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HOME Designs | Lifestyles | Investments | Improvements

Luxury Living

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From the Editors

It’s December already? This year has certainly flown by! We have been privileged to share with you some truly exceptional Central Texas homes and introduce you to the talented architects, builders and designers who built these special places. In this issue, we focus on luxury and look at a several homes, each with its own distinctive perspective. Our cover features an extraordinary Palladian Italian-style estate overlooking Lake Travis, followed by a Spanish-inspired home on the edge of the Hill Country, designed around treasures from the homeowners’ extensive travels. Art and architecture combine to create a beautiful home in San Antonio which incorporates the homeowner’s original paintings into the design, while a property in Boerne, reminiscent of a European villa, is filled with Old World charm and exquisite finishes. Finally, outdoor entertaining at its best is illustrated in a home constructed of materials native to Central and South Texas, and used specifically to withstand our area’s climate. Looking for something special for your holiday entertaining? Amuse Bouche: A Tiny Bite of Greatness provides recipes for tasty and trendy dishes to impress all of your holiday dinner guests, while Transforming Tablescapes is sure to inspire creative and festive alternatives to your holiday table decor. Our list of off-the-beaten-path spas can ensure much-needed relief before, during and after the seasons’ celebrations. While we are so very grateful for all of the wonderful people we have met and the homes we have been invited into this year, we remember that 2011 was a very unfortunate year for many in Central Texas. Know that our hearts go out to those in our community who suffered tragic losses in the wild fires that destroyed so much of our beautiful area. Everyone at Urban Home Magazine wishes each of you a joyous and peaceful holiday season, and a blessed and prosperous 2012! Trisha Doucette & Leslie Woods, editors

P.S. Find us on Facebook at Urban Home Magazine: Austin – San Antonio. If you have wonderful finds that our readers would enjoy, please share with us on Facebook.

On The Cover: Beyond this grand entry lies a home rich in opulent textures and sculptural form, all complementing the home’s classical Italian elegance while providing the perfect balance for everyday living and entertaining. Designed by John Hathaway of Vanguard Studio, Inc., built by Cosmo Palmieri of Sendero Homes and decorated by Ron Malott Interior Design. Page 16. Scan to view more features of this home.


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

2011 | VOL. 6 | NO. 6 Publisher Louis Doucette Editors Leslie Woods and Trisha Doucette Contributing Editors Judith Bundschuh – ABOR Kyle Jones – NARI Austin Keith Moehle – San Antonio NARI Karen Matuszewski – By Design, Real Estate Services & Custom Home Consulting Contributing Writers Claudia Alarcon, Sharla Bell, Jackie Benton, Julie Catalano, Mauri Elbel, Laura Jackson, Sue-Ella Mueller, Dana W. Todd Advertising Sales Sandy Weatherford Gerry Lair Photography Paul Bardagjy Bibb Gault Coles Hairston S. Craig McCasland Al Rendon Jason Roberts Vernon Wentz Design and Production Tim Shaw – The Shaw Creative Printing and Direct Mail SmithPrint Phone 512.385.4663, Austin - 210.410.0014, San Antonio Fax 830.981.8887 Business Office 4714 Cambridge / Sugar Land, Texas 77479 Sales Office 10036 Saxet Drive / Boerne, Texas 78006 Email Website Urban Home Magazine Austin-San Antonio is published by Big City Magazines of Austin, LLC. Advertising rates available upon request. All rights reserved by copyright. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written consent from publisher. Every effort is made to assure accuracy of the information contained herein. However, the publisher cannot guarantee such accuracy. Advertising is subject to errors, omissions and or other changes without notice. Mention of any product or service does not constitute endorsement from Urban Home Magazine. The information contained in this publication is deemed reliable from third party sources, but not guaranteed. Urban Home Magazine does not act as an agent for any of the advertisers in this publication. It is recommended that you choose a qualified remodeling, home furnishings or home improvement firm based on your own selection criteria. Urban Home Magazine, does not act as an agent for any of the realtors or builders in this publication. It is recommended that you choose a qualified realtor to assist you in your new home purchase. Urban Home Magazine will not knowingly accept advertising for real estate that is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. All real estate advertising in Urban Home Magazine, is subject to the Fair Housing Act that states “We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.”

© Copyright 2011 by Urban Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


custom homes • lofts • spec homes • commercial

Stephanie J. Villavicencio, ASID Texas Registered Interior Designer


December 2011/January 2012


cover 16 Authentic Reflections Photography by Coles Hairston

featured homes


28 The Power Of Dreaming Big Photography by Paul Bardagjy and Al Rendon 38 Bringing Art And Design Home Photography by Bibb Gault 52 A Hill Country Fairy Tale Photography by S. Craig McCasland

trends 58 Outdoor Designing For Today and Tomorrow 62 Design The Oriental Mystique 66 Decorating Transforming Tablescapes 74 Entertaining Amuse Bouche: One Tiny Bite Of Greatness




50 Community Service: Urban Home Dream Home

departments fabulous finds 78 Central Texas Spas essentials 64 New Products: Holiday Gifts



contributing editors 36 Kyle Jones, NARI Austin & Keith Moehle, San Antonio NARI 48 Karen Matuszewski , By Design - Custom Home Consulting 81 Judith Bundschuh, ABOR 82 Advertiser Index


Authentic Reflections

The art of planning a masterpiece By Laura Jackson Photography by Coles Hairston


s you enter the home, you are immediately greeted with not just a sense of jaw-dropping

grandeur, but also with a feeling of intimacy and connection to a most special place. The light and open atmosphere throughout the home triggers an enormous exhale as you take in spectacular views of Lake Travis from almost every angle. Even a brief glance at the breathtaking photos gives you a pretty good indication that this is not your typical lakeside estate. It is something so much more — created by a team of experts in their respective fields. And they’re not just the top professionals, but individuals who pour the best of their hearts and minds into their work. The result was a masterpiece to be treasured for generations. 18

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

A Transformation of Symmetry and Balance John Hathaway, Vanguard Studio, Inc., Principal Architect 512.918.8312 The combined goals of the homeowners, as well as the architectural firm and designer, were to create a clean and timeless, yet elegant and striking architectural style. This became a fitting reflection of the homeowners’ desire for symmetry and balance in the project. A Palladian Italian style thus evolved providing a classic and enduring character for the home.

This is the center element upon which the entire house revolves. The home’s inspiring location was also one of its biggest challenges. Although the terrain was steep and rocky, under the leadership of John Hathaway and his skilled team, Vanguard Studio was able to perfectly integrate all of the landscape’s features into the site. By developing several terraces, they were able to make it appear as if it came right out of a charming Italian hillside. In the center of the home there is an amazing 50-foot rotunda, complete with an oculus in the center, much like those seen in early Italian architecture. This is the center element upon which the entire

house revolves. It is capped on the exterior with beautiful copper shingles, and has a top with a gorgeous patina that is a brushed bronze color. Inside and outside the home, you can find customized limestone columns giving it all an authentic classical feel. To create just the look his clients desire, Hathaway’s firm understands the value of listening to his clients. He explains, “Our experience has taught us the right questions to ask and the challenges to anticipate. It’s our ability to interpret their needs and desires, and capture the essence of the design that sets us apart.” Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Throughout the home, its classic style, and clean and timeless characteristics create the perfect backdrop for its charming personality. A Mirror of Spirit Ron Malott, Ron Malott Interior Design 512.243.7367 True art is always a reflection of its creators and a passion for life itself. Malott uses his role as a designer to take the original visions and lifestyles of his clients and transform them into art. And not just a piece of art that hangs on the wall, but a living art that they can enjoy in new ways every day. “As dramatic and beautiful as this house is, you have to remember that someone actually lives there. I have to find ways 20

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

to make each space interesting, while making it unique to my clients—a reflection of who they are,” said Malott. As Malott began describing some of the incredible custom features of the home, such as the stone cast columns in the round-shaped wine room, or the original wrought iron designs cascading down the marble staircases, or the hand-painted tiles in the kitchen, it is immediately evident that he is most certainly not your average designer. He also has the artistic ability to simply execute it himself if it’s not available in the trade. When I asked him about his extraordinary talents as an artist, he explained that over the years he learned that to ensure he could deliver on all of

his creative ideas, as well as those of his clients, he had to take matters into his own hands. If he is unable to find an artisan or craftsman with the particular skill or design he is looking for, he simply creates it himself. The master bedroom is a great example of combining both the husband and wife’s tastes resulting in a one-of-a-kind focal piece—the master bed. The designer worked with a company out of West Hollywood internationally known for their expertise in creating original furniture, Phyllis Morris. He then took elements of two different beds they each liked and designed the perfect piece for the room. Complete with luxurious gold gilding

and exquisitely-carved details, its rich textures and sculptural form complement the home’s classical Italian elegance. Keeping with the theme of custom everything, the designer worked with a fabulous company called Alkusari Stone to create completely unique floors and stonework. Part of the beauty of working with Alkusari is that they have their own quarries and factory. They later handcraft each piece and carve each detail to produce a product with a distinctively refined finish. In fact, they actually sent images from hillside quarries from which the designer could choose the best rock colors to harvest—that’s truly custom from the ground up. Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Complete with luxurious gold gilding and exquisitely-carved details, the bed’s rich textures and sculptural form complement the home’s classical Italian elegance.

