Alamo Heights has all kinds of housing — apartment homes and retirement residences, move-ups and mansions. Once in a while you’ll find a starter home and occasionally a few “starting over” homes. Cheri Stith is a San Antonio designer and owner of Feather and Fluff. She’s worked on a number of homes, but the one in this story is special. “Couples buy homes with the best intentions,” she says. “They plan on growing a family and building a life in a house. But not everyone gets the happy ending. That’s when you get a client with a ‘starting over’ home.” In this case, the starting over home belongs to a friend. “I never thought I’d need to buy a house on my own,” the friend says. “Most of my adult life, I’d been married. When my marriage ended, my children were teenagers. We were all feeling the negative effects of the divorce. What we needed in a hurry was a happy home.”
She found a bungalow in Alamo Heights owned by Troy and Rachel Jessee. Jessee, of Troy Jessee Construction, had renovated the home with a back addition that included a kitchen, breakfast room and family room. “Troy is to be commended for keeping the integrity of the home in the renovation,” the homeowner says. “The original bungalow had all this beautiful woodwork and cabinetry, and Troy carried that tradition through the whole house. “I’d seen this house once,” she continues.“I knew it was out of my price range, but I really liked it. Then I sold the house the kids and I lived in, so I had cash on hand. Meanwhile, the housing bubble burst. Troy kept lowering the price of this house, but it didn’t sell. The house seemed to pull at me; I really liked it. Troy, out of kindness and generosity, helped me work out a deal that was a win win for all of us.” This is the point where it’s helpful to have a decorator as a good friend.
STARTING WITH ART
The homeowner comments, “I didn’t understand how important details such as trim on the draperies or layers of paint can be. Cheri innately knows what looks good, though; she’s got a gift for design.” For her part, Stith credits KBK to the Trade (for interior designers only) as the resource where she selected trims, fabrics and other items for the house. “They are wonderful to work with and had everything we needed,” she says. “When I walked into this house, the only thing she had in it was a colorful painting on the mantelpiece,” Stith says. “We assessed the needs she had for each room and what kinds of furniture she owned.” By nature, the homeowner leans toward a tailored look, while Stith’s proposal favored the colorful and eclectic. Through previous discussions, Stith knew of her friend’s love of New Mexico, especially Santa Fe. She used that knowledge and a painting by renowned Santa Fe artist Phyllis Kapp as inspiration in the home’s design. The pair inaugurated the entry room’s interior design with paint, layering avocado green, brown and gold glazes and using a special faux finish to achieve a feeling of depth that delighted the homeowner. The Kapp painting is a riot of color, and Stith keyed the turquoise silk embroidered draperies, the raspberry fringed sofa and striped chairs to it. Special spotlights highlight glass vases by San Antonio artist Jenny Garcia. Stith says, “Without the light, the vases just sit there. Turn the lights on, and the colors in the glass dance and come alive.”
The dining room continues the living room’s color scheme. Two vibrant paintings by Raymundo Gonzalez of Cuernavaca, Mexico, dominate the room. The dining table was a breakfast set belonging to the homeowner’s grandmother; the chandelier came from her previous home. Silver candelabra with turquoise glass accents perch on sconces over a buffet. Slipper chairs were custom-made for extra seating. Four prints on one wall are of the Cuzco School, a Roman Catholic artistic tradition based in Cuzco, Peru, during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The color palette in the powder room is based on a depiction of St. Rita. The statue’s turquoise crown inspired the use of the turquoise wallpaper with gold brocade. The deep baseboards and the inside of the powder room door are also gold. The sparkle of the crystal chandelier is echoed in the glass accents around the vanity. “To me, being in here is like being inside a present,” the homeowner says. “Lots of sparkle and surprise!”
NEW MEXICO INFLUENCE
The kitchen is the transitional space, moving from a Mexican theme to the echoes of New Mexico. A section of Redondo tile marks the shift in cultures. The kitchen’s clean lines are reflected in the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and simple cabinetry. Breakfast bar stools are upholstered in leather. Beyond the kitchen is the breakfast area. The table fits four, and the chair seats are upholstered to match the shade over the kitchen sink. A Persian rug lends a splash of color. The chandelier is from the American Country Collection in Santa Fe. An Indian bronze sculpture rests on a pedestal beside the French doors that open onto the back patio. The staircase to the children’s rooms is opposite the French doors. Stith picked an axis deer runner for the stairs to complement the owner’s large collection of framed arrowheads hung on the landing wall. “One of the things that attracted me to this home was the back staircase,” the homeowner says. “I don’t care for staircases that consume a home’s entry. If I had guests in my entry or dining room, my children were able to use these stairs for kitchen access without interrupting us.
That’s a bonus!” The breakfast room flows into the family room. “My favorite things in this room are the George Catlin lithographs,” the homeowner says. “He was a lawyer in the mid-1800s, a self-taught artist who had wanderlust for the West. He gave us a great record of Indian life. These lithographs,published in London in 1844, are significant to me and set the tone for this room.” An old hutch positioned between the lithographs holds mementos and knickknacks from New Mexico.
Across the room is a boardinghouse desk that belonged to the homeowner’s parents. Wing chairs flank the entertainment center; beside one chair is an Indian drum used as a side table. Buffalo horns are piled in a basket beneath an occasional table. Tiny kachina dolls pose on a shelf. And what Texas home would be complete without a steer skull with horns over a flat-screen television?
The owner’s home office, located behind French doors off the entry, reflects her love of the beach. The bamboo curtain rods feature shell finials; the draperies are trimmed with abalone shell. The walls are painted sea green; white built-in shelving displays an extensive collection of ceramic castles by local sculptor Nancy Pawel and shells of various shapes and sizes. Two wicker chairs upholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric are accented with red coral pillows; the coral color is repeated throughout the room. A mirror framed in shells and palm tree prints hang over the desk. The master suite beyond the office continues the seaside theme. The British Colonial bed is of faux bamboo, accented with a wall canopy. The elegant bedclothes are custom-made. Beneath the canopy is a Mary Lou Lewis watercolor of Port Aransas. Stith says, “We pulled the color scheme for the bed clothes from this painting and used the bed crown and wall canopy to create a feeling of looking out a window onto the scene in the picture.
” The peaceful feeling continues as you step through another set of French doors onto the meditation porch. The small deck is enclosed by a 10-foot trellis that provides privacy. The comfortable seating is an invitation to enjoy the birdsongs and neighborhood sounds.
“For me, this is a happy place for us to have friends over,” the homeowner says. “It’s a wonderful home to begin a new period in our lives.”