Behind Custom Steel Doors is a Treasure Trove of Fine Art and World Travels04/01/2021 06:00AM ● By Kirby Tello
Bayside Corpus Christi is a mecca for old home charm. From Pope Place to Lamar Park, Morningside to Del Mar, some of the most immaculate, well-designed interiors are nestled within unassuming exteriors. But that is what makes these homes so delightful; the anticipation of a surprise when entering a friend’s lair for the first time is enough to send one boiling over the top with excitement.
A huge perk of being a part of The Bend Magazine family is the opportunity to explore some of these coastal treasures that otherwise may never be made available to the general public. So many gracious families open their doors to allow for a glimpse into their intimate spaces – and for that, we are eternally grateful and inspired.
Tucked away in a serene oasis along one of the city’s main drags is this month’s featured homestead. A home is an innately personal space, and no matter how much a person enjoys sharing their house with others, doing so on a scale such as this can be a bit much. In that spirit, the homeowners prefer to remain anonymous.
The sentiment that “art makes a home” feels like a living, breathing notion in this 1968 remodel. Originally two individual townhomes, the spaces was melded together, and the resulting expanse has enough of its authentic structure to give the home tour a maze-like vibe, complete with surprises around every turn. Along with its structure, the home boasts many original building materials, finishes, and hardware, including the tile floor. It is that Spanish terracotta clay color design found in traditional Mexican builds. “Casita” comes to mind. And in the areas of the home that werem’t originally tiled, the owners had replica tiles made and added to the floorplan so the transition from room to room is seamless.
The journey of this home’s renewal began in July 2020, with a goal of completion before the holidays. The couple was moved in and had fully decorated before the new year, making it a five-month remodel project. While this is definitely the exception to the rule in general contracting, it’s even more impressive that – since many of their belongings required the packing and shipping care normally reserved for major exhibitions from the Smithsonian or, dare I say, the Louvre – the home is free from any indication that the project may have been expedited. The overwhelming feeling is thoughtful and intriguing; there will always be something new to discover in an abode like this, even if it’s just the rearrangement of hanging artwork.
So much of the home has a backstory. Nearly every door, carpet, entryway, and of course, artwork is a treasure trove of insight into the many lives lived by the homeowners. Although native Texans, the owners acquired most of their fixtures across decades of world traveling. Many rooms seem to have a theme that derives from the country of origin for a certain table or painting, but that wasn’t necessarily a planned occurrence.
One of the owners, a self-taught design architect (who would likely deny that title because of their humble nature), is a one-of-a-kind visionary in several respects. In fact, the purchase of the townhomes was made sight unseen. A realtor friend who was made aware of the homes potentially being up for sale called the now-owners with the news that these properties hadn’t hit the market yet and they would be perfect for the couple. “We weren’t even living in Corpus Christi at the time,” says the homeowner. Their realtor sent photos of the homes, and they were instantly able to envision what it could be once renovated to fit their lifestyle.
“I can envision where everything goes from the beginning,” they say. That includes which walls will eventually be knocked down, and which piece of art will adorn a certain space. Keeping their lifestyle in mind, the home’s design is completely customized to how they maneuver through the space, while allowing for a comfortable flow when entertaining. Pre-pandemic, the couple was known for hosting fancy dinner parties with an eclectic bunch of people. Most of these parties centered around art, and often local artists would be invited to talk about a newly acquired piece the owners were eager to share with friends.
“That is how I first met Joe Pena,” says the owner. “He did a presentation for a group we invited over when he delivered a piece titled ‘The First Mexican on Mars,’” (2019, oil on canvas, 80x36.)
As the owner reminisced on a time when dinner parties were frequent, their focus quickly shifted to a work of art that serves as an object of both admiration and function. Commissioned from Bill Meek, a sculptor known for his work with glass, is a large, communal dining table (legs and all). Meek personally delivered the piece from his studio in Houston, Meek Studio & Gallery, and in true form, the table was an idyllic fit – just as the owner anticipates for all their fine art.
Coming from self-proclaimed modernists in design taste, the owners’ affinity for collecting art seems to flip modernity on its head. But it is soon clear how the two design aesthetics work as one. In a home so colorful with paintings, sculptures, and numerous collections of sentiments from world travel, the large glass table commands a presence that is somehow grandiose yet subtle. It is a breath of fresh air that is initially surprising and delightful, and once it has the chance to resonate, knowing that the owners describe their style using the term modern, the home suddenly makes sense.
What ties this Spanish-style casita to its eclectic furnishings is the comprehensive intentions of populating the home with unique pieces that have a story and hold a place in the owners’ souls. “Some of these smaller, wooden tables throughout were given to us by my mother,” one of the homeowners explains. And speaking of unique, there are several works on canvas and sculpture pieces that are in fact one of a handful (or less) made in the world.
Prior to taking on their current residence as a renovation project, the design visionary of the two had drawn up architectural plans for a custom new-build dream home on a lot they purchased not far from where they live now. They showed us the blueprints and digital renderings of the project that once was. I asked them, after putting so much time and effort into creating this dream home, why they walked away from those plans.
“The timeline for completion (2 years) seemed too long,” they explain.
But that creative energy is not lost. The owner can see a finished project in their mind before the foundation’s concrete being mixed or before a single wall comes down. They can place art and decor in their proper place within a home while bidding on it through online auctions. It is a gift, really, to envision what can be out of something that is not.
Just like the custom finishes, the selections of artwork, and the sentiment of how furniture is placed for functional living and entertaining, this couple, too, reflects a flow among their host of collections.