New Life for a Dominion Cottage

Some houses, like runway models, are blessed with good bones. No matter how you dress them, their basic structure makes them stand out in a crowd. There is a home in the Dominion Cottage Estates that is a perfect example of good bone structure. Designed by a California architect and built in 1976, the home was originally a vacation residence. While it was elegant and beautifully decorated, it needed updating by the time it was purchased by the second owner.

The couple that purchased the home lived there several years before deciding to renovate. “We downscaled when we moved to this house,” the owner says. “At the time, our two children were nearly launched into college, and we thought this would be a good size for us. What we didn’t realize was that eventually we’d have four grandchildren and extended family dropping by.” Suddenly the house that had seemed the right size was not as accommodating as they’d thought.


“I love to cook, and the kitchen just wasn’t meeting my needs,” she says. “I couldn’t easily reach pots and pans, and there wasn’t enough space for my china and silver collection. When we entertained, everyone tried to gather in the kitchen, and that didn’t work. We needed something with more room and a better flow.”
The couple also wanted more display space for their antique clock collection and items they’d acquired during their travels around the world. The bathrooms were showing a bit of wear, and draperies needed replacing. “I told my husband I wanted to remodel the house. I had a plan in mind. I also told him we needed to move out to accomplish the renovation — he wasn’t too happy about that,” she chuckles. They packed up and moved, renting a house nearby. For six months, she went to the job site nearly every day to supervise the construction. “I’ve had a lot of experience building and designing homes and I’m very hands-on,” she says. “When I take on a project, I’m there every day until the work is done.”

She’s quick to credit the San Antonio vendors with the beautiful results: “The general contractor was RDH Home Improvement Specialists. Morrison Supply Company, Ross Electric, Materials Marketing, Diseno Stone, Made in the Shade Window and Blind Company and Cabinetry Designs were excellent. We also worked with Allen and Allen and Floor and Decor. I’d recommend them to anyone needing this kind of work.” By the time the job was over, several rooms had been gutted. The windows and flooring were all replaced and the house repainted. “This turned out to be a very big job,” the homeowner says. “There are no straight lines in this house; all the walls have some kind of curve to them. All the walls have bull nose corners. Many of the windows have seamless joints. We had to rewire much of the home to handle the recessed lighting we installed. All these details add up to quality construction, but they take time and craftsmanship to accomplish.”


The expert work is evident in the entry hall, where the gleaming front doors are accented by double-leaded glass with the glassmaker’s tiny signature etched at the bottom. Overhead, the white oak planked ceiling soars to a height of 36 feet. The entry hall is the hub of the house, which is designed for great traffic flow. From the entry, one can access the upstairs bedrooms, the kitchen, the living room and the master suite. It’s an efficient design for a house of more than 4,000 square feet. The back wall of the living room comprises huge windows that look out over the covered patio and into the landscaped greenbelt. Natural light spills into the room from all directions. Custom shelving alongside the fireplace displays the homeowner’s father’s antique clocks; other mementos are placed on the hearth.

Dinner in the round is de rigueur here because of the circular Lucite dining room table, signed and numbered at its base. Red leather chairs provide comfortable seating. The chandelier over the table is custom made to accommodate the shape of the table and the stepped ceiling. The sideboard is an antique shop discovery that she stripped and refinished, topping it with a green marble slab. The clock is a piece from her father’s collection; the Chinese figurines are souvenirs from a trip to the Orient. The dining room opens onto the kitchen, the biggest part of the home’s renovation. “I was like a gerbil in this kitchen before the remodel,” she says. “The island was in the wrong place, and I had to dart this way and that to get anything done in here. It was awful!

“We raised the ceiling to 10 feet and replaced all the cabinetry with Wood-Mode cabinets, working with Cabinetry Designs,” she continues. “We relocated the island and installed a 10-foot granite countertop and used marble on the other counters.” Other attractive alterations include the stonework that serves as a backsplash over the six-burner range. Each piece is unique and baked to give it a glossy sheen. The backsplash across the room is of mosaic tiles that repeat these colors, with an added mother-of-pearl finish. A water spout over the range makes filling pasta pots a breeze, and the foldout pantry packs away lots of canned and dry goods. All the appliances are from Miele, and the sinks are by Kohler. The recessed lighting is adjusted using dimmers located at both sides of the room. The breakfast nook at the end of the kitchen has spectacular views of the green belt and the manicured lawn of the vacant lot next door. Sliding doors open onto the patio.


