You can go home again
The 1920s and ‘30s were a golden age for San Antonio homebuilding. Homes from bungalows to mansions in Queen Anne, Prairie, Tudor and Spanish Colonial Revival styles were scattered throughout the upscale neighborhoods of Tobin Hill, Beacon Hill, Alamo Heights, Olmos Park and Terrell Hills.
Late in the 1930s, on a wide, tree-lined boulevard in Terrell Hills, a stately Tudor home was constructed on a large lot by a colonel stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Today Fred and Raven Labatt live here; it was Fred’s childhood home.
How many people get the chance to return to their elegant childhood home to raise their own family? “When the opportunity arose for us to buy this house from the Labatt estate, we jumped at it,” Raven says. “We lived nearby, but our house was small, and our family was growing. This was a wonderful opportunity for Fred to return home and for me to exercise my interior decorating skills.”
Raven holds a degree in interior design from Incarnate Word College and completed an internship with acclaimed San Antonio designer Orville Carr. Today she owns Raven Labatt Interiors. “I get my love of design, furniture and style from my parents,” she says. “My father was an artist, and my grandfather was the founder of Schaefer Homes. My parents owned Environments in Alamo Heights. I learned to love detail in fabrics, construction and finishes.”
When Fred and Raven bought the home, they knew renovations would be needed. “We enjoy entertaining, and we have a large extended family,” she says. “We needed a bigger kitchen, a larger living area and room for guests.” They hired Ken Bentley of Ken Bentley & Associates to coordinate the architecture and remodeling. When they were finished, the house had 5,400 square feet of living space and ample opportunities for Raven to use her design skills.
Her family room is a very large multipurpose space. What advice does Raven have for furnishing a room this big? “First, have a plan for how you want to use the space and what you want it to look like,” she advises. “Then shop for furniture while the construction takes place. When you find what you like, buy it and put it in storage.”
The room has three seating areas. The first area is marked by comfortable seating pieces gathered around a large flat-screen television housed in an enormous custom-made shelving set. A Franco Mondini-commissioned painting of a mission hangs over the sofa. “He calls it The Labatts in the Belfry, because he painted us into the bell tower,” she says.
“This area is where we sprawl and watch TV as a family,” Raven continues. “It’s a good space for my kids to bring their friends and hang out.” In the center of the room is a massive fireplace with a walnut mantle and marble surround. The fireplace is flanked by tall windows. A casual seating arrangement allows family and guests to enjoy the fireplace. At the far end of the room, set before a large bay window, is a seven-foot-wide round parquet inlay table, flanked by corner pieces. All the room’s custom furniture was crafted by Alamo City Custom Furniture.
“We use this for entertaining, particularly for our large family holiday dinners,” Raven says. “The table seats 12. Most of the time, though, my daughter does her homework here, spread out across the table.” The kitchen is a gourmet’s delight. The vent hood is custom hand-hammered copper; it hangs over a Five Star gas range. A bust of a longhorn hangs over the back of the range. The center island is 20 feet long, made of walnut with a granite countertop to match the room’s backsplashes. Hidden inside the island behind doors are refrigerator doors, a trash bin and ample storage. The dishwasher is hidden here, too. “When I designed the kitchen, I didn’t want to see any appliances,” Raven says.
There’s seating for six at a round table in a bay window. A coffered ceiling provides a good backdrop for the two-tiered chandelier. “The sad thing is that though I designed this kitchen for someone who loves to cook, I am terrible at it,” Raven laments. “My children come home from school and ask where we’re going out for dinner!”
ROOM FOR COLLECTIONS
Across the foyer from the dining room is the spacious formal living room. Local artist Bettie Ward’s work is featured here, as well as part of Raven’s collection of Staffordshire dogs. A wall niche displays her collection of furniture samples. “These are not toys,” she explains. “In the early 1900s, traveling furniture salesmen would use these as demonstration pieces of their work. Customers would inspect these samples and order based on what they saw.”
The draperies framing the picture window are of yellow silk with sheer embroidered overlays. The room is full of color. “My husband owned the rug and the red sofa before we married, so I had to work with that,” Raven wryly comments. The beautiful marble fireplace is original to the home. Large built-in shelves at the end of the room hold various artworks. “When we bought the house, the wood in the house was a lighter color,” she says. “I wanted a richer palette, so we applied a dark stain that was closer to the color of the walnut floors.”
The rich colors continue into the bar, which was originally a sunroom. Raven installed judges paneling throughout the room and constructed built-in shelving at the far end for crystal and barware. A Raven Tavern sign, sourced from an antique show, faces the sofa. A small portrait of A Raven in Pearls by local artist Franco Mondini sits nearby.
Raven describes her home’s style as traditional transitional. “I love to mix old with new, antiques with contemporary pieces. I’ve got several collections of antique items, but I also have a love for modern art.”
To the right of the foyer is the formal dining room. The dining table is a traditional walnut ball and claw set that seats 12. The crystal and brass chandelier provides light for the beautiful art in the room. An American flamingo print by Audubon anchors one wall; several framed antique bird prints hang nearby.
PERFECT POWDER ROOM
The small powder room off the kitchen and hallway is one of Raven’s favorite rooms because of the sink fixtures. The custom silver faucet set and sink are placed into the green marble countertop to resemble mossy rocks along a shining river. The cabinet beneath is custom-made. The room’s walls are faux-treated to appear like a mossy river bottom.
Art is prevalent in this small space. A contemporary painting by local artist Bettie Ward hangs in the water closet. A sparkling Czech beaded butterfly light, dating from the 19th century, brightens a corner.
The Labatts are proof that you can go home again and that you can take a childhood home and make it your own. The décor may change, but the memories stay.
“This house is an anchor for our family,” Raven says. “For the four of us who live here and for our extended family, it’s the place we come together to celebrate and share. We are lucky enough to call it home.”