Art In Architecture

Homeowners in Cordillera Ranch know they’ve got a little slice of heaven: rolling hills populated by massive oaks, native grasses and extraordinary views. Cecil and Linda Barcelo were taken by the area and selected a site on the golf course for their new home. They chose Damon Christofilis of Burdick & Christofilis, Ltd. as their builder. “The Barcelos were wonderful to work with,” he says. “They wanted an authentic Spanish hacienda and had done a lot of research over the years on this type of architecture. They knew what they wanted and were very clear in sharing their vision. That always makes a project much more enjoyable.”

Christofilis chose architect Gustavo Arrendoz and designer Barbara Burger of Studio Domaine to round out his team. Both were familiar with this type of architecture, and Burger has extensive experience in the Spanish heritage of Central Texas. “From day one, before the home was started and the plans complete, I met with the Barcelos to ask what style they were going for in the home,” says Burger. “They wanted Spanish colonial from top to bottom, using new furnishings. The only things they were bringing with them were the furnishings for the secondary bedrooms. They didn’t buy a thing in their travels, while the home was under construction, without sending me a picture first. We knew from the beginning where everything we bought was going to be placed. We also knew we weren’t going for a cluttered look; we’d use bigger statement pieces and fewer items for decorating.”

Burger sourced most of the furnishings from Marge Carson and other vendors in Dallas. The carpets came from Bijan Rugs of San Antonio. “I’m extremely lucky that I have a wonderful business partner in Tawnya Zepka,” she says. “We both worked on this project. She has a real talent for locating appropriate vendors for the homes we design.” The home’s front elevation centers on a U-shaped courtyard with a traditional Spanish fountain. The wrought iron, red window casings and Talavera tile risers are all reminiscent of the Spanish style. A hand-carved limestone façade leads to arched iron doors with intricate carving, designed for the home by Durango Doors. The entry features a fresco beneath a groined vault ceiling. The floor appears to be Saltillo tile but is actually concrete by ArtoBrick. “Using real terra cotta tile is very expensive,” Burger says. “ArtoBrick offers a look you’d find in a true Spanish setting at a more reasonable price.”

Left of the entry is the home’s living space. The open floor plan allows you to stand in one place and view the dining room, bar, kitchen and great room. Limestone columns serve as delineators between the dining room and the great room. The colonnade of arches is replicated in the 9-foot arched French doors that open onto the patio. The dining room seats 10 around a long plank table beneath a beautiful chandelier. The barrel ceiling appears to be brick, but is actually faux painting by area artist Cheryl Ramirez, who did the fresco in the entry. “Cheryl copied the brick used in the kitchen and reproduced it in the dining room,” says Burger. “The way she was able to create the texture and subtle variations in the brick color is just amazing.”

Across the hallway is the great room, afforded a fabulous view of the golf course through a huge picture window. Two massive chandeliers hang among large exposed wooden trusses. “Those trusses are built using mortise and tenon joints,” Christofilis says. “There’s not a nail in them. The craftsmanship is incredible.” Craftsmanship is one of the home’s hallmarks. Room transitions are made by changing the shape and color of the tile. Burger designed every piece of cabinetry, and then it was handmade in Monterrey, Mexico. All the walls are troweled by hand, with a finish called cake frosting. The attention to detail is part of what makes this home special. A set of reclaimed Mexican shutters serves as a pass-through from the dining room to the bar, a center of conviviality when the Barcelos entertain. The striking dragon red granite bar seats three. This is a full bar, complete with sink and big-screen television. A wine grotto adjacent to the bar stores chilled libations.

The guest suite has its own private entry from the courtyard. The 14-foot pitched cathedral ceiling features Douglas fir timbers and a blue accent wall. “This suite is a little different from others I’ve built over the years,” Christofilis says. “The Barcelos wanted the lady’s vanity area separate from the bath and shower areas, so we used pocket doors to accomplish this. The vessel sink is of hammered copper, and Talavera tile surrounds the mirror. You’ll also notice there are no door casings anywhere. This enhances the home’s adobe feeling.” The spacious kitchen is separated from the great room by a stepped overbar of the same granite used in the bar area. A 36-inch refrigerator and stand-alone freezer are set into a wall of old Chicago brick. Special cabinetry with bifold retractable doors hides a television and various gadgets that normally clutter kitchen counters. The square island features maize and blue tile on antique roja cabinets. At the far end of the kitchen beneath a blue domed ceiling is the breakfast area. A wrought iron chandelier hangs from the dome over a round glass table with banquette seating. “The Barcelos didn’t want traditional breakfast room chairs,” Burger says. “We ordered the seats and had them reupholstered here. The seating is cozy and allows everyone at the table a view of the golf course.”

Burger says the lighting fixtures throughout the home are typical of the Spanish colonial style. “They provide a lot of flourish and strength, and they are all black,” she says. “For the most part, the chandelier’s glass is intended to look like onyx.” The carved limestone fireplace is the focal point of the living area. Built-in cabinets flank the fireplace, which is protected by a custom-made wrought iron grate. Deep sofas and chairs with tall backs provide seating. A baby grand piano anchors one corner of the room. The outdoor covered patio is actually another living room with a masonry fireplace, a bar and a full kitchen. “The big challenge with this space was to protect the Bacelos’ privacy while opening up the big view to the golf course,” Christofilis says. “We accomplished this by using several levels for the living area, the pool, the sunbathing area and the fire pit.” The master suite, located at the other side of the house, is accessed via a long gallery whose high ceiling is accented by a series of Douglas fir corbel treatments and recessed lighting. The doors to the master suite are of clear alder and reflect the archway of the home’s front doors. The floors are hand-scraped beveled hickory. A large, deep niche in one wall holds a hand-carved entertainment armoire built specifically for the space. The drawer pulls are hand-forged iron. Opposite the entertainment armoire is a king-size bed centered beneath the cathedral ceiling.

Cozy seating is grouped around the fireplace at the far end of the room. Solid twisted flutes support the heavy mantel. The flutes, mantel and cornice boards were all carved by the cabinet artisans. The master bath is architectural artistry. Multiple groin vaults lead from a linen closet to a massive tub and shower silo, located beneath a copper-colored dome. All the fixtures are of brushed bronze; the sinks are hammered copper. Typhoon Bordeaux granite is used in the tub deck and the counters. A large his-and-hers walk-in closet completes the bath suite. At the end of the gallery is the home office, which features built-in bookcases and box beam tiled ceiling. The entire home operates on a controlled system for lighting, climate control and video. Keypads replace traditional light switches; keys serve as dimmers. “This lighting system lets one button do the work of many,” Christofilis says.

“I’m really proud of this home,” he continues. “Taken as a whole, we were blessed to work with great clients, a good team and a God-given piece of property. In the end, we were good stewards of the property we worked with, and that’s very important to me.”

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