Cozy Elegance: Treasurable appointments warm family’s historic Alamo Heights home

The distinctively New England-style home of Diane and Larry Gottsman was one of the first 12 homes constructed in Alamo Heights. Built in 1899, the home has a history other than as a single-family dwelling. It once served as a boarding house where legend holds that famed pugilist and 1884 World Heavyweight champion boxer James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett once resided. The Gottsmans have refurbished and added on to the home now flowing with elegant heirloom and antique furnishings, many of which are the spoils of numerous East Coast shopping trips. “Travel is our hobby, and we go to remote areas in Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts where we shop for unique items and find a place for them in the house,” says Diane. The illusion of fall is in the air within the home year-round as walls and ceilings are swathed in rich jewel tones, from deep crimson to forest green, complemented by sesame or putty tones. “The putty color is my choice for neutral as it blends with everything,” explains Diane. Crown molding, door facings with roundels and deep baseboards are a luscious cream. Hardwood floors on the first level are gleaming honey tinge. “We prefer the lighter floors,” mentions Diane. “They contrast with the darker colors elsewhere and brighten the interior.” Oriental rugs abound through the lower level.

The entry hall, more an elegant receiving parlor, is anchored by a circa 1806 grandfather clock Larry purchased in Arkansas. A burled wood chest by Maitland-Smith holds a massive lion sculpture. An early 20th-century oak chest with burled wood accents is from Larry’s aunt’s home. Above is an elongated mirror that belonged to Diane’s grandmother. Artist John Crawford embellished the heirloom. Sconce shelves flank the mirror and hold a pair of Staffordshire pups. A large round table topped with a Waterford lamp from Ireland displayed on a stack of antiquated books traditionally holds seasonal décor. Nearby is a Savannah chair purchased for a mere $10 more than 60 years ago by Diane’s father. A tapestry upholstered wingback chair completes the entry. The adjacent formal living room, accessed by a massive archway, carries an eclectic feel found elsewhere throughout the home. Eclectic is a preference, says Diane, as it offers latitude decorating. The charm of the living room, graced with four-over-four windows and creamy interior shutters, is captured by Diane, who describes the décor as “homey Virginia.” A modified version of the Empire-style sofa upholstered in rich gold, green and burgundy tones is served by an English tea table holding the carved replica of a carousel horse and a selection from Diane’s collection of cut glass rose bowls. Two massive leather rolled armed chairs are found in the room. Next to each is an antique leather-topped end table — one an oval box on a wrought iron stand and the other in a clever kidney shape.

A corner hutch, flowing with greenery and collectibles, is centered with a mantel clock which belonged to Larry’s grandfather, the founder of Aetna Sign Co. in Massachusetts, a business Larry inherited and moved to San Antonio. A nearby ebony grand piano enhances the intrinsic beauty of the room and belongs to Larry, who learned to play at the age of 4. A contemporary torchiere lamp with a Grecian flare in brass and black complements. Paneled pocket doors open to the dining room centered with Queen Anne table and Windsor chairs. The room is illumined by a massive candelabra chandelier with electric candles emerging from floral replicas. The early 20th-century buffet hutch is resplendent with fine porcelain, cranberry glass and Diane’s collection of sterling silver receiving trays intended to hold the calling cards of visitors in a bygone era. Built-in corner cabinets hold collectibles married by tone including rare Palissy Potter from Palissy, England, depicting scenes from the Thames River. Small side chairs in varying motif accent the dining area and are seen throughout the home, along with Diane’s collection of drop-leaf and tilt-top side tables.

“You cannot have enough of either to adequately accommodate guests,” says Diane, who is a certified protocol professional and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. She provides leadership training through frequent seminars for corporate groups, teens, collegians and young adults. The family room is designed to serve comfortably the Gottsman family, which includes Jonathan, age 5, and Emily Rose, 3. Frequent visitors are their adult children — Larry’s son, Bryan, and Diane’s daughter, Dana. One enormous English pine table sits in front of the leather sofa, forgiving of and impervious to crayons, watercolors or other tools of their youngsters’ creativity. Comfort is found in large plaid chairs. Built-in cabinets abound with family photos. Floor-to-ceiling creamy cabinetry is found in the kitchen dashed with an English country ambiance. A stainless steel double stove contrasts its massive stone arch surround. Charcoal cabinets flanking the cooking area are embellished with cuisine-appropriate art by Gary Lovelace. Centering the room is a 6-foot-plus pine table. Around every corner at the home’s lower level is a nook or cranny resplendent with traditional décor and devoted to privacy for reading or just escaping the hustle and bustle of a busy household. The Gottsmans’ generous his-and-her bath and dressing rooms with room-size closets are on the first level. Slate floors, opulent wall fabrics, antique furnishings and Oriental rugs grace each.

A guest boudoir is fashioned to the feel of a “Vermont bed and breakfast,” explains Diane. The sleigh bed holds unique toile fabric — dark green background with red and cream figures. Plaid is united with floral tapestry at the windows. A mantel creates the impression of a fireplace and is bedecked with fireside accessories. The second story is accessed by a narrow stairway with Oriental carpeting. “Be careful,” Diane warns visitors. “We’ve all taken a tumble here.”
Pale beige carpeting is found on the second floor, which holds the children’s rooms and newly added playroom, the master suite and Diane’s generous office space, the latter complete with computer station secreted in rich wood cabinetry. Another cabinet holds every accessory essential for gift wrapping, and nearby is an elongated table for just that purpose. The adjacent master suite with generous windows, mist green walls and ceiling “gives us the feeling of being in a treehouse,” muses Diane. The four poster bed is graced with embossed gold chenille counterpane and positioned with pillows of varying shapes in rich fabrics. A ball and claw rolled arm settee in gold and burgundy sits at the foot. Adding elegance are a dark oak armoire, massive hunting print and large oval mirror in gold frame, seemingly held by tassels extending from a Martha Washington print. Gilded tapestry with burgundy fringe drapes windows. The theme in wallpaper and accessories in Emily Rose’s room is aptly roses. Jonathan’s room carries an apropos sports theme. Green and burnt orange upholstered seating, pine furnishings and a generous splash of toys are found in the adjacent playroom, truly a dream room for any child — or any mother, for that matter.

By Kay McKay Myers

Photography Al Rendon

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