Interiors Texas Fall 2012 : 108

Victorian Victorious A confirmed modernist transforms an ornate, 116-year-old Victorian mansion and carriage house in San Antonio into a mod compound for contemporary living. By Helen Thompson Photography by Ryann Ford “I never would have envisioned living in this house,” says Travis Capps. The house, a handsome example of the Victorian-Italianate style, was built in 1896 by German architect Albert Beckman in San Antonio’s King William District. The exterior’s Victorian exuberance—intricate trim work, asymmetry and wrap-around porches—and Italianate stateliness—the tan brick façade and hipped roof—don’t even hint at the sleek rooms inside. Capps, an executive with Valero Energy, and his partner, hair stylist Lee Anthony, are avowed modernists with a growing collection of contemporary art that includes video installations. Previously, Capps and Anthony had been living in an all-white, super-sleek, two-story loft in a commercial warehouse. Exposed steel beams, brick walls, high ceilings and sweeping expanses of steel windows offered an ideal setting to display art. “My collection got too big,” says Capps, who loves to collect work by local artists he knows personally, as well as pieces by artists he’s met in his travels. “I don’t want to store my art; I want to live with it,” he says. The search for a bigger SITTING PRETTY The Capps’ family dog, Bridgette, poses in the master bedroom, with a focal point that includes a pair of vintage club chairs covered in black patent leather; the fireplace is by Spark Modern Fires, and the painting is by Michael Miller. 106 | | Fall 2012

Victorian Victorious

Helen Thompson

A confirmed modernist transforms an ornate, 116-year-old Victorian mansion and carriage house in San Antonio into a mod compound for contemporary living.

“I never would have envisioned living in this house,” says Travis Capps. The house, a handsome example of the Victorian-Italianate style, was built in 1896 by German architect Albert Beckman in San Antonio’s King William District. The exterior’s Victorian exuberance—intricate trim work, asymmetry and wrap-around porches—and Italianate stateliness—the tan brick façade and hipped roof—don’t even hint at the sleek rooms inside. Capps, an executive with Valero Energy, and his partner, hair stylist Lee Anthony, are avowed modernists with a growing collection of contemporary art that includes video installations.

Previously, Capps and Anthony had been living in an all-white, super-sleek, two-story loft in a commercial warehouse. Exposed steel beams, brick walls, high ceilings and sweeping expanses of steel windows offered an ideal setting to display art. “My collection got too big,” says Capps, who loves to collect work by local artists he knows personally, as well as pieces by artists he’s met in his travels. “I don’t want to store my art; I want to live with it,” he says. The search for a bigger place was on. But when the couple’s realtor took them to see the two-story Victorian in King William, Capps was not initially impressed. “I thought it was drab. That style is not my cup of tea,” he says.

The neighborhood’s distinguished lineage was appealing, however. The King William Historic District is located just south of downtown San Antonio on a scenic corridor that connects five 18thcentury Spanish missions built along the San Antonio River. (Capps’ and Anthony’s backyard slopes toward the river.) The Alamo, built in 1718, is one of those missions and originally used the area as farmland; by the 1840s the land was divided into tracts and sold to settlers. Influential German immigrants discovered the area and began building mansions, gravitating toward Greek revival, Victorian, and Italianate architectural styles. Ernst Altgelt, the first to build on current-day King William Street, is credited with naming his street after King Wilhelm I of Prussia, and the name came to signify the neighborhood as a whole.

Once Capps got inside the house, his impression of it made an abrupt about-face. “I was struck by the logical progression of the rooms,” he says. The stolid exterior didn’t prepare him for the clarity of the interiors—and the contrast between the two reminded him of the Aspen, Colo., house belonging to his friend, the late artist and art patron Linda Pace, founder of Artpace, a nonprofit contemporary art center in San Antonio. “It was very traditional,” he says. “But inside, every room was a moment of surprise.” The memory of that contrast, which was a deliberate artistic gesture, could be translated to the King William house. “I was very interested in the dissonance between the exterior and the interior,” says Capps, who was smitten with the carriage house and cottage in back. “I liked the idea of living in a compound.” He could envision a place for guests, a hair salon for Lee, and a yard to showcase sculpture.

