in the background.
“The best thing about a record player is the experience,” Jamey says. “It’s not just touching a button. You pick it up, you hold it, you touch it, and you see it. On the phone, you can’t touch it. Then you put it on, clean it off. And it’s interactive. You listen to it on the artist’s own terms. It’s how music was made to be played. My favorite thing in the world is to come home, have a drink, cook, and play a record.”
Every neatly arranged item in the house has meaning or function to Melissa and Jamey. The 100-year-old Bible carefully preserved in a case belonged to Melissa’s grandmother, who raised her. Jamey’s grandmother was a photographer. Her camera is prominently displayed.
Found wood on the side of the road became shelves, a funky side table, and stumps—all made by Jamey.
The downstairs bath has an antique dresser as a base for the sink. The lights are from a chicken coup. The tub was transformed into a beautifully tiled shower, and the floors are smooth rustic tile.
The steps leading to the upstairs are tiled in black and white. “I squealed when Jamey said we could do that,” Melissa says.
Melissa and Jamey are fans of artist Georgia O’Keefe. The cow skulls above the couch in the upstairs living room pay homage to her art. Empty picture frames painted the same color as the wall are another interesting nod to the couple’s subtle eclectic design preference.
The upstairs balcony had no railing when Melissa and Jamey moved in. It wasn’t even a porch, just a piece of burnt wood. Jamey tiled it and built the wood railing.
Jamey’s man cave has unusual guitars, one from the 1960s, one lighted and a mandolin on the dark walls. A bust of Elvis adds a focal point.
The master bedroom is welcoming with neutral tones and hanging lights with Edison bulbs for a vintage feel. Melissa has a ‘closet room’ with vintage chic and contemporary clothes. Jamey has a “mini closet like in the Siberia part of the house,” Melissa says. The bathroom features vintage mirrored tiles and a chandelier.
To bless the home, Melissa’s Net interns came to the house after the sheetrock went up but before the walls were painted. “We went around from room to room and prayed for God’s blessing in our home and lives and wrote scripture verses on the walls of His promises that we want to live out as a family,” Melissa says.
Melissa and Jamey completed the Moroccan-themed nursery the second week of April, saving the best for last. They were approved for a transracial adoption from the ABC Program at Gladney Center for Adoption. The ABC stands for African Biracial Children.
With their beloved Maltese-poodle-mix puppy Oliver watching patiently, holding a tennis ball in his mouth, Melissa explains why they want to adopt.
“I have always wanted to adopt since I took a mission trip to Africa when I was 18,” Melissa says. “I felt like God told me I would adopt one day. However, despite all my travels to third world countries, we chose to do a local domestic adoption because of the work we do in Fort Worth with people in poverty. Also, we believe that adoption is a beautiful picture of God’s love for us since He adopts us to be his sons and daughters,” Melissa continues. “He brings us into the fold and extends love and grace towards us even though we didn’t earn it or deserve it.”
Melissa and Jamey plan to have biological children, too. They plan to live in Fairmount for the rest of their lives. “We want to have our kids here and grow old here,” Melissa says. “We also want to support businesses in the neighborhood and in downtown Fort Worth,” adds Jamey. “This is the best city in the world. We are blessed to be a part of its growth.”
By: Malcolm Mayhew