Walk down any residential street in San Antonio and chances are, one house will stand out. One house will hold your attention, pique your interest and create a desire to linger just a little longer, gazing at the structure. Linda Hummel-McAlpin and her husband, Chico, live in such a home in Terrell Hills. The two-story Georgian Colonial ensemble of white brick, shingle roof, black shutters and iron balcony above the red front door draws the eye and holds it. Built on the diagonal on a large triangular corner lot, it was at one time a San Antonio Symphony Showcase house.
“I’ve always felt a connection to this house,” Linda says. “Little did I know that my future husband grew up one block down the street.” Chico McAlpin recalls the neighborhood. “I had friends who lived in this house when I was a boy,” he says with a smile. “We carpooled to school together, so I was in and out of the house a lot. I never thought I’d actually live here one day!”
NEW HOME, NEW HUSBAND
Several years ago, Linda toured the house right after the Symphony Showcase ended. “The minute I came through that front door, I knew I was home,” she says. “I had another house under contract at the time, so I immediately called Phyllis Hall, my Realtor, and told her she had to work her magic — she did, and the rest is history.” Linda and her teenage son, Corky, moved into the house and set about making it their home. “I grew up in a house like this in upstate New York, so I knew the bones of the place would be great,” she says. “Although the house was built in 1937, most of the major renovation had already been done. No walls had to be moved, but there was plenty of opportunity to draw the different themes of a Symphony Showcase house into the warm cohesiveness of a home.” Linda and Corky moved in and returned to their busy lives. As the CEO of Humana, her days are long and packed with meetings and travel. Corky was equally busy as a student athlete at Alamo Heights High School. Neither was thinking about expanding their familiar horizons.
Three months later, Phyllis (Hall) introduced Chico to Linda at a dinner party at the San Antonio Country Club. They fell in love on their first date, and within a year, they were married. Combining the two households was a challenge for this old house, even if it did have good bones.
“I had a house of my own, full of furniture,” Chico says. “Now I have a large overstuffed storage unit. Truthfully, moving all my things in wasn’t realistic,” he continues. “Linda had just completely remodeled, and there wasn’t enough room. I needed some office space in the house, but I had no idea where it would fit. So we worked through our space requirements and decided that maybe we could renovate the utility room.” As a psychotherapist, Chico wanted an office with a private entry. The utility room had a back door with convenient street access, and it also opened into the garage. The remodeling solution was to enlarge the home’s den by adding French doors and a wall enclosing an outside hallway. The “new” hallway leads to the utility room, which also received a total makeover. “What a mess it was!” Linda says. “We gutted the room, re-bricked the floor and connected the den and office through the hallway gallery with French doors leading to the back patio. At the same time, we renovated the garage to increase storage space and make room for the washer, dryer and second refrigerator.” The result was a cozy, masculine den that reflects Chico’s interest in nature and his family. Paintings by wildlife artist Charles Frace mix with photographs of Linda riding her National Champion Arabian horse. A sculpted bust of his father rests on a leather-topped writing desk. A small flat-screen television is mounted just below the ceiling, perfectly positioned for viewing from both his favorite leather chair and extra-long leather couch.
“This is where Chico gets away from it all,” Linda says. “I love it,” Chico adds. “It’s a peaceful place to work and a great room to relax in.”
Simultaneously, Corky got a new hangout, too. He happily moved his digs from a first-floor bedroom up a richly paneled stairway to the attic bedroom. It’s the perfect teenage hideaway, with its own bathroom and enough space for visiting friends. What about shouting up the stairwell when Linda needs to get her son’s attention? “Not necessary,” she says as she steps to the door opening onto the stairway. “I press this specially rigged doorbell. What other teenager do you know who has his own doorbell?” The bedroom he exchanged is now the guest room. A large platform bed rests on the original pine floor. An antique dresser anchors one wall, while an antique Spanish chest, dating from the 17th century, occupies a corner. The craftsman who made the chest carved the metal and wood with loving detail; it shows the patina of polish and age.
“The chest came from my family’s ranch,” Chico says. “It’s a family heirloom.”
ART AND ANTIQUES
Next door to the guest room is the formal living room. A fireplace centers one long wall of the room with a colorful painting of two Polynesian girls hanging above the mantel. “It’s a Gauguin-inspired painting by a Russian artist,” Linda says. “I love the rich colors and the mood.” As an art history major, she knows what she likes and has filled her home with thoughtfully selected art. Another wall in this room frames a recent addition to the collection — a large painting of a pensive nude painted by local artist Steven Daluz. Linda’s collection of antiques abounds, and many of them are at home in this room. A carved pine hutch holds a variety of old pieces of blue and white china. The rugs covering the wood floors are vintage, as is the pine desk behind the sofa. “These pieces hold great memories for me,” Linda says. She recounts how many of them came from the late San Antonio interior designer Jessica Stringer, who helped Linda furnish several of her prior homes down through the years. “Jessica passed away several years ago, but when I look at the desk, the chair, the hand-painted trunks, the side tables — I recall her voice as she’d tell me what a find she had for me,” says Linda. “We had great fun discovering unusual furnishings for my houses.”