The next step was easy: Capps hired architect Jim Poteet, who had designed his previous loft. Poteet, who frequently serves as interior designer on his projects, sized up the Italianate mansion’s drawbacks. He looked past the rotting front porch, the peeling wallpaper, the exposed plumbing in the bathrooms and the badly built kitchen, an add-on during the ‘70s. To Poteet, the attributes were obvious. “The rooms were open with a simple relationship to each other; the spaces were beautifully proportioned; and the house would have a flow not unlike a loft once we simplified the décor and pared it back,” he says. The best news for the art collector, though, was a confirmation from Poteet that this was a house suited for their collection. “There was room to stand back and see the art,” says Poteet.

The architect’s plan of attack was straightforward. Most rooms would stay intact; the dark, low-ceilinged kitchen addition would come off and be replaced by a streamlined version. The new addition downstairs would also allow for a new master bath and closet above it on the second floor. There were plenty of triple-hung windows throughout, but to clear the way for even more light and to unclutter the visual space, Poteet removed transoms from all the doors, expanding their reach and clarifying transitions between rooms. The original oak floors were not only in good shape, they benefited from one of the house’s most dramatic flourishes: The floors in the three downstairs rooms were outlined in a mahogany and maple stripe. The detail looked typically Victorian until Poteet had the floors ebonized; the contrast between the rich ebony and the subtle maple and mahogany emerged as a dramatic detail that surprised everyone.

“The new kitchen,” says the architect, “has ended up being our favorite kitchen. So much light pours in through the double-hung windows overlooking the backyard and river, that it influences the rest of the house.” To capitalize on the bonus, Poteet added windows behind glass shelves on another side of the small room. A new butler’s pantry and bar between the kitchen and the dining room is smart and modern with a stainless steel sink and the continuation of the kitchen’s Carrara marble counters and backsplash.

Upstairs in the two-bedroom house, a new spacious master closet and a bath were added; glass partitions between the tub and dressing areas admit more light. Counters, benches in the shower area and cabinet fronts are Corian—a material Poteet admires for its unobtrusive color and ability to cover large spaces seamlessly. He even made the bed in the master bedroom out of Corian. Benjamin Moore’s “Gypsum White” paint was used throughout the house. “It’s what I have had in every place I’ve lived,” says Capps. “The hint of gray is the perfect backdrop for art.”

As for the furnishings, Poteet and Capps drew on Modernist icons that Capps and Anthony already owned, including a pair of blue vintage Saarinen chairs, a Minotti coffee table and sofa, a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona ottoman, Jacobsen chairs in the dining room, and a Jens Risom conference table for the office space on the second floor landing. It was important to keep the furniture at a minimum because Capps wanted to save room for more art. But there was also another reason. “I don’t want to live a cluttered lifestyle. That’s why I am happy in this house—it’s a place where I can retreat to and feel relaxed.”

Design Details

TYPE Single-Family Home

LOCATION San Antonio

INTERIOR DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE

Poteet Architects (poteetarchitects. Com)

LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Thomas Bradley & Associates (210. 821.5749)

VENDORS

Bellazura

Tub in upstairs bathroom (through Poteet Architects)
Design Within Reach

Lem “Piston” barstools (dwr.Com)

Fritz Hansen

Jacobsen chairs in dining room (fritzhansen.Com)
General Electric

Monogram stove hood (ge.Com)

Hastings

Lacava sink and toilet in powder room (hastingstilebath.Com)

Herman Miller

Blue vintage Saarinen chairs in living room (hermanmiller.Com)

Metro Retro Furniture

Jens Risom conference table on landing (metroretrofurniture.Com)

Minotti Sofa

Cubes coffee table (minotti.Com)

Mies van der Rohe

Barcelona ottoman in downstairs hall

Moooi

Pendants in kitchen/dining room (moooi.Com)

Pittsburgh Paint

“Gypsum” throughout the house (pittsburgpaints.Com)

Spark Modern Fires

Fireplace in master bedroom (sparkfires.Com)

Timorous Beasties

“Euro Damask” red wallpaper in powder room and “Damask” black wallpaper in guest bath (timorousbeasties.Com)

Read the full article at http://digital.modernluxury.com/article/Victorian+Victorious/1200748/129152/article.html.

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