Shining Back the Natural Beauty of the Landscape C.L. Williams, Ciel Design for Gardens, President 512.470.2010 Providing the perfect introduction to the majesty of the home, the landscape design shows off the best of the natural environment in a unique and spectacular fashion. C.L. Williams, the landscape architect and owner of Ciel Design for Gardens, describes the amazing character of the landscape and easily reveals his passion for the project. “The residence, pavilion and gardens are all sited on ledges of bedrock 22

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

which step down to Lake Travis. A central water cascade spilling down these ledges unites the formal lawns and gardens with sweeping arcs of oaks, Italian cypress and native plantings. This ensemble is a suitable frame for the panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country from the residence and pavilion.”

Reflecting Upon the Details Cosmo Palmieri, Sendero Homes, President 512.637.3682 A “reflection” can also be defined as “a carefully considered thought,” which corresponds perfectly to how this home was

so masterfully constructed. “Every single possible detail was attended to, and every aspect was thoroughly thought through and considered,” explains Palmieri. Besides its gorgeous style and finesse, “smart and state of the art” are also fitting descriptions of this home. “There are not many homes in the world that are as smart as this one,” said Palmieri. From his cell phone, the homeowner can control all audiovisual components, cameras throughout the entire property, the thermostat’s temperature, and even lock and unlock his doors from anywhere in the world. He can also do all of these things and more through his computer. Advances in technology have also allowed for so many innovative energy-efficient features, such as the home’s top of the line HVAC

system and tankless water heaters. They installed an interesting water detection device located at every water outlet such as toilets and sinks, where a sensor can instantly detect any water leaks or inefficiencies, and then immediately send you a text, email or call alerting you of the situation. All of the water drainage in this home is routed to a central pond that is later used to irrigate the home’s expansive and impressive gardens. Looking at the luxurious finished structure of this home, it’s easy to see the builder’s solid commitment to quality. “We work with materials that complement the unparalleled beauty of the Hill Country and fill our homes with the highest quality comforts our trade has to offer.” Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Interior Highlights

Throughout the home, its classic style, and clean and timeless characteristics create the perfect backdrop for its charming personality. It’s challenging to even begin describing a mere few of the standout details and rooms within this masterpiece. Looking up into the grand rotunda as you enter the home, your senses are dazzled as you are surrounded by delicately-carved limestone columns, iron and stone. Soothing arches and curves cradle the beautiful details. Two fabulous 18th Century bronze sculptures of Roman warriors demand a commanding presence as they appear to greet and protect their home. The homeowners wanted a rich, masculine feel to their library. Arriving at a style reflecting their unique tastes, they opted for distinctive custom-built bookcases based on a Portuguese antique found at market. Elegant draperies soften the room while the warm color and texture of the wall plaster add even more depth. A magnificent wine cellar opens right off that room giving it even more eye-popping appeal. Although originally a square space, the designer produced a fascinating showcase room in the round. Rounded cabinet doors and cast stone came together beautifully to create a room made to feel like it came with a long-standing European history on the property. 24

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

The wine cellar’s grand entry curved door was custom designed and hand carved out of mahogany, an excellent wood choice to protect the wines because of the way it handles humidity. The upper part is made of glass so that during late nights in the library, the glowing wine room creates an almost mystical aura. Because the family has some huge sports fans, the media room was designed to have one large screen plus three additional screens hanging above it, effectively creating a “Command Central” where they can keep up with all the games at once. All of the audiovisual components are comprised of the most cutting edge technology available. A gorgeous, plush sectional


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Special Pricing for ASID and AIA Members


F I N E S T O N E G A L L E RY. C O M 210-889-4809

natural stone, nature’s art . . . . like you’ve never seen before


construction, but also from the character of its inhabitants. Laughter often fills in all the large spaces as the homeowners regularly entertain friends and family, and host a variety of charity events. Outside you’ll find a huge pavilion built specifically for this purpose where generations of guests will attend weddings, social functions, charity events, and more as they share in its abundance and pure beauty. v


and chaise lounges made wide enough for two make the room luscious, yet in the end functional and comfortable as well. Downstairs on the basement level, you’ll also find a sports lover’s dream indoor basketball court with hardwoods and a 22foot ceiling. The clear feeling of warmth emanating from every corner of this home comes not only from its incredible design and






Outside you’ll find a huge pavilion where generations of guests will attend weddings, social functions, charity events, and more as they share in its abundance and pure beauty.

The Power of

Dreaming Big Creating a masterpiece in the hills of San Antonio By Sue-Ella Mueller Photography by Paul Bardagjy and Al Rendon

Photo by Paul Bardagjy

Nestled just outside of the bustling city of San Antonio, on the very edge of the Texas Hill Country and set deep in the trees on the brow of a rolling hillside, sits a dream; a breathtaking dream that took more than two years to achieve. It is truly more than one dream and even more than two, as the home’s Dos Suenos name implies. Once you enter through the gates of this heavenly home, it grabs your mind and your senses and you suddenly realize this could be your dream, too. 28

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Photo by Al Rendon

An antique chandelier, which once hung in a church in Spain, creates an inspiring mood in the dining room.

“Tall, limestone columns foil the living room and this is where the house unfolds in front of you.” Michael G. Imber

Photo by Al Rendon

Photo by Paul Bardagjy

D Before

Photo by Paul Bardagjy

os Suenos is the home of San Antonio natives Al Aguilar and Gisela Girard. And, like any other custom-built home, it began with a piece of property. The property itself is awe-inspiring. “As soon as we saw it, we knew it was a special place,” says Girard. “It’s a unique location with interesting topography, and it is situated in such a way that it gets the southwestern winds and the most beautiful western sunsets.” Girard adds, “I called Al and said you have to come look at this fabulous property I found. It was a twenty-minute drive from downtown and he got there right as the sun was setting. It was an immediate decision for both of us.” But what took them a bit more time deciding was exactly what type of home to build there. Throughout their eighteen years of married life, the pair has traveled to such faraway places as Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and Morocco. While they discovered amazing architecture, inspiring histories and enriching cultures in each of the countries they visited, none captivated their artistic senses quite like Spain. “We were inspired by the Southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It includes a number of famous cities – Seville, Malaga, Cordoba, Granada. In Granada, there is a Moorish palace called Alhambra. From Alhambra, we brought back ideas and inspiration from the beautiful gardens and fountains, and the colorful tiles and stone pillars,” says Aguilar. Back in the states, the couple now had a vision to build on. What they needed was an architect to make it a reality. They chose the renowned San Antonio architectural firm of Michael G. Imber. “Michael is an amazing talent. He spent countless hours with us, making sure he captured our goals, our dreams and our desires,” says Aguilar.

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Photo by Al Rendon Photo by Al Rendon

For his part, Imber says as soon as he saw the property, he was “enthralled with the country landscape.” “It’s a gorgeous property with rolling hills and beautiful trees. The clients wanted the house to have this feeling of a Spanish country estate, but it was important that the home not look like it was just plopped on top of a hill. I wanted to work it into the landscape as if it was slipped into the brow of the hill, maintaining the view, not dominating it.” Imber’s design blends the home in with the landscaping right from the front drive. To enter the property, visitors must come down a long, country road, and just as one is beginning to doubt a home even exists in the tree-shrouded grove, the Dos Suenos tower comes into view. “You enter the home through the garden gate which delivers you into the lower courtyard where you are greeted by a trickling fountain in the cool shade of the tower. You are instantly transported to another place,” says Imber. But, alas, you won’t stay in any one place too long at Dos Suenos. From the courtyard, you move into the entry pavilion where there is yet another Moorish-style fountain, this one larger than the first and filled with six, fat koi fish who bubble to the top to greet you. “Already you have gone through two garden areas and you haven’t even made it to the front door,” says Aguilar. “Michael was able to create a visual experience for visitors from the moment they arrive.” The magic only continues as you step through one of the three sets of doors into the gallery. “Tall, limestone columns foil the living room and this is where the house unfolds in front of you,” says Imber. “If you look left, the gallery space acts as a spine connecting the kitchen to the west and the master bedroom suite to the east. Along the spine we introduce light from three, large windows above.” Beyond the columns is the living room or the “principle room” as Imber refers to it. And while the antiquities that the homeowners have so obviously taken great consideration in choosing capture your attention, the focal point of the room can be found above; antique timber that was pulled from a cotton gin in Galveston lines the ceiling. “This space is connected by a large, Andalusian arch to the kitchen and dining room on one side, and an intimate library on the other. Broadside to the principle room are three, great arch windows that overlook the landscape and the swimming pool beyond,” Imber says.

