Natural Materials Add Warmth To A Contemporary Home


contemporary great room and exterior...

Natural materials and an inviting layout bring warmth and livability to a contemporary San Antonio dwelling.

contemporary living area gray

The residence includes intimate spaces like this sitting area, which features a custom coffee table flanked by Gamma leather armchairs, all from Nest Modern, atop a rug from Black Sheep Unique. The bronze sculpture is by George Carlson. Morgan Metal fabricated the screen wall in the outdoor courtyard.

contemporary foyer neutral sculptures

The foyer of this San Antonio home by architect Tobin Smith displays a portion of the owners' art collection, including an abstract by Jim Rabby on the far wall. The blue glass piece by Gregory Price is from Christopher Martin Gallery in Santa Fe, and the wood sculpture by Michael Bauermeister is from Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in Telluride, Colorado. Studio Lumina handled the lighting design.

contemporary living room neutral palette...

The living room features Nest Modern's Byron swivel chairs and Kong sofas, which designer Hillary Conrey selected for their shape. The rug from Black Sheep Unique complements the gradated Roi James art, to the right of which hangs a figurative oil painting by Steven DaLuz. Builder Clint Nieto of Clint Nieto Construction helped execute the home's interior details, including the installation of these ceiling panels featuring a custom concealed fastening system.

contemporary dining room neutral

Art by Ross Penhall echoes views of the tree canopies visible through the dining room windows. RH's Boule de Cristal round chandelier lights the custom table by George Schroeder paired with Antica armchairs by Karl Friedrich Förster and Jörg Helweg from Design Within Reach.

contemporary neutral kitchen and sitting...

A cantilevered table is supported by an exposed-steel frame that carries through to the cabinet portion of the kitchen island. Rift-sawn oak cabinetry pairs with Taj Mahal quartzite fabricated by Delta Granite on the countertops and backsplash. The stainless-steel vent hood is custom from Ferguson. The glass wall art is by Gregory Price.

contemporary neutral bedroom with pops...

The master bedroom's showpiece is art by Andrei Kioresku from Meyer Gallery in Santa Fe. Elsewhere, the warm neutral palette consists of a custom credenza fabricated by Randy Ham Custom Cabinetry and Millwork, the Kate swivel chair from Nest Modern, Lin Marche bedding and an alabaster lamp from 5 Broads Off Broadway.

contemporary exterior pool and lounge...

The horseshoe-shaped residence wraps around a pool built by Artesian Custom Pools. Stainless-steel chaise lounges are from the Summer Classics Delray collection. Sliding doors are Fleetwood Windows & Doors; windows are RAM. Carved in Stone fabricated the limestone-block wall. All of the home's steel was fabricated and erected by Michael Cosper Custom Fabrication.

I knew this project was going to be different and that we could learn from each other,” architect Tobin Smith recalls about his early conversations with a client who happened to be a seasoned real estate developer with a love of architecture. Bonded by a mutual passion for contemporary design, they wanted to bring something current to the established San Antonio, Texas, neighborhood where the owner and his wife decided to build near their longtime family home. “He had studied the property for a few years,” Smith says. “And from the beginning, he had a sense of how the rooms would relate to one another.” The client–who even created a massing model of the new residence he envisioned–adds, “Tobin was a great collaborator who welcomed my thoughts but wasn’t afraid to challenge me.”

With landscape designer Wally Baker also onboard, their first major decision was to utilize the foundation of the home that originally stood on the lot, helping to minimize damage to the surrounding oak trees that shade the property. The owners also wanted the master bedroom to be located on the ground level with the other main living spaces. Between repurposing the footprint and negotiating the site’s 20-degree incline, however, this proved no easy task. The solution, the owner explains, was to design the home “like an asymmetrical horseshoe,” in essence wrapping the main living areas around a central pool, with the master bedroom cantilevering over the slope of the hill. “The width of the lot and the desire for all spaces except two guest rooms to be situated on one level led to the rear-extending volumes on both sides of the central living space,” explains Smith, who worked with project team member Kenny Brown.

Materials were also a primary consideration throughout the decision-making process. “It was important to have no siding, painting, resealing, rotting or fading,” says Smith, who selected limestone, steel, stucco and oak with longevity in mind. Faced with “both heat and shade while trying to control temperatures,” he says, they utilized thermally broken aluminum-frame windows to establish an indoor-outdoor connection despite a hot climate effecting ample time spent inside. And in the many cases where window glazing abuts a perpendicular wall plane, Smith ensured the material patterns connect on both sides of the glass: Textured limestone outside transitions to a smoother finish in the living room, for instance, and elsewhere exterior metal panels blend seamlessly into the wood-paneled indoor walls. “Inside, everything becomes more refined,” he explains.

The warmth of the materials also helped create a sense of harmony with the setting and the surrounding homes. “I’d be happy living in a concrete, steel and glass house,” the husband jokes, “but we didn’t want to offend our neighbors with a much more contemporary home than they were accustomed to seeing.” Nor did the wife want a cold-feeling abode. “She wanted warmth and comfortably scaled rooms,” the architect says, “so we talked a lot about atmosphere, scale, light and materiality.” With her wishes in mind, Smith and the husband worked to devise intimate spaces that still feel generous. “A monstrous space wouldn’t have accommodated the experiential qualities we wanted,” the architect notes. To that end, while the home has an open plan, it also boasts multiple distinct entertaining spaces that flow into each other, plus floating walls and receding areas that add a sense of mystery and reveal.

With a few furnishings already in place, the clients sought designer Hillary Conrey’s help to see their home’s interiors to the finish line. “It was just about making things soft for her and nice for him while honoring the architecture,” Conrey explains. Although she and her team incorporated comfortable pieces with a strong design presence, care was taken not to distract from other elements, such as the custom rugs and the owners’ artworks. Their collection is a combination of existing pieces and new works commissioned specifically for this project, including an installation in the living room by Houston-based artist Paul Fleming. “We’ve been art lovers since we met and collected since purchasing our first home in 1984,” the husband says. “I’d rather live with blank walls than with art that doesn’t speak to me.”

It’s this depth of feeling that built the house. “We approached the residence as if it were a heritage project by using fine, durable materials that will stand the test of time and designing it to remain functional for the owners through the decades,” Smith says. And while the husband may wax poetic about the process and its result, he and his wife are now simply happy homeowners. “It’s the feeling of being on vacation every day,” he says about living in the residence. “It makes for great fun when entertaining family and friends.”