A Cozy Home in the Heights
For over 15-years, pleasant neighbors, favored friends, reluctant relatives, and new acquaintances have graciously opened their homes to me as I’ve attempted to capture the sense of place that our community offers. From 1920s bungalows to contemporary glass and steel dwellings of the most modern design, each house that I have been assigned to bring to the pages of 78209 Magazine has one common element – the remarkable families that call these neighborhoods home.
As much as I have attempted to focus upon the lives of others – for the pages of this publication – I have repeatedly been asked, “Where do you live?” And for those kind neighbors that have opened their homes to our readers and to me, it was time that I did the same.
Three weeks before our only child, Jamie was born, my very pregnant wife – also Jamie – and I moved into a small 1928 cottage in old Alamo Heights in need of much repair. For the next six months, workers painted, plastered, and replaced rotten wood and sagging floors while our newborn slept, well, like a baby.
It was our good fortune to be the recipients of family furnishings going back four generations. But it also meant that our style was somewhat eclectic, which it remains today. Jamie’s Empire, Hepplewhite, and Victorian furnishings were not the perfect fit for my early Texas primitives, crockery jugs, Mexican folk art pottery, and funky finds of all descriptions, but we forced them into cohabitation. Over time, we could not imagine a home furnished in any other fashion, although Jamie longs for a little less clutter.
After several years of being a one-bathroom family, luxury came our way with a remodel that added a second-story bedroom for little Jamie and one and a half more privies. By converting one of the three original bedrooms, we crafted a small den. Adding a covered porch just off the kitchen that I dubbed the “pavilion” became an outdoor gathering spot for family and friends.
Like many cottages of the era, the living room was the reception room for a host of events. It is still where the Christmas tree is placed each holiday and where conversation and cocktails are served with great pleasure on reupholstered, almost matching sofas that were in my grandmother’s home in Sulphur Springs when I was a child.
A massive display cabinet of unknown origin and uncertain color purchased years ago at Land Of Was anchors the room and holds a plethora of Staffordshire figures, Chinese export bowls, American cut glass, French crystal, and any odd piece found at auction or estate sale that needs a final resting place. It has become our cabinet of curiosities.
A pair of cast metal lamps unceremoniously painted flat white from finial to base that prominently featured pineapples were found at a neighbor’s estate sale and purchased for seven dollars. A restoration brought them back to a more natural hue, and they have welcomed guests for over 25 years. A transitional glass and bronze coffee table holds a selection of objects, including a Jonathan Adler acrylic obelisk embedded with nails and a small gilt Pedro Friedeberg hand sculpture purchased on a trip to Mexico City.
Just off of the living room, a converted sun porch and small bedroom original to the house were repurposed as a den. Large wooden plantation shutters diffuse light from the double-hung multi-pane windows and echo the rich patina of the original hardwood floors.
The dining room holds a collection of mixed and matched pieces that seem to work, despite their questionable pedigree and provenance. A set of Hepplewhite dining chairs continue to wear their taupe and brown striped fabric despite the fact that the matching curtains were sent packing years ago and replaced with cream and powder blue Toile de Jouy drapes found at a garage sale. In an attempt to pull it all together, a chocolate brown linen, floor-length tablecloth covers the round pedestal table set with Blue Italian china, silver goblets that were Jamie’s grandparents and blue stemmed wine glasses from Dollar Tree.
A retablo of Madonna and Child and a nude purportedly painted by a college art professor of his protégé grace the walls. Dinner guests are often told that they are dining with saints and sinners, and we let them guess of whom we are speaking.
With the assistance of canvas drapes and a roaring fire in the hand-laid Blanco river stone fireplace, the outdoor porch is an all-season casual spot for entertaining. A fortunate find was the 11-foot long nail bin with galvanized metal drawers that was purchased from the owners of the Alamo Heights Hardware Store on Broadway that was an iconic fixture in the Alamo Heights community. It serves as a buffet for myriad barbecues, Mexican food suppers, and Thanksgiving Day celebrations for family. The collection of vintage wicker was once on the screened porch of Jamie’s grandparents – Jim and Hazel Maverick who resided on the Sunshine Ranch. Pieces have been added over the years from garage sales and second-hand shops.
A house is not a home without its heart, and the generations of families that breathe life into homes that form the neighborhoods in 78209 create the story. Now, dear readers, I have told you mine.
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Outdoor Covered Porch
Sunbrella fabric curtains hung on galvanized metal rods keep inclement weather at bay while a roaring fire toasts up any wintry occasion. With cathedral ceilings of exposed rafters, the space is often the scene of winter fireside chats and summer soirees.
Vintage sofas upholstered in cornflower blue cotton velvet with down filled seat cushions offer guests a place for cocktails and conversation. Bronze and glass coffee table holds collection of crystal and art objects from estate sale junkets and travels.
Living Room Fireplace
Grouping of Staffordshire figures adorn the fireplace mantel where a Lithograph of the McNay Art Museum by Leonard Lehrer hangs.
Living Room View To Den
Drop leaf mahogany table doubles as service bar and buffet for informal dinners and cocktail parties. Tangerine Ceramic Buddha head was gift to daughter, but stayed behind when she left for college. Group of plein air oil paintings by Reid Gaily holds court with artist Franco Mondini Ruiz and A. B. Davies.
Buffet and dining chairs from my maternal grandmother’s home. Coffee urn with mounted stag heads from Sunshine Ranch. Vintage mirrors reflect candlelight from gilt and metal candelabra. Fresh pale blue hydrangeas are arranged in a silver punch bowl that belonged to Jamie’s mother, Jamie Maverick.
Leading to the upstairs bedroom, homage to Jamie’s artistic mother, Jamie Maverick depicts the life of a carefree child growing up in her “Neverland” called the Sunshine Ranch. A wondrous woodcarver, the folk art pieces feature her passion for bovine beauty generated by the fact that she grew up on a San Antonio Dairy Farm.
Nestled under the eves in the attic, a two-poster bed provides a tranquil repast with blue and white bedding from Ralph Lauren Home. Otomi fabric pillows from crafters in Tonala, Mexico. Chest of drawers adorned with mother of pearl and shell buttons holds a Bourgie Table Lamp by Ferruccio Laviani, family photos and a Jamie Maverick wood carving of the San Antonio’s Junior League’s historic King Home.
Faux Grecian mirror hangs above ornate Italian chest fitted with brass sink in the powder room. Souvenirs from Jamie’s grandparents trip to Pompeii depict the frescoes found in the ruins. A group of Hamilton Vase prints hold court in the diminutive space.
By John Bloodsworth
Photography by Al Rendon