The living room is a sophisticated mix of periods and styles, but everything goes together. “I like combining different styles and textures — it makes for a much more interesting living experience,” Linda says. At first glance, the dining room seems small for this couple who love to host dinner parties; the room is dominated by large antiques. The marble-topped French sideboard is a carved piece occupying one wall, flanked by Windsor chairs. The large blue and white urn and the candelabra that grace its surface are very old. A heavy wooden table is centered in the room; in a former life, it was an old Spanish door, now recycled. A beautiful chandelier hangs above. A variety of Talavera pottery is displayed on a hanging hand-painted plate rack. “This room really suits the way we entertain,” she says. “We like to keep it informal and serve buffet-style. This arrangement lets our guests circle the table to fill their plates.” A doorway from the antique-filled dining room leads to a small but very contemporary kitchen. The countertops, surfaced in black granite, are complemented by the black and white stone flooring. White cabinets with open shelves display more Talavera pottery. The stainless refrigerator and stove reflect the finish of the pressed tin ceiling.
The adjoining breakfast area is a cozy, comfortable room where Linda and Chico enjoy morning coffee. The room’s focal point is a big iron chandelier that draws the eye up to the bead board ceiling. It hangs over the antique table that’s just big enough for three place settings. A wooden African mask is a contrast to a small flat-screen television. A fabric art piece hangs on the opposite wall, and other types of art are displayed everywhere. Five doors provide access to the room: One leads to the kitchen, one to the spacious bricked patio, another to the den, one to the garage and the last to a step-down butler’s pantry. “The pantry doorway is so low that I never try to get into there,” Chico chuckles. “It’s a good thing Linda is agile!”
The den is a decorator’s paradise. “I regularly move stuff all around in this room,” Linda says. She displays her first major art purchases here. A painting by Kathleen Cook hangs on one wall; an Andy Thomas oil hangs over the sectional sofa. The long wooden painted trunk from Germany works as a base for the television; a pegged shelf above it holds Italian pottery. Large crimson pots displayed on a table are also from Italy. The sconces and mirror are antiques. Again, Linda’s friend and real estate agent Phyllis Hall made an important contribution. “The large carved coffee table belongs to Phyllis,” Linda says. It had once been her kitchen table, and she cut the legs down. “Phyllis’ children learned to walk by hanging on to the table and toddling around it,” she adds. “When we were looking at the house, she told me she didn’t have room for it in her home, so here it sits until she is ready for it again.” The master bedroom and Linda’s office are upstairs. A beautiful Bettie Ward painting brings the stairwell to life with its bright magical color scheme. A second painting by the same Russian artist similar to the one in the living room shares the adjacent wall, while a sparkling chandelier illuminates it all.
Linda’s office is the first room off the top of the stairs. It’s a working office that reflects her love of family, both human and animal. Portraits of Corky and her horses are all over the room. The many blue ribbons Linda has won at Arabian horse shows decorate one wall. A large trestle table acts as her desk, and another antique painted trunk and an old grandfather clock round out the furnishings. The room next door could be another bedroom, but at the moment, Linda uses it as a dressing room. A blue and white toile chaise longue serves as extra seating, and a large old Welsh chest of drawers holds various clothing items. The room is lit from above by a small crystal chandelier. The master suite’s muted blue walls are the perfect backdrop for more colorful art. One wall has built-in storage for clothing, and she has a special closet that holds her shoes. The tall four-poster bed dominates the center of the room. A marble bathroom off the bedroom opens onto a rooftop deck.
AN EASY PLACE TO LIVE
Linda and Chico have made this house a comfortable, easy place to live. For all its beautiful art and antiques, it’s still a place where you’d feel comfortable shedding your shoes after coming through the door. The ambiance isn’t a function of the furnishings but of the loving relationship Linda and Chico share.
“Corky and I were a happy pair when we moved into this house, but everything became better when Chico became part of our lives,” Linda confides. “There is so much love in this house.” “She’s a wonderful woman, and I’m blessed to be a part of such a great family,” Chico adds. “She’s the love of my life.” And as philosophers often remark, love is the heart of a beautiful home.
Author: Robyn Barnes
Photographer: Al Rendon