At home in the Dominion

After 40 years, couple is still together and enjoying art, travel and gardening

Rarely these days do we hear about high school sweethearts — native San Antonians, no less — who are still together and happily married after more than 40 years. Diane and Bob are just such a pair, who live in a warm and charming home in the Dominion. “We’ve owned three houses in this area,” Bob says. “Initially, we moved to The Dominion because we were interested in the amenities. But as we came to know the residents, we became very close. We’ve developed friendships that are very meaningful to us. It’s a wonderful place to live.” The couple had an abiding interest in their current house. During strolls through the neighborhood, they’d admired the home that is just off the golf course. “We were looking for a home that would fit our needs for this time in our life,” Bob says. “Our children were out of college, with families of their own. We wanted a pool for our grandchildren and a yard large enough to enjoy gardening without becoming a burden. We’d expressed our needs to a friend who is a Realtor, and she let us know when this home became available.”

Little renovation needed
The 3,700-square-foot house, constructed by Linda Colvin Custom Homes, needed very little renovation; most of the modifications the couple made involved paint, carpet changes and new ceiling fixtures. They sought help from an interior designer, Hilda Vazquez, who had assisted them in their previous homes.
The house is filled with art of all shapes and sizes, and in some cases, parts of the house itself are works of art. For instance, the heavy wooden entry door was created especially for the home by a German craftsman in Fredericksburg. The wood was carved into a solid two-inch-thick Gothic arch whose shape is repeated in the windows and doorways throughout the home. The graceful entry is accented by a sparkling chandelier that lights several landscapes on the wall. Beyond the curved staircase, across the hall, sits Diane’s shining baby grand piano. The entry flows into the dining room, positioned under a faux-painted rotunda, which appears to be supported by four faux-painted columns. Lighting for the table for six comes from a large chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. Over the buffet hangs a commissioned painting by Glen Gloka of a favorite location on the couple’s Boerne ranch. The living room is an expanse of white and light. A wall of windows provides a view of the veranda and the pool beyond. The large semicircular white leather sofa provides a comfortable seating area to enjoy the entertainment center with its surround-sound system. Purple accents are scattered throughout the living room because, says Diane, “purple is my favorite color.” Among the accents are two heart-shaped glassworks from the famous Murano glass district near Venice, acquired during a vacation abroad.
Many of the treasures in the couple’s home were picked up during their travels around the world. The bronze statue of a cowboy and horse, located to the left of the fireplace, came from Jackson Hole, Wyo. Across the room is a painted bronze, created by Carol Cunningham, of a mountain lioness with her cub.
Bob’s office holds its share of artwork, too. Taking pride of place are two antique Chinese silk hand-embroidered portraits of a lion and a tiger. The embroidery is so delicate and detailed that it looks like paint. “This kind of embroidery is a craft in China,” he says. “There is some concern that it may become a dying art.” The built-in bookcase across the room holds another kind of art: a collection of autographed University of Texas footballs and a longhorn statue. The final piece of special art in the office is a portrait of four generations of lawyers: Bob, his father, and Bob’s son and daughter, whose husband is also a lawyer. Alas, all are not UT graduates.

Entertaining flow
According to the homeowners, one of the best features of the house is the way it flows from one room to the next. “This is a great house for entertaining,” Diane says. “We really like the way the living room opens into the kitchen, so when we’re with a group of friends, nobody is shut off
from the party.” The living room feeds directly into the breakfast nook, lit during the day by the tall windows next to the round glass table. By night, a dramatic bronze-colored chandelier hanging from a recessed dome provides illumination for the leaded glass cabinets that hang on the far wall. Granite countertops provide a counterpoint to the sandy-colored cabinets accented by small beaded columns along the joints.
“The builder paid such attention to detail in this house,” Bob says. “The woodwork on these cabinets is a copy of the style of the columns in the front and the back of the house. The Gothic arches are another repeated theme. These details are one of the things we love about our home.”
The kitchen has another intriguing detail. What appears to be an appliance garage opens to reveal a spigot for a beer refrigerator. “The previous owner enjoyed hosting football parties,” Bob says. “He liked his beer on tap, and this is how he cooled it!”