We’ve got great glass 512-388-9400

1609 Chisholm Trail #100, Round Rock • 8313 Hwy 71 W., Oak Hill

Photo by Paul Bardagjy

Photo by Al Rendon

“From Alhambra, we brought back ideas and inspiration from the beautiful gardens and fountains, and the colorful tiles and stone pillars.”

An intersecting gallery off the master suite delivers a staircase that ascends the tower to the two guestrooms and study above, each living quarter with its own personal view of the beauty below. “One of the guest rooms has a romantic balcony that overlooks the Hill Country to the west. That is what is spectacular about the house: the way we were able to capture the landscape beyond, not just in the balcony, but throughout the home,” Imber says. “The outdoor entertaining that can take place on the loggia that overlooks the Hill Country views and the swimming pool; the quality of light that comes through the gallery and strikes the columns, painting them with light. We want to make sure we are a good steward of the landscape, that we live well with it and reinforce the natural beauty of it.” The only rivals to the outdoor scenery are perhaps the small treasures from Aguilar’s and Girard’s travels that have been incorporated in the interior design. Colorful, antique tiles brought back from a castle in Spain are the pivotal design elements for the backsplash in the kitchen. Chandeliers from Leon, France hang in the principle room and an antique chandelier, which once hung in a church in Spain, creates an inspiring mood in the dining room. Carved wood from Morocco is lodged above the bar. “We’ve filled our home with artwork and furnishings we’ve 34

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Al Aguilar

selected. We are the interior designers. And we’re continually changing our home as we find new pieces of artwork to replace others,” says Aguilar. With so much time spent to detail on their home, the couple is only too happy to share the dream with others and, over the past twelve years, have frequently hosted fundraisers and special events there. With no children to leave the home to, the pair says they envision the home one day becoming a museum of sorts or possibly housing a foundation. However, for now, Aguilar and Girard, along with their four dogs, one bird, several cats and, of course, their koi fish, are happy to call Dos Suenos their home. “You know, we think about taking a trip and I look at resorts online and I think I want to go visit them. Then I realize we have all that right here. Why do I need to go anyplace else?” says Aguilar. Why indeed? v Michael G. Imber, Architects, PLLC, is a modern classical design firm based in San Antonio whose work reflects the varied landscapes, history and cultures of the Western US combined with modern execution from their diverse team. View their extensive portfolio at or call their office at 210.824.7703. Dawn F. Hearn, ASID 512.930.0250 Texas Registered Interior Designer #9501

• New Construction • Remodeling • Furnishings

• Accessories • Consultation • Space Planning


Winterize your home to avoid unnecessary damage


omes react to weather changes, too, and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry has tips that can help homeowners protect their homes this winter and prevent minor trouble spots from becoming major repairs. Exterior winter maintenance Clean your gutters. Blockages can result in ice damming or internal water problems causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls. Blockages can also damage exterior painted surfaces and cause ice patches on walkways underneath overhangs. Inspect your home for cracks in outside walls and foundations. Use caulking to protect water pipes and make sure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping. Repair faulty steps and handrails.

Kyle Jones, President, Austin NARI

Interior winter maintenance Repair pipes with leaks and cracks. Wrap exposed pipes with heating tape. Temperature inside walls is colder and may freeze so keep your thermostat at a Keith Moehle, minimum of 65 degrees. President, NARI San Antonio Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. The valve helps lessen pressure caused by freezing pipes and reduces the chance of pipes bursting. Make sure your attics are adequately insulated and wellventilated. Under-insulating results in escaped heat that melts ice on the roof which then refreezes. Residential fires increase in the winter so make sure your smoke and fire alarms are working properly, and service your heating systems annually. Keep the heat in • Test windows and doors for air leaks, and seal them with caulk or weather stripping. • Install storm windows or plastic sheeting over single-pane windows. • Clean or replace air filters, and clean out ducts to maximize the efficiency of the heating system. • Insulate ducts running through attics and garages. • Seal the fireplace by keeping dampers closed when the fireplace is not in use. Homeowners may consider repairing minor damages themselves, but many manufacturers will not honor warranties if amateur repairs have been attempted. For repairs that are beyond the homeowner’s skill level, a NARI contractor should be consulted. v


oy Braswell is accustomed to his clients bringing pictures torn from magazines, or hurried scribbles of what they would like their home to look like. “Sometimes people bring a sketch on the back of a napkin, or they say ‘We need this many rooms,’ or they tell you they need a five-car garage,” says the award-winning architect and owner of Braswell Architecture, Inc. “But my clients for a recently completed project in The Dominion were able to draw upon their love of art and travel as part of the collaboration process in creating their home design.”

Bringing Art and Design Home 38

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

By Jackie Benton Photography by Bibb Gault

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


The homeowner created much of the unique artwork featured throughout the home, including an Italian Grottesca-style painting installed in the ceiling over the dining area, and a mural of a villa overlooking Lake Como in the master bath.


ocated in the exclusive San Antonio neighborhood, Braswell’s architectural plans drew upon the homeowners’ travels to faraway places such as Monaco and Italy, as well as their Texas roots. With a home site poised high upon the side of a hill, Braswell was able to turn the home’s potentially difficult location into a design asset that accentuated the home’s exclusive qualities. “It kind of represents an eclectic style that you can’t classify as true Texas Tuscan,” says Braswell. “From the street, the home looks as though it is a one-story home, but it actually is three stories,” says Braswell. “We built into the hillside so that the house would fit the home site. Digging into the hill was not cheap to do, but it was the right way to do it. A lot of homes in that area don’t address the hill, but we wanted the home to fit the building site, and selected appropriate materials for this area, knowing that the clients did not want anything ultra-modern, but rather wanted something classical and traditional.” “The way Roy Braswell structured his design fit the lot very nicely,” agrees builder Roberto Kenigstein, president and owner of Image Homes LTD. “The house was a challenge, because we were building with a very complex floor plan, and we had two basements. We were dealing with drainage on the lot, and it is very important with a home site like this that it drains properly, especially with the two basements under the house. The water improvements we made had to ensure we did not have any problems. With hillsides, you have problems with rain, and we wanted to protect the house, terraces and balconies and we needed to make sure that it was waterproofed correctly. A lot of the challenge was to make sure it all worked correctly. “We developed all of that lot and the other lots on that particular hillside in The Dominion,” Kenigstein continues, “and this house is one-of-a-kind, you won’t find a house like this anywhere else in The Dominion, let alone in the world. It is something the homeowners and the architect worked on together. The outside of the house features a lot of stone, while on the inside the nice open windows and balconies make it quite the house.” Braswell says that the balconies and overhangs also serve a practical purpose. “The big overhangs protect walls and windows from the rain, and it provides shelter from the Texas sun.” The exquisitely framed balconies also serve as the perfect vantage point for the homeowners to watch the beautifully-colored sunset, or view dramatic clouds rolling in. Native grasses and plants carefully chosen by the homeowners and the landscape architect ensure that the home’s landscape is as environmentally practical as it is beautiful, accentuating the home, as well as the pool area and the nearby sport court.

In the kitchen area, matching cabinets compliment a soft yellow, enamel Viking stove with a custom copper hood vent and copper sink. The homeowner’s suggestion to include the double fireplace complete with exquisite tile and stone, and cream-colored travertine tile helps further the impression of a cozy Old World home.

