Sara and Billy Jack Brawner Share Their Low-Key Approach to Christmas in Waco, Texas
The Simple Life
Each day, more than 67,000 Instagram followers peek in on the happenings of 29-year-old Billy Jack Brawner and his wife, Sara, along with their five children. Billy Jack catches them gathering at their dining table for family meals, gleefully jumping off rope swings into rivers, making s'mores around their backyard firepit, or just piling into his 1988 red Bronco, where sing-alongs often ensue. For the Brawners, beauty is all around in life's most simple moments, and Billy Jack is rarely without his camera in hand to capture the magic. Instagram is how he first got into photography in 2012. His compelling account (@billyjackbrawner3) convinced his current boss, Joanna Gaines, that he'd be a like-minded addition to her team. She asked him to move from Canton, a small town in East Texas, to Waco, a formerly quiet college town that's rapidly grown thanks to its Fixer Upper residents. Brawner obliged, and the family uprooted for him to join the Magnolia brand.
When it comes to decorating for the holidays, a less-is-more ethos carries through Sara and Billy Jack's home—a one-story brick mid-century modern that they bought in 2016 and are slowly making their own with a children's bunk room, industrial-style concrete countertops, and many vintage finds. The minimalist rooms get bedecked in pine garlands and handmade wreaths that hang on doors and windows, while the table is often lit with candles held by a mix-and-match collection of antique brass candlesticks.
Filled with Family
Their lively home—filled with music and the laughter of five children—is a contrast to the quiet of the couple's first Christmas together in 2010. When they road-tripped from the college they both attended in Colorado to their respective homes in Texas for winter break, a blizzard left them spending the night on the side of the highway together. Before even dating, they talked about how they both wanted to adopt someday. They were married in 2012 and, in 2015, began fostering one of the boys they would later adopt. "We just want all five of the kids to feel loved, secure, and confident in who they are—and to be kind people, both now and when they are adults," Sara says. "So we try to create a home that cultivates that."
While the home is filled with handmade goods and thoughtful DIY projects, the firepit is a find from Amazon. In the winter, this spot is the kids' favorite place for dinner.
A one-hour trek north to pick out the Christmas tree at Mainstay Farm Park in Cleburne, near Fort Worth, marks the beginning of the season for the family.
A Custom Piece
The Brawners commissioned Waco craftsman Benjamin Rood to forge this mid-century modern inspired steel table in the dining nook beside the front door.
A Cozy Corner
Their tree is adorned with mostly handmade and sentimental decorations. Every year, Billy Jack and Sara present each child with a new ornament specifically chosen for them and share the backstory of why it was picked.
The kitchen is where they spend most of their time, congregating around the large island for art projects, marathon baking sessions, and late-night chats.
An All-Ages Charcuterie Board
The children are adventurous eaters who will usually try anything, so their spread (a seasonal staple) is stocked with various fruits, nuts, veggies, and crackers.
After the Thanksgiving feast at Billy Jack's parents' home in East Texas, the family heads out into the woods armed with wheelbarrows and tree clippers to harvest a mix of pine, cedar, holly, and juniper berries for a wreathmaking session on the porch. They save the metal hoops to make new wreaths for the following year.
The Brawner children (who share the bunk room) love the family's big Christmas tree so much that their parents considered setting it up in this space but instead found a mini version that stays up in the bedroom the whole holiday season.
Billy Jack wanted the kids to have some kind of play structure, but he didn't see anything available for sale that was the right fit. He dreamed up the idea for an A-frame version, and it's become the center of the backyard as a hangout and a makeshift stage for impromptu performances. "We wanted a place where all of their imaginations could come alive in their
own little world," he says.