Porcelain and Pena
Around the corner from the kitchen is a tall curio cabinet filled with Lladro porcelain figurines. “This is a collection of 40 years,”
Diane says. “Some of the pieces belonged to my mother, but most were gathered through our travels.”
Bob’s collection of crosses is mounted on a hall nearby. Made from many types of material, each one has a story. “I’ve gathered these from Costa Rica, Croatia and Italy,” Bob says. “Most recently, I brought one back from a pilgrimage I made with our daughter to Jerusalem.”
An autographed Armando Pena painting hangs on another wall above an alabaster sculpture of a mother and child that perches on a pedestal. The sculpture is by Barrett. The guest bath has an unusual tin ceiling and copper walls. Touch them and discover that the texture and color are achieved through paint, rather than metal. The vanity is another unusual fixture; it’s actually a pedestal sink mounted on mythical griffins.
Next door is the couple’s “relaxation room.” Another landscape by Gloka, again depicting the ranch, graces the room. The deep maroon tone of the walls is repeated in some of the upholstery on the sofas and window seats. The wicker rocking chair is positioned for a perfect view of the large-screen television set into the entertainment center on the opposite wall. Here and there, African decorator pieces pick up the safari theme established on one wall. “These are photos of lions that a friend, Sharlene Thum, took on her photo safari,” Diane says. “Looking at them gives me a little taste of being there.”

Elegant master suite
The master suite is a study in French Country elegance. The recessed stepped ceiling is accented with a faux painting pattern repeated in other parts of the home. The bed linens are custom made, including the graceful swag hanging from the ceiling that frames the headboard. Small paintings by Hammond hang on each side of the bed. The narrow table at the foot of the bed is lined with photos of the grandchildren as babies and toddlers. Beyond the table is a massive French armoire hiding a large television. Natural light filters in through two walls of windows that open into the side and back yards. A 6-foot-deep lavender cupola is the focal point of the ceiling in the master bath. The narrow shaft opens into windows at the top, providing recessed natural light. His-and-hers sinks, a Jacuzzi tub and a makeup vanity complete the suite.

Guest suites upstairs
The staircase leading to the guest suites serves as a gallery lined with paintings large and small. Natural light filters in through windows featuring the same Gothic arch as the front door. Upon closer inspection, one finds that the staircase’s railing incorporates this same feature in its intricate metal work.
The guest rooms are themed with the grandchildren in mind; one is for boys and the other for girls. The boys’ bathroom has multicolored spots on the walls; the color theme is carried out in the plaid wallpaper in the water closet and in the bedspreads on the twin beds. The headboards are handmade by Hilda Vazquez.
A curio cabinet mounted on the wall holds a collection of lead toy soldiers from England. Of particular note are the German soldiers from World War I, considered unique by devotees of the genre. The room across the hall is in the pink of perfection. The bedspread features sketches of all kinds of dogs, accented by colored dots — many of them pink. Here again, natural light is provided by windows carrying out the Gothic arch theme.

Gracious gardens
The front yard features a profusion of color, both annuals and perennials, lovingly tended by Bob’s talented hands. The landscaping in the back yard is designed to complement the Jacuzzi and swimming pool, with a swath of green grass so well-manicured that it could be part of the golf course beyond the wrought iron fence. “Gardening is my hobby,” Bob says. “I enjoy working with the textures and colors of plants. I’m particularly pleased with my grass this
year, especially because it has thrived in spite of the drought. I am having some difficulty with an armadillo, though,” he says with a grin Apparently the pest thinks Bob’s garden is a restaurant.

Dominion delight
Overall, the couple is delighted with their home. “The house is comfortable, versatile and just what we wanted,” Bob says. “Because of the neighborhood security force, we can lock it up and travel without a worry. It’s an ideal home for us.”

By Robyn Barnes

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