Kenigstein says that in addition to the overall design decisions, the homeowners were very involved with the day-to-day building operations. “They were very personal and very nice people to work with. Everyone worked together very well, from the landscape architect to the architect to the builder to the homeowner. This is a very special house that can only be created when everybody is on the same page. When everyone has a different agenda, it is difficult to create a magical home like this.” The home’s layout reveals a U-shaped design around a luxurious pool. A staircase on one side leads down to the ground level and 42

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

two guest bedrooms, while the other side of the house on the lowest level features an exercise/gym room, with a side room that can be used as a spa for a masseuse to come and visit, as well as a bath and steam shower. The cross-shaped pool at the center of the lowest level overlooks spectacular views of the surrounding area, and geometric tile patterns found around the pool area were inspired by the homeowners’ trip to the south of France. The home, says Braswell, is reflective of the people who live there. “They do a lot of entertaining, so the bar and the wine cellar are perfectly suited for that. The beautiful kitchen is open to the

family room and is separated only by the two-sided fireplace. At the center of the home is a porch that goes to the main living area that overlooks the pool.” One of the homeowners is an artist by trade, so to her the entire house represented a canvas of astounding proportions. Having done design before, she thought of the home as a giant painting, and was able to incorporate favorite patterns and scenes from her travels throughout Europe into the structure of the home itself, and was able to utilize a technique learned in an Italian art school where a canvas painting is wallpapered on a board, and

then attached to the wall. She used this method to create much of the unique artwork featured throughout the home, including an Italian Grottesca-style painting installed in the ceiling over the dining area, and a mural of a villa overlooking Lake Como in the master bath. In addition to the painting, she also selected all the stone, tile and granite throughout the home and property. Fabulously scored loggias are a testament to a past trip to Monaco, while arched entryways blend well with Braswell’s signature usage of a dome-shaped ceiling in the circular living room area. The homeowner’s suggestion to include the double Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


fireplace, complete with exquisite copper medallion inlays and cream-colored limestone, helps further the impression of a cozy, Old World home. In the kitchen area, matching cabinets compliment a soft yellow, enamel Viking stove with a custom copper hood vent and copper sink. The vent and sink were selected and custom ordered by the artist herself, as are many of the unique light fixtures found throughout the home. Spare bedrooms were decorated with different themes, and furnished with heirlooms and antiques purchased over the years. The artist enjoys the challenge of retrofitting and repurposing pieces to fit a particular vision or need. “I love putting things together, and if it doesn’t look right, I make it right,” she says. “You can find something in a store that you like, but you might need to change it to your style. So you paint it, or change out a part of it so it fits, or whatever you need to do. The mosaic inlay on the landing before you come into house is an Italian tile from Italy called Amalfi, and you see a lot of it used in many different areas around the outside of the home. For instance, we turned a backsplash-type tile upright and placed it all around the cupola on the roof. There’s also a different style of Amalfi tile used around the base of the spa, and inset around the pool. It’s doing fun things like that. When you incorporate design and imagination, everything looks so magnificent.” That imagination came into play, literally, with the design of the children’s bedroom and playroom. “We call it the rainbow room,” the homeowner says. “I went

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Fabulously scored loggias and arched entryways are a testament to a past trip to Monaco and blend well with Braswell’s signature style. crazy in there, and painted every wall a different color. My husband had really bright, colorful paintings by an artist from Santa Fe, and I knew they would be perfect in the rainbow room. We hung different colored Chinese parasols upside down from the ceiling by fishing wire. In the bath, every drawer pull is a different style and color, the rugs and curtains are different colors, and we used colorful, glass mosaic tile on the walls and floors. It all looks like a rainbow and very twinkly! We just went crazy. That room makes me laugh, because when the grandkids visit, they immediately all run to the rainbow room. When you fill this house up with lots of people, it is so much fun.� v Since 1991, Roy Braswell, AIA, and his team have specialized in uniting modern techniques with more classical European architectural design theories, to create an authentic and discernible look across the Texas Hill Country and beyond. Call them at 210.829.7111, or visit the website at For more than 20 years, San Antonio builder and developer Roberto Kenigstein and his company, Image Homes, Ltd has built quality, custom homes in the San Antonio area. Call them at 210.699.1773, or visit their website at


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Luxury living

is in the eyes of the beholder. By Karen Matuszewski, By Design – Custom Home Consulting


n the dictionary, the word “luxury” is defined as “something adding to pleasure or comfort, but not absolutely necessary.” When we talk about “luxury living” as it pertains to building a custom home, the definition’s application is as varied as each custom home client. Building a custom home is a luxury in itself. Whether your budget is $500,000 or $5,000,000, every custom home should include “luxury” items. With each new project, I ask each person involved to make a “wish list” and prioritize their list from “must have’s” to “like to have” to “it would be nice, but not necessary.” With priorities set, we can begin the fun process of seeing how many items we can include. Remember, luxury does not always have to mean expensive. A luxury long dreamed of might be having a sitting area in your master suite or including electrical outlets in the exterior soffits to simplify hanging holiday lights! These are not necessarily expensive items; however, they must be kept in mind while working with the architect or designer. Talented architects and designers can create a more luxurious look by incorporating perfectly placed touches throughout a home. Utilizing the space under a stairway can transform a void into a wine cellar or cedar closet. Incorporating fabulous Italian glass tile in places where it will have the greatest visual impact allows for use of high end products without depleting the budget. Working with professionals who know their business, stay current with their industry and product lines, and know how to work within a project budget is extremely important. My first priority as a custom home consultant is to know the most qualified professionals in each of the areas of specialty and ensure that my clients are working with the best people for their project. v

I welcome your questions about the custom home process. Please send them to me at and you might find the next Custom Home Advice column written especially for you!

Claude Sims saw “a home nestled in the rugged hills and mesquite trees, where the terrain was usable because it was not too steep,” and where a sprawling villa could be tucked away for endless privacy and secluded beauty. In this spot, Sims built a masterpiece, and later, Catrina Hoelke adorned a home.

entrances off of this main courtyard. One leads to a motherin-law or nanny suite, another to a second master suite and the third is the main entrance to the home. From the gorgeous iron work to the carefully chosen stone to the doors reminiscent of Old World charm, the courtyard makes the statement that at this home, you have arrived. Once inside the main entrance, one notices the lovely travertine floors, the warm tones on the walls, and the beautiful décor all around. Catrina explains that in lieu of the grand piano she imagined for the room directly in front of the main entrance, she “opted to make the space a formal sitting room, with rich fabrics and wood pieces, centered around the arched window that perfectly captures the breathtaking pool and landscape beyond.” To the left of the main entrance, one finds spaces destined for entertaining. A perfectly round dining room, which Catrina furnished with a Philippe Langdon table and her own custom designed chairs, is adjoined by a wine room, separated only by ornately-scrolled iron doors. The Peruvian, wood-carved

A Hill Country

Fairy Tale By Sharla Bell Photography by S. Craig McCasland


s I pulled in through the winding drive, crossed the bridge that begs for a moat, and parked at the entrance to the grand courtyard, I felt as if I must be entering the realm of fairy tale. From the expansive, rolling grounds to the exquisite attention to detail, every facet of this home in the exclusive Boerne community, Estancia, invokes a feeling of grandeur, that what one sees only scratches the surface of what may be. It was this sense of splendor that drew Catrina Hoelke, of Catrina’s at the Ranch in Boerne and La Catrina near La Cantera, to the project. She explains that she too felt as if she were “arriving at a European villa — that grand entrance — not a lot of properties in Texas can give you the feeling that you have arrived at something special.” That impression of “something 52

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

special” about the home is the result of the distinct vision of builder Claude Sims of Claude Sims Builders LLC. Before nary a stone was moved or a foundation poured, Sims saw “a home nestled in the rugged hills and mesquite trees, where the terrain was usable because it was not too steep,” and where a sprawling villa could be tucked away for endless privacy and secluded beauty. In this spot, Sims built a masterpiece, and later, Catrina adorned a home. Part of Sims’ vision was a courtyard that “was something more than just a pretty space to look at.” So he included two sitting areas, one by a beautiful, lofty fireplace and the other surrounded by lovely flowers and vegetation, and both areas enjoy the restful sounds of the water feature trickling nearby. There are three

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Once inside the main entrance, one notices the lovely travertine floors, the warm tones on the walls, and the beautiful décor all around.

candlesticks Catrina found beautifully accent the space. Adjacent to the dining room is a large butler’s pantry with bonus features such as a warming drawer and a great bar area. In the kitchen, Sims’ love of cooking and appreciation for high-end appliances becomes evident. He “specializes in kitchens, and filled this one with two ovens, two dishwashers, a trash compactor, a microwave drawer, a steam oven, and a built-in espresso and coffee maker. It is the ultimate space for cooking and entertaining.” The large kitchen has plenty of space for guests to sit, relax and enjoy the company of their hosts. The kitchen is part of a larger great room, which includes the breakfast room and living room. With its panoramic view 54

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

of the estate, the breakfast table beckons to be enjoyed on an early morning, cup of coffee in hand. To accent the living room, “a comfortable room with an elegant edge,” Catrina chose her own custom-designed sofas, which give the room a sophisticated air. Large doors off of the living room open to the spacious patio area, inviting the outdoors in, and those indoors to wander outside to enjoy the views, the outdoor kitchen and the resort-style pool. The backyard was clearly designed with entertainment in mind. Sims believes that “the entertaining areas outdoors should be just as inviting and comfortable as those indoors,” so he added plenty of space for guests to mingle, enjoy a meal and a conversation.

