For Alamo Heights residents Raul Saldana and Frank Blanchard, the allure of the open road has afforded them the opportunity to travel frequently while acquiring books, furnishings and decorative arts that exude timeless sophistication in their well-appointed home.
While destinations may beckon this talented pair, San Antonio and those they serve in the community keep them grounded. As a personal assistant, Frank serves a select group of clientele who are never far removed from his professional care. “Everyone that I work for is in this area,” he says.
Known for his elaborate upswept hairstyles that have graced generations of San Antonio’s young ladies making their bows at the Opening German, Order of the Alamo coronation and on the most special of days – their wedding day – Raul creates coiffures that are a much-sought-out commodity.
“My clients have come to me for decades,” he says, adding, “It gives me such satisfaction in creating special moments, not only for the young ladies being honored, but for their mothers and grandmothers as well.”
Commanding attention in the couple’s warmly appointed family room is a stunning portrait of a young maharaja that was a gift to Frank from Raul purchased on a trip to New York. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with tomes on fashion, art and travel are interspersed with blue and white Chinese export ware.
“This is my favorite room,” says Raul. “Our shelves are lined with books that we have purchased from my favorite bookstore in the Plaza Hotel.”
As a hotel guest, Raul frequents the Assouline Bookstore, a warm and welcoming mezzanine retreat. A selection of vintage books on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Diana shares space with volumes on fashion, design and cities where he and Frank have traveled.
Library An allegorical painting, a remnant of a large-scale oil, hangs above a kneeling bench upholstered in floral stenciled velvet. Adorned with images of the Virgin Mary and the Mexican eagle, a Talavera lidded jar is from Puebla.
Prized possessions – beautifully leather-bound Italian journals given to the pair by Cheever Books – grace a French country coffee table centered with an Imari porcelain bowl on a carved mahogany stand. An Italian carnival mask reminds guests that frequent frivolity abounds when parties are planned in this opulent setting.
A crystal and gilt bronze chandelier from the Lion and Eagle illuminates the conversation area. It reminds Raul of the massive matching chandeliers that graced the St. Anthony Hotel’s Peacock Alley, where many of his clients held court following their introductions to San Antonio as newly crowned Fiesta royalty.
Raul emphasizes, “We are surrounded by remembrances from so many San Antonio families, going back two and three generations. They have become entwined in our lives.”
BY JOHN BLOODSWORTH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AL RENDON