Before the renovation, there was an awkward closet/laundry room behind the breakfast area. The contractor gutted the space to the fir-down, creating a spacious laundry room and butler’s pantry. A large window over the utility sink lets in lots of natural light, and there’s plenty of counter space for folding clothes. The mosaic backsplash over the counter reproduces a quilt motif. The butler’s pantry is a delight. The ceiling-height cabinetry is custom-made, with slide-out drawers sized for platters, plates and other serving pieces. Special drawers hold the family silver, and there’s shelving for family heirlooms, crystal and a silver service. “This Wood-Mode cabinetry is very special to me,” says the homeowner. “I have three generations of china and silver that have been hidden away in boxes for years. Now I have storage for it, and there are even a few empty drawers left over!” A short hallway from the kitchen leads to the two-car garage. The surprise here is that the floor is fully tiled — not a bit of concrete is in sight. Just beyond the garage is a small guest suite done in lime green, pink and white. The cozy room has a perfect view of another patio. The custom light fixture is of mother-of-pearl. The guest suite bath was gutted to the studs. “When we first moved into this house, every bathroom had a shower and no tub. We installed a tub in this bath, repainted the cabinetry and installed black marble counters. We also changed the lighting and added tile design for interest,” says the owner.


Not every homeowner lists the powder room as a favorite hangout, but this case is an exception. “This room is a jewel,” she says. It’s easy to see why. Natural light filters from the large skylight at one end of the room. Colorful modern art with gold tones resembles a broken clamshell. A tall art niche accents the black toilet at the other end of the narrow room. The wallpaper border features playful leopard cubs. The mirror over the sink was removed to bevel the edges for a more finished look. The light switches with their faux diamonds provide a bit of bling. “I wanted a lacquer look on the walls and the cabinets in here, and I’m pleased with the total result,” she says. “It’s such a fun room to look at.” The spacious master suite’s 24-foot ceiling is the perfect foil for the king-sized upholstered sleigh bed. At 5-and-a-half feet in height, the headboard is almost taller than the homeowners! The bedclothes are of Champagne-colored silk, with jeweled and tasseled accent pillows strategically placed. A large television armoire by Platt is located across from the bed. Chinese watercolors and contemporary art set an eclectic tone. Unique lamps sit on the bedside tables; the use of unusual lamps is one of the homeowner’s favorite decorating techniques.

A 6-foot glass curio cabinet stores her paperweight collection. She’s collected them for years. A sculpture from the Vatican is also a prized artwork. Other shelves hold Lladro porcelain figurines. Across the room and up three steps is a cozy sitting area with two overstuffed chairs and a small television cabinet. Above the cabinet is a painting of a leopard in repose. When natural lighting from the windows is unavailable, the homeowner employs the beautiful chandelier.


The large his and hers master bath is done in shades of seafoam blue. The black tiled floor has flecks of color that match the wall color. “This room had an awful sunken tub and an unattractive shower,” the owner says. “We tore out the tub, filled in the hole and installed an air tub and gas fireplace. I pulled out the two glass shower walls and had them etched with a sea scene, and the other walls received a new tile treatment.“ The mirrors over both of the white marble vanities feature beveled edges. His and hers walk-in closets have various kinds of built-in shelving to accommodate shoes, shirts and other clothing items. “The closets are large enough to be called dressing rooms,” she says. “I find them very handy because we don’t get in each other’s way when we’re getting ready to go somewhere. He’s got his space, and I’ve got mine; it’s very functional.”

Upstairs are two large bedrooms and a landing arranged as a home office. The bedrooms are both large enough for king-size beds and have excellent views. The second bedroom, which opens onto a balcony, has an amazing conical planked ceiling. “I’m really pleased with the renovation’s results,” the homeowner says. “It was a lot of work to execute my vision, but it was worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears we put into it. Would I do it again?” she muses. “Maybe on another house. But no time soon. I want to enjoy what I’ve done here. Besides, my husband doesn’t want to move again.”

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