To the left of the main entrance, one finds spaces destined for entertaining.

While the home has five generously-sized bedrooms in addition to the mother-in-law suite, it is the master suite that truly stands out. From the curving, triple-terraced ceiling to the picture windows that frame gorgeous views, the master bedroom is a retreat. To embellish the space, Catrina found a beautifully lavish four-poster bed and a rounded sofa that perfectly fits in the circular sitting area. And according to Catrina, “while the master bedroom is good, the master bath is fabulous.” With stunning mosaic glass tile accents, three shower heads, a large spa tub and bountiful counter space, this bathroom has everything, including a morning kitchen, so that homeowners do not have to leave their haven for a cup of coffee. But the showstopper of the suite, maybe

even the house if you are female, is the three-story closet, featuring a cedar closet tucked away on the third floor. With seemingly endless space for shoes, clothing and accessories, this super-sized closet may very well be every girl’s dream room. Another dreamy feature of this villa is all of the striking ceilings. Catrina says she immediately noticed that “every important area has a unique ceiling feature,” which is one of many reasons she “had to get her hands on this home.” Sims explains that each ceiling was a work in progress, often requiring several tries to get the ceiling to look like he saw it in his mind’s eye. From the large barrel dome in the dining room finished to look as if age is causing the stucco to reveal the brick underneath, to the three-tiered beam Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


and iron ceiling in the kitchen, each ceiling was painstakingly crafted, adding character and interest to each space. Upstairs one finds another gem in the layout and design of what Catrina calls “a teenage son’s paradise.” A large bedroom sits adjacent to a massive theater room, where one can imagine movies and video games entertaining for hours. Another well-kept secret is found in the library near the master suite downstairs. While the oversized window seat and rich dark wood shelving make a bold statement, a hidden room cleverly disguised behind double hung bookshelves quietly conceals a mystery. This 7,700 square foot home has much to offer, with its ample 56

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

space for entertaining as well as secluded areas for a restful respite. Sims, who has been building homes his whole life, built this villa believing that fairy tale dreams could take shape in real life. And Catrina decorated for the ball. v Resources Claude Sims Builders LLC 830.431.1544 Catrina’s at the Ranch 830.755.6355

OUTDOOR n Trends

Designing for Today and tomorrow By Jackie Benton Photography by Vernon Wentz


he secret to good home design, according to homebuilder Mike Greenwood, owner of Greenwood Custom Homes, is listening. You want to have good lines of communication, and listen to your homeowner’s needs. “It’s a process of compromise,” says Greenwood. “The best design is compromising in the best sense of the word, where you make decisions about what you want, what is important, what you are keeping, and what you are not. You want a design that will stand the test of time, and will be as good fifty years from now as it is today.” 58

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Greenwood is the homebuilder and driving force behind this home in Champions Ridge, with winner of Best Outdoor Entertainment Area and the People’s Choice Runner Up in the Greater San Antonio Builders Association’s 2011 Parade of Homes. Located in the prestigious Stone Oak gated neighborhood in North Central San Antonio, Champions Ridge homes range from $800,000 to more than $1 million, and is one of San Antonio’s most desired neighborhoods. Greenwood shares his design kudos with his wife, Tiffany. “What you see happening inside and outside the house is our

shared concept,” says Greenwood. “We wanted to create an oasis for the family that would live in this home. Together, we hit upon a European villa design with a tall, clay tile roof reminiscent of a Tuscan farmhouse.” Greenwood’s design stresses using locally sourced natural materials to not only build the home, but to landscape the outside areas as well, with native trees and shrubbery that can withstand the extremes of Texas weather. “Our goal is to create a home that will never go out of style. Whether it is contemporary style or more on the traditional side, you should not feel like you have to update your home’s

design in five to ten years. We want to use materials that will not become dated, and will last from generation to generation.” Although the home was designed around the concept of a casual Tuscan-style retreat, there is nothing casual or accidental about quality and sumptuous design and detailing of the home, with its heavy emphasis on both indoor and outdoor entertainment. The 5,900-square-foot home features five bedrooms and five full baths, as well as two half-baths. The hand-troweled walls and wood windows, tankless water heater, clay roof and air conditioning system with variable speeds lower energy use and add to the home’s overall energy efficiency. Greenwood’s design also includes thoughtful touches, such as the master bedroom featuring a huge walk-in closet and an exercise room, a library, formal dining room and masonry fireplaces. A gourmet kitchen and a state-of-the-art auxiliary kitchen assure any host and hostess of a perfect party, allowing guests to socialize around the main kitchen while the real work goes on behind the scenes. The spectacular, yet simple outdoor area features a beautiful pool, outdoor cooling system and outdoor kitchen that clinched Greenwood the Best Outdoor Entertainment Area in this year’s Parade of Homes. “The design ends up finding itself: you want to have a house Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


that flows and is usable. The common sense artistry of it is to make the house functional and artistic,” Greenwood continues. “We hear a lot of comments from people who say that our home designs are what they can see themselves living in. Some houses look great, but are not livable. Sometimes you can make a home too artistic. We always consider not only how the home will look, but how it will function for the family living there. Where are the baths located? Where is the kitchen? How do we get a breeze in the outdoor living area? Do we want natural light in certain areas? As we start playing with the puzzle of putting the house together, we make those design decisions and it naturally begins to find itself.” Greenwood took great care to ensure that comfort and practicality are beautifully blended to create the ultimate family retreat. With a northeast facing lot, Greenwood had to make some hard decisions about the home’s orientation to the sun, and how that would affect the home’s outdoor living area. The lot had a beautiful view of the west, but with a western orientation comes the afternoon heat during a sizzling Texas summer. 60

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Greenwood’s compromise was to orient the home to the west, using some of the western sun on the back side of the house, and created a porch area shaded by rafter tails that not only offer relief from the blazing sun, but also affords privacy. “Family lifestyles have been more hectic lately, so we are trying to create a home like a resort haven for the family so they can get away from the hustle and bustle of their lives and relax,” says Greenwood. To achieve this, Greenwood knew that he would need to create an outdoor space that feels more like an interior space. “What I found in the past is that when you don’t have outside spaces, you don’t have a place where you relax. If you are stuck in an outside space that doesn’t have comfortable colors and details you appreciate, just because it’s outside doesn’t mean you will be there,” emphasizes Greenwood. “I try to make the outside as nice as the interior. For example, we used cabinets made of real walnut wood in our outside area, which is a Grade 1 furniture graded wood. Because walnut is top-notch, it can take a beating from the elements and still look beautiful. Our outdoor kitchen area is a usable space that features plenty of counter space, a fridge and a deep sink, so that when you’re outside cooking and grilling, you feel cozy and comfortable, and you want to cook away and enjoy yourself.” Part of the decision to go with the Tuscan-style design had much to do with the natural beauty of the Central Texas region. “There are really only two regions in the U.S. where the Spanish and the Italian Tuscan styles seem to work, and that is Southern California and South Texas,” says Greenwood. “The Austin-San Antonio area, with our rocky hill terrain, looks like southern Spain or middle Italy.” Greenwood’s emphasis on sourcing local materials for home building projects not only look beautiful, but offer practical sun-taming solutions. “There are quite good clay resources from Mexico and South Texas for tiles and bricks, and it makes for a house that looks natural to the area,” says Greenwood. “Clay materials also work well within our environment. We have a lot of heat out here, and the clay ceramics don’t hold heat. Compare a clay tile roof to cement tile, or a clay patio to a cement one. Clay retains 50 percent less heat. If you walk on a clay patio during the hottest time of the year you can handle it, but if you are walking on hot concrete, you simply cannot stand on it. We use materials that can take a beating from the sun.” The only thing Greenwood enjoys more than designing a home on paper is watching that home design become reality. “My job is to create homes that serve the families that live in them,” says Greenwood, “and the good Lord found my calling for me. I love what I do.” v Greenwood Custom Homes is a family-based business, specializing in new home design and remodeling homes to create excellence in design for generations to come. Visit the Greenwood Custom Homes website at or call 210.723.7233.

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DESIGN n Trends

Keeping it Clean

Antique Turkish Oushak from the late 19th century. Courtesy of Basil Scaljon Rugs.

