An Artful Life in Olmos Park

A drive through the winding roads of Olmos Park affords glimpses into the diverse architecture of the neighborhood — Tudor mansions, ranch houses, skeletons of old homes undergoing major renovations. Around a bend on one of the dappled streets lie two houses, one of Mediterranean design and the other fashioned along French New Orleans construction. These two architecturally disparate houses have a great deal in common — an accomplished family and an amazing art collection.
The French New Orleans house is the residence of Patricia and Juan Ruiz-Healy and their daughters. The adjacent Mediterranean villa is Patricia’s studio.
The Ruiz-Healy residence was built in 1943 and features the long, narrow windows and wrought iron work prevalent in the French New Orleans style. Each room flows gracefully into the next, providing the scaffolding for the art displayed throughout the home. Patricia has been collecting art in one form or another for more than 25 years. A native of Sonora, Mexico, she came to San Antonio in 1997 and settled in Olmos Park with her husband, Juan, and two daughters. Despite her young family’s hectic schedule, she earned a business degree from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2001. Her studies convinced her that she could turn her art passion into a career. She completed a master’s degree in art history from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is a doctoral candidate in Latin American studies with a concentration in art history at the University of Texas in Austin.

Her home reflects her passion. She has curated a residence that combines significant modern art with the craftsmanship of Old World furniture, porcelain figurines and silver services. The foyer is floored in terrazzo tile with brass floral inlays. The staircase features an intricate brass and wrought iron banister and handrail leading upstairs. To the right of the entry is Patricia’s personal study with rich red walls complementing the luster of her oak desk and bookcase. Across the foyer is the formal living room, filled with family photos, statuary, paintings and objets d’art. The eclectic furniture is a mixture of antiques and cushioned chairs. How did she pull it all together? “A good friend recommended we choose a Persian rug we really loved. We chose a Kerman rug and built the rest of the room around the colors in the carpet,” she says. The comfortable sofa is flanked by antique end tables from France that Patricia purchased in Mexico. Hand-painted curio cabinets of English satinwood hold treasures purchased during international trips with her family. One of these is a small Sevres porcelain plate depicting a fruit still life painted in exquisite detail. “Can you imagine owning a whole set of these dishes?” Patricia wonders. “Let alone eating from them?” A beautiful cobalt porcelain and ormolu chandelier hangs from an ornate ceiling medallion of the same style as the carved ornamental moldings. Patricia and her husband have collected chandeliers, some of which are antique, over the years, and nearly every room in the house has one.

The marble gas fireplace is flanked by famous paintings. Two Picassos and a Kandinsky are displayed near a bronze by Felipe Castenada. Each item in the room is catalogued; Patricia knows the history of the artist and the artwork. Learning about the contents of her home is like taking a personal guided tour of a modern art museum with a learned professor. The formal dining room seats eight. Originally the room had a low, flat ceiling; Patricia converted it to a hip vault style to better accommodate the furnishings and the ornate Baccarat chandelier. The heavy buffet behind the dining table is set with an 1874 silver service. The Italian china cabinet at the end of the room is full of crystal wine glasses, goblets and figurines. Chief among them is a colorful Dresden porcelain centerpiece. The sun room is done in pale aqua tones. A long wall of windows overlooks the red brick patio and landscaped back yard. This room features a hotel-sized Persian Kerman area rug. Over the sofa hangs a 60-by-80-inch landscape painting titled Valle de Oaxaca by Abelardo Lopez and a watercolor by Texan Ray Smith from his Exquisite Corpses series. Several bronzes of Diana the Huntress are displayed around the room.

“My husband is fond of figures of Diana the Huntress,” Patricia says as she indicates a bronze statue of the goddess. “A statue and fountain of Diana the Huntress stands in Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. This bronze was used as the model for that statue.” Juan’s office is accessed through the sunroom. It’s a masculine room with paneled walls, a red sofa and built-in shelving laden with books, magazines and memories. On the far wall hangs an 80-by-99-inch contemporary painting by Sergio Hernandez. Adjacent to it is a large landscape by Abelardo Lopez depicting the countryside around Oaxaca, Mexico.

The Studio

Behind her backyard, in the Mediterranean house, lies a major part of Patricia’s world. The two-story stucco villa serves as her guest house and consulting studio. The home was built in 1922; Patricia purchased it in 2001. She renovated the kitchen and added the outdoor amenities, including the flagstone patio, cabana, pool and bar. The studio is central to her consulting business. In 2006, she founded Ruiz-Healy Art, advising and assisting collectors, businesses and corporations with acquisition and management of art collections. Patricia works by appointment only and spends much of her time researching, writing and talking to artists. “I deal in modern and contemporary works of Latin American art — painting, sculpture, photography and works on paper,” she says. “Having my studio in a home allows clients to see works of art in a domestic setting rather than the ‘white box’ so often associated with contemporary display.”

The wood and tile floors and natural lighting provide a perfect backdrop for the paintings hanging in many of the rooms. Patricia designed the art hanging system with a local craftsman. “This system makes hanging and moving large paintings easy, and it requires no holes in the walls,” she says. Currently she hangs a number of paintings by Pedro Diego Alvarado, the grandson of Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist. The Spartan furnishings and sparkling chandeliers are excellent complements for the colorful paintings. “This is a great party house, and we do a lot of entertaining here,” Patricia says. “We’ll often start with cocktails at our residence and come here for dinner.” Dinner is held in the spacious dining room with seating for 14 beside a large stucco fireplace with small tile inserts. The large malachite chandelier hanging over the table once graced another San Antonio home. Patricia’s office is a comfortable, sunny room with an easy chair for visitors, a desk and floor-to-ceiling storage for books, files and catalogs. One shelf is devoted to catalogs from Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses; others are filled with art history and reference books. “My professional work is done in this office,” she says. “The office in my residence is used for things related to my family life. I like to keep the two separate.”

The previous homeowner installed an intricate wrought iron circular staircase leading from a landing by the kitchen to the basement. The guest rooms and a large living area are located here. The beamed ceilings and cornices are replicates of the originals upstairs. Windows on either side of the fireplace provide a view of the beautiful pool and cabana area. In the living room, a comfortable leather sectional sofa and recliner are arranged facing a wall of built-in shelves and a cupboard for the large flat-screen television. Hanging in front of the television is a photograph by Mexican master Graciela Iturbide. Strategically positioned near one bedroom door is an original mahogany Pedro Friedeberg right-hand chair similar to one on display at the Museum of Modern Art. “It’s one of the iconic furniture designs of the 20th century,” she says. French doors lead from the living room to the cabana. It was originally a carport before Patricia converted it to a colorful dining and living area. The cabana’s far end is anchored by an enormous red china cabinet filled with beautiful dining ware. “We love china!” Patricia exclaims. “We have six china services.”

Next to the cabana is a flagstone patio with a bar area and barbecue. The large swimming pool becomes an arcing fountain with the flip of a switch. Scattered across the property are large iron sculptures by local artist George Schroeder and Javier Marin from Mexico. “I started working with Latin American artists, but little by little I have included local artists. I am very interested in this dialogue of artists from here and abroad,” says Patricia.

“It’s so wonderful to have the opportunity to live and work in both these homes,” she says. “I know I’m fortunate to be able to combine family and career side by side without leaving this beautiful neighborhood.”

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