The Oriental

Mystique By Julie Catalano

This runner is North Western Persian made at the turn of the 19th century and is part of a group of weavings known as “camel hair” in the trade. Courtesy of Basil Scaljon Rugs.

ew objects can transform a space the way an Oriental rug can. With rich, vibrant colors, intricate designs, and a storied past that’s thousands of years in the making, these exotic rugs catch the eye and delight the senses in a myriad of mysterious ways. The vast array of Oriental rugs on the market – those from India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Russia, to name a few – is both exciting and enticing, but it can also be intimidating and overwhelming when shopping for that perfect rug. There are very few objects in our homes that are actually hand-made and that can present a problem in terms of what our expectations are for Oriental carpets. Suffice it to say that Oriental rugs are a singular combination of craft and aesthetic vision. Bijan Bonakchi, co-owner with his family, of Bijan Oriental Rugs in Austin, San Antonio and Louisiana, says that buyers often fall into two main categories, and he can separate them with one question: “Are you looking for something that’s going to be a family heirloom, or just something to cover the floor?” From there, he can guide a beginning buyer – or expert collector – to the right purchase. The foundation of a good rug, he says, depends on four elements: Design, color, quality of wool, and knots psi (per square inch). “If any of these four is missing then the rug is not popu-

lar.” Design, he admits, “is very personal. What’s beautiful to me might not be something that you like.” Basil Scaljon, owner of Basil Scaljon Rugs in San Antonio, says the process goes even deeper than that – right down to the essence of what the rug is. The question to ask is whether the rug is a good example of its particular type, not whether one rug is good while another rug is bad. A fine city rug is evaluated in a different manner than a coarse tribal rug. Both rug types project their own unique aesthetic and both types of weavings can either succeed or fail on how well they express their aesthetic. Unfortunately, stubborn misconceptions still persist in the world of Oriental rugs. Let’s put some of them to rest once and for all. They are only for the rich and famous. Of course these majestic masterpieces have always been found in the homes of royalty, heads of state and corporate moguls. Sigmund Freud was an avid collector. William Randolph Hearst had them everywhere in his palatial estate. But – in one of the few silver linings of the current recession (for buyers, anyway) – there’s never been a better time to enter that rarefied atmosphere. “Like everyone else, our business has been affected,” says Bonakchi. “There are unbelievable deals right now.” Happily, there are a range of prices to suit almost every budget. Scaljon says that rugs that



Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

have significance and actually enhance your household aesthetic can be purchased at surprisingly reasonable prices. “Bargains are out there for rugs that have real beauty and integrity.” You have to have the house for them. Well, it helps to have a house – or apartment, cottage, tent, cabana, or anything with a wall and/or floor. But the idea that only those in stately, dusty manors or traditional dwellings can pull off an Oriental rug is old hat. There is no wrong place for one. “People put them in their bathrooms,” says Bonakchi. “They’re wool. If you air them out they’ll be fine.” Scaljon adds that a newer branch of the market might appeal to people who still think their rug “won’t go” with their home. Contemporary Tibetan carpets, for example, are a combination of silk and wool, in up-to-the-minute shades of grays, lavenders and acid greens. “They’re made for a contemporary lifestyle,” says Scaljon, “with the best materials and the most innovative designs.” The colors have to “match” what’s in the room. “Ideally you start from the carpet and build up.” says Scaljon. “Just remember that the carpet is most likely the most important object in your room and likely will set the stage for the quality of the interior you want. In most cases it is easier, and on a fundamental level, appropriate to select a rug and then fabrics to go with it.” But if you want it to match, it most certainly can. “People bring us material from a piece of furniture,” say Bonakchi, “and we can make a rug exactly like it.” Rugs can be created from photographs, drawings or sketches, or sometimes just an idea that Bonakchi and his staff can then walk them through. For Scaljon, it all comes down to the “gestalt of the rug. What is the nature of the rug? On the surface that’s not that easy to get.” One way is to look for rugs “that project content and significance.” More importantly, he says, learn to drop your inner critic. “The fewer preconceptions, the more open you are, the better your purchase. When you drop that judgmental thing, you get into a relationship with a work of art. Then you get it.” v

If your beautiful new (or old) Oriental rug is on the floor, you might as well face facts: It will get walked on and it will get dirty. Throw in the ever-present possibility of red wine, pet accidents, blood, and other unspeakable substances, and it’s enough to make any rug owner a bit skittish. No need to be, says Basil Scaljon, owner of Basil Scaljon Rugs in San Antonio. “In 99 percent of cases, the building block of a rug is wool, a remarkable natural fiber that’s amazingly resilient.” That said, you shouldn’t assume that everybody washes rugs the same way (they don’t) or that your prized possession can’t end up a muddy mess (it can). Before cleaner touches the rugs, an expert inspection is imperative. “Some inks that are used in antique rugs to hide wear are going to run if put in a cleaning bath.” These aptly named “fugitive dyes” can permanently ruin a rug if not handled properly. So what else should owners look for in choosing a professional rug cleaner? The right soap. “The whole cleaning effort should be directed at preserving the lanolin content of the wool.” That means using an easily released soap, says Scaljon, especially in these parts. “In South Texas there’s a high lime content so the soaps need to be compatible with that.” Lots of water. Soap residue means drab colors. “Rugs should be washed in a total immersion process,” says Scaljon. “The colors are released, the lanolin is released. There’s something very endearing about a rug that’s clean.” Admittedly, immersion is more expensive, but “if the rug is meaningful to you, it should be cleaned properly.” Fresh air. “Once the rugs are dry, we take them outside. The whole idea of sun cleaning really introduces a whole other element of freshness to the rug.” What about dry cleaning? “Never. It will strip the fiber and rob it of its freshness and natural beauty.” Ditto for do-ityourself cleaning agents. “A huge mistake. The sulphates will discolor the wool. Mild soap, warm water, and lots of blotting are the right stopgap measures until you can get the rug professionally cleaned.”

Resources Basil Scaljon Rugs 210.734.3711 Bijan Oriental Rugs San Antonio: 210.641.7665 Austin: 512.407.6767

Photo by Jason Roberts. Courtesy of Bijan Oriental Rugs and Garner Homes. Urban Home Austin – San Antonio



new products

Holiday Gifts

1. Texans can outfit their homes to match the Vatican and Grimaldi family with Pampaloni silver, noted for its unique designs inspired by Italian artistry. Pampaloni decanters, with whimsical silver stoppers (cone, arrow, spoon, leaves), are available through Dahlgren Duck in the Dallas Design District. Dahlgren Duck. 972.478.5991,

7. Since 1990, The California Wine Club has introduced wine enthusiasts to award-winning, limited-production wines from small, artisan wineries. These handcrafted wines are made in such limited supply, they can’t be found in local stores. It’s a true wine adventure and a unique holiday gift for the person who “has everything.” California Wine Club. 800.777.4443,

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2. Crafted by Vagabond House from the highest quality pewter, glass and other fine natural materials, the Sea and Shore collection is as fresh as an ocean breeze. Inspired by a kraken, an extremely large octopus-like creature often written about in Norse mythology, your family and guests will be delighted when you entertain and serve with this collection. Hanley-Wood Fine Gifts. 210.822.3311, 3. Presented in Agraria’s signature Italian perfume bottle with glass stopper, each AirEssence includes a handmade, antiqued, mirrored tray which adds a special luxurious finishing touch and protects whatever surface upon which it is placed. As the AirEssence is absorbed by the reeds, the fragrance will permeate your environment and can be increased by the frequency of turning the reeds. Agraria. Available at Sloan/Hall. San Antonio: 210.828.7738, Houston: 713.942.0202,



9. Bring new energy to a classic way of shaving! Full of superior skin conditioners like wine, grapeseed oil, honey, aloe vera and French clay, it keeps your skin smooth and nourished. Each reusable mug contains about a year’s supply of smooth shaving. Handmade in the Napa Valley, it’s economical, earth-friendly and skin-friendly. Napa Soap Company. 10. SeeMore putters equip every golfer with a system for game improvement by hiding a red dot on the heel of the putter, called RifleScope Technology (RST). Besides having a putter that helps you set up the same way, SeeMore gives every customer the “tour” treatment by custom-building the putter in the United States for no additional charge. The winners of the 1999 U.S. Open and the 2007 Masters have utilized SeeMore putters to win at the highest level. SeeMore Putters. 800.985.8170,


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4. Discover the Herve Gambs ultimate olfactive experience for your home. Cofferet Prestige ~ A love Couture orchid with a mini spray of parfum for the home in the Bois de Cashmere fragrance. Beadboard Upcountry. 979.830.8788, 5. With its roots in the culinary and hospitality worlds, KRAVE is a small-batch producer of artisanal jerky, carefully treating by hand each variety of domestic meat. Ranging from sweet and tangy to savory and spicy, KRAVE’s innovative flavor profiles will appeal as much to everyday jerky lovers as to the discerning palates of today’s food-savvy, health-conscious gourmets. KRAVE Jerky. 6. The world’s most loved Champagne, Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial, receives its highest rating of 91 points from the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine. Described as exhibiting bright fruitiness, a seductive palate and elegant maturity, it shares the spotlight with Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial which is distinguished by its tropical fruitiness and richness on the palate yet crisp in finish. Whether your tastes lean toward dry or sweet, you will find a Moet & Chandon Champagne perfect for your holiday celebrations. Boerne Wine Company. 830.331.9424,

11. LIMIKIDS is a cool, indoor play gym for kids, encouraging more active play and less TV or video games. Now kids can have playground fun all year long in their home! The best part is, LIMIKIDS home gyms can fit just about anywhere - in a house or apartment, basement, bedroom - you name it. LIMIKIDS. 888.645.1337,

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Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

12. Discover the full suite of features that combine with awesome sound to make Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Air the best iPod docking station yet. Stream music from your iPod, iPhone or iPad without the need for wires. Bowers & Wilkins.



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8. Designed in partnership with mixologist Jim Meehan, this stylish bar roll-up features organizational compartments for transporting tools essential to the craft. Culinary enthusiasts can also use it to transport knives and other tools. Moore & Giles.

13. Ipad Cover in Lavender Ostrich with Tangerine Interior by designer Alexandra Knight whose designs are favorites of red carpet regulars Sandra Bullock, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Hillary Swank. Alexandra Knight Studio. 713.527.8848,


Courtesy of Alexandra Knight

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


decorating n Trends

Transforming Tablescapes By Mauri Elbel

Diverging from the traditional centerpiece is another way to transform a tablescape. Rather than creating a large centerpiece in the middle of your tablescape, Medrano suggests switching the focus to the chandelier looming overhead.


Photography by Jason Roberts. Courtesy of The Home Accessory Company

hink of your dining table as a blank canvas to create a tablescape that will transform an ordinary holiday dinner party into an unforgettable mealtime masterpiece. “There is no limit to what you can do or what you can bring out through a tablescape,” says Coby Neal, co-owner of The Flower Studio in Austin. “The holidays are a wonderful time to bring out all of the family’s collectibles over the years and put them into a tablescape. To me, that is what makes it memorable.” Neal, the floral visionary who has been wowing his clients with artful designs crafted within the cozy walls of his downtown bungalow-turned-studio for the past 15 years, executes unique and meaningful tablescapes by mixing collectibles with fresh flowers and glowing candlelight. He has adorned a client’s personal antique doll collection into a beautiful tablescape by adding touches of glimmering ribbon and small vases of flowers; displayed a set of old wooden bowls filled with pinto beans and ecru pillar candles, and transformed a client’s extensive reindeer collection into a breathtaking winter tablescape festooned with white dendrobium orchids, flickering votives and reflective mirrors. “Take your Nativity scene out from under the Christmas tree and put it on your table mixed with pinecones, beautiful ribbons and small vases of rich, red flowers for the holidays,” Neal says. “Think of creating your tablescape in different ways and changing things around – give it an element of surprise.” Sarah Miller says to think grays, plums and oranges, complete with a statement piece and a little bling this holiday season. No, the Austin-based designer is not talking about winter runway trends; she is referring to tablescapes. “The same rules that apply to fashion apply to event décor,” says Miller, a partner at Caplan Miller Events in Austin. Miller dresses up her tables with one fabulous statement piece, such as a blue cut crystal champagne flute, and makes it pop by pairing it with a simple plate, plain water goblet and polished silverware. “Just like you would choose either a statement bracelet or a statement earring, you select one standout piece and make

the rest simple,” she says. “Otherwise your guests can become overwhelmed and your statement piece gets lost.” It is this “less is more” design strategy that helps Caplan Miller transform an ordinary dining table into a work of art. Rather than cluttering a table with a variety of different eyecatching items, Miller suggests keeping the layout clean and simple and paying attention to key details such as color. This season’s hot runway hues are setting the tone for trendy tablescapes this holiday, and Miller says you don’t have to be a professional to follow suit with the fashion. “I always tell my clients who are doing it on their own to go mono-botanical,” says Miller. “It’s clean, modern and so easy to do. One big container of a single flower makes a big statement.” Displaying a single color can be executed beautifully with fresh flowers such as red amaryllis, but Miller says mixing in fruit is also a chic trend that can go over fabulously for holiday entertaining. Simply fill a compote dish with red Bartlett pears, artichokes, blood oranges, pomegranates or plums, she says. An additional perk: fruit has better longevity than flowers and requires less upkeep. To create a stellar tablescape, Miller says you need to start with the basics and make sure you’re building a connection between the various elements. “The components in your tablescape need to speak to each other,” Miller says. “You can mix in two crazy patterns as long as there is some connection. Everything needs cohesion.” Linens often serve as Miller’s jumping-off point when designing a tablescape, and she leans toward outdoor fabrics which are just as beautiful as indoor varietals with the added bonus of being stain-resistant. When it comes to napkins, Miller says a linen hem-stitched napkin is your best bet – while silk, taffeta and polyesters may look pretty, they don’t do the job intended for a napkin. In the same way an outfit calls for the perfect accessories, Miller says jewelry is a crucial component to consider when dressing your table. While every table needs a little jewelry, she Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Photo by Karlisch. Photography from “Tablescapes: Setting the Table with Style” by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. Reprinted with permission by Gibbs Smith.

says a holiday table can have a few extra items that sparkle. The more, the merrier when it comes to candlelight as long as scented varietals which can throw off the palette are avoided. Mirrors are another way to bedazzle a tablescape – mix in mirrored charger plates, a reflective tabletop or hang mirrors around the dining room for a shimmering effect. “A mirrored menu card is reflective, it’s festive, it’s elegant and it’s timeless,” Miller says. “And the ladies can check their lipstick after dinner so it’s very functional, too.” But above all else, the design experts recommend keeping guests surprised by integrating the unexpected into your tablescape – Neal says potted orchids provide a beautiful, longer lasting alternative to traditional poinsettias and Miller says trendy holiday colors present a refreshing retreat from overused reds and greens. “I always like mixing in the unexpected when possible,” says Miller. “It is more memorable and will serve as a conversation piece for your guests.” A master of creating fun and innovative tablescapes, designer Aguie Medrano of The Home Accessory Company in San Antonio advises his customers to think about the formality of the occasion before creating a tablescape. “Of course at a formal dinner, you would use dressy dishes, but nowadays a big trend is the informal,” Medrano says. “It’s about enjoying dinner with your friends and having a good time.” Tablescapes present the perfect opportunity to mix the old with the new – pair family heirloom silver with ultra-modern glassware or set collectible china passed down from your grandmother alongside colorful, contemporary dishware. Diverging from the traditional centerpiece 68

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

is another way to transform a tablescape. Rather than creating a large centerpiece in the middle of your tablescape, Medrano suggests switching the focus to the chandelier looming overhead. “If you are going to have a sit down dinner, don’t do something big in the middle because it will block the flow of conversation,” Medrano says. “You can do something really extravagant in the chandelier and it will make a big statement. This is a great alternative to a centerpiece that allows you to place food in the center of the table and talk to your guests.” Adding pinecones, ornaments, berries and greenery to your chandelier provides a seasonal touch to holiday dinners while dangling small glass vases filled with flowers is ideal year-round décor. Medrano also suggests integrating a special keepsake in your tablescape. “Something I always recommend when having a dinner party with friends is giving a small candle, a decorative bag filled with candy or a little gift guests can take home,” he says. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money but it is something that is sentimental and commemorative of the evening.” v

Drop by for some

Light conversation.

Resources Caplan Miller Events 512.610.7700 The Flower Studio 512.236.0916 The Home Accessory Company 210.479.6000

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Must present at time of purchase. One coupon per customer. Offer not valid on previous purchases or house accounts. Expires 1/30/12. Excludes fans, recess lighting, net items and ump pricing. Photo by Scott Womack. Photography from “Tablescapes: Setting the Table with Style” by Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. Reprinted with permission by Gibbs Smith.

Lighting Inc.

Established 1959

AUSTIN • 10401 Burnet Rd. • (512) 491-6444

SAN ANTONIO • 7243 Blanco Rd. • (210) 541-8500

Photo by Jerry Hayes courtesy of Caplan Miller Events

How to

Set a Table


By Mauri Elbel

ocktail forks and dessert spoons. Butter plates and spreaders. Water goblets and champagne flutes. Setting a table can be daunting, but when done beautifully, can provide the quintessential backdrop for a beautiful meal. Thankfully, today’s holiday entertaining doesn’t require consulting Emily Post’s latest edition for every little detail. Instead, following a few simple, well-proven tips will help you create an enjoyable dining experience for your guests no matter the occasion. Kelli Brinkkoeter of Feather Your Nest, says impromptu entertaining is much less stressful when you have a set of formal and informal table linens on hand. A nice tablecloth in a basic shade of white or ivory can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. “Keep your table simple and easy but add visual interest by layering sizes and shapes, and alternating colors or mixing solids and patterns,” she says. When setting your table, don’t be afraid to mix formal and informal pieces together. “Cloth napkins are always nice and can be purchased fairly inexpensively almost anywhere, but festive paper napkins are also acceptable for larger parties or casual get-togethers,” Brinkkoeter says. “I like to mix my china with my newer everyday pieces and I definitely pull out my china for informal as well as formal occasions. I don’t think anything should be too precious to enjoy anytime you want.” Another dish- and time-saving technique for those not-tooposh dinners: double up on glassware. “When serving both red and white wines I will sometimes forgo having the appropriate wine glass for each and use small juice glasses that will work for red or white wine,” says Brinkkoeter. Unless you are serving a buffet-style meal, any sit-down dinner is appropriate for using a five-piece place setting, according 70

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Photo by Jerry Hayes courtesy of Caplan Miller Events

to Annabell Ames, owner of Hanley-Wood Fine Gifts in Alamo Heights. Set the table from the outside-in, with the silverware corresponding to the sequence of the food being served. And don’t forget the salt and pepper, which Ames says are the only necessary condiments to include on every table. Dodge the potential awkward factor as guests meander to the table by setting out place cards. “It is a good idea to be able to seat people together who you think would enjoy each other,” Ames says. And last but not least, Brinkkoeter says not to become too overwhelmed by proper etiquette or having everything perfect. “Let your personality shine through,” she says. “People always appreciate anything that comes from the heart.” v Resources Feather Your Nest 512.206.3555 Hanley-Wood Fine Gifts 210.822.3311

Photo by Jenn Lindberg courtesy of Caplan Miller Events

Photo by SMS Photography courtesy of Caplan Miller Events

courtesy of The Flower Studio

Top Tips for

your Tabletop


By Mauri Elbel

hether bedazzled with rhinestones, clustered with votives or nestled within the confines of an heirloom vase, a centerpiece foreshadows the evening ahead. “A gorgeous centerpiece for your table can create any look you want,” says Stephanie Roll, Alamo Plants and Petals’ manager in San Antonio. “Flowers designed right can effectively express and capture feelings and meanings for a client.” We’ve gathered 10 tips from two top designers sure to help you wow your guests this holiday – or any time of the year. 1. Pick a theme. “Whether it be vintage or eclectic, holidays or modern, pick a theme,” says Coby Neal, co-owner of The Flower Studio in downtown Austin. “This theme becomes the conversation, adding an extra element to the party.” 2. Attach a color to your theme, but no more than three. “When you get too many colors going, it gets too busy,” says Neal. “The power of a single type of flower and its color and texture is a great way to make a powerful statement.” 3. Call in a professional. Working with flowers for nearly a half century, Neal has acquired the knowledge, know-how and passion to properly present theme and color in a centerpiece. “You have to be an experienced florist to know how flowers work together with design and texture in order to execute beautiful, professional looks,” he says. Roll, who has been transforming extravagant ideas into fabulous floral designs for 15 years, agrees. “From a single centerpiece dinner party to a 500-guest event, as long as you hire people you trust and know, your event will be executed flawlessly.” 4. Surprise your guests. Neal says centerpieces should contain elements of surprise – a strategy he often executes by using a variety of different centerpieces that all play out one solid theme. “It’s easy to follow suit with your traditional cocktail and dinner party, but when you throw surprise elements in, it stimulates conversation, excitement, and makes it memorable. It is going to be a party no one is ever going to forget.” 72

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

5. Mix it up. Instead of putting the same centerpiece on every table, create intrigue by varying the heights and widths. “A great way to create movement in a larger space is to stagger low and tall centerpieces throughout the room,” Roll says. “This forces the eye to keep moving, giving a sense of aesthetic fulfillment because you discover something new with each glance.” 6. Choose lasting centerpieces. “Make sure flowers last Photo by Jason Roberts courtesy of 8 to 10 days,” says Neal. He says Alamo Plants & Petals orchids, lilies, amaryllis, peonies and potted tulips make great floral statements that will remain fresh from Christmas to New Years, and the holidays are a perfect time to incorporate fresh fruits and spices for a welcoming, abundant feel. Roll suggests thinking about when you want your centerpiece to be at its peak. She typically designs centerpieces with full-bloom flowers at their prime on the day of the event but if they need to look gorgeous for several days, she works with closed to medium bloomed stems. 7. Water daily. “You must remember to water your flowers – a vase full of flowers will drink the entire vase overnight,” Neal says. Roll suggests changing the water daily, designing centerpieces in fresh water over floral foam and trimming stems short to maximize longevity. 8. Don’t block the conversation. “At an intimate dinner party, the centerpiece should be a very important part of dining but never block the conversation between guests,” says Neal. While you may want to tone down the size of your arrangement for smaller parties, Roll says you don’t have to hold back from making your centerpieces knocked out and gorgeous at a big event. 9. Proper placement. Roll’s rule of thumb? Keep a centerpiece within the measurements of the length between your elbow and the top of your middle finger by placing your elbow on your dinner table and keeping your centerpiece below the tips of your fingers. “This is a perfect formula to create a balance between your low place settings and linens with that pop of floral at just the right height,” she says. 10. Fabulous favorites. Whether it be a favorite flower or a shimmering touch, create a fabulous centerpiece by working with what you love. “Votive candles always provide a wonderful ambiance for entertaining – you can’t have too many votives,” Neal says. Roll holds bold, striking hydrangeas in the highest regard and loves designing centerpieces inside clients’ collectibles. “You can always accomplish a more personal feeling and look of the arrangement when it is designed in a family heirloom container.” v Resources The Flower Studio 512.236.0916 Alamo Plants and Petals 210.828.2628

entertaining n Trends

Amuse bouche: One Tiny Bite of Greatness


f you have dined at an upscale restaurant recently, chances are that you have enjoyed an amuse bouche. This French term, literally translated to “mouth amuser,” is applied to a single bite-sized hors d’œuvre that is not listed nor ordered from a menu. It is a gift from the chef, which magically appears in front of each diner as a precursor to the meal, offering a preview of what’s to come. The ideal amuse bouche will reflect the chef ’s style of cooking or cuisine, encapsulating the kitchen’s philosophy in just one bite. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of sampling a wide variety of these taste bud teasers, from elegant and velvety lobster bisque at Austin’s much-lamented Aquarelle, to a modern take on a classic of Texas home cooking: pimento cheese at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. A favorite of mine, described in my 2003 review of Uchi as “an amuse bouche for the soul,” was a tiny shot glass filled with sweetened green tea, served over crushed ice with a big, plump blueberry floating on top. This simple, clean and fresh welcome gift was the perfect reflection of Executive Chef Tyson Cole’s kitchen philosophy. “Amuse bouche should be petite and light,” says Cole, who admits to being very picky when it comes to amuse. “It’s the first thing that people will try at your restaurant. It should be a perfect bite.” Cole shies away from using ingredients like short rib or foie gras that would create a heavy amuse bouche. “It should not be a complex composed dish, either. I prefer just two or three ingredients that make the perfect combination of flavor, texture and temperature.” 74

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio










Left: Francesca’s at Sunset Right: Citrus

By Claudia Alarcon

Amongst his favorite amuse are unique sorbets that combine sweet and savory flavors, like the whimsical “uni-corn,” which his team created for their appearance at the James Beard Award ceremony: sweet corn sorbet topped with house made bottarga of dehydrated sea urchin roe, known in Japanese cuisine as Uni. Like Cole, most chefs serve amuse bouche as the calling card for their cuisines. “The guest usually gets what Francesca’s at Sunset is all about from that one bite,” says Ernie Estrada, Chef de Cuisine of the fine dining restaurant at the Westin La Cantera resort. “My intent for amuse bouche is to prepare the diner for what’s to come,” he says. Estrada enjoys using fresh seasonal ingredients from nearby farms and ranches, “and on occasion even little delights I find here on the property,” he adds. “One of my favorites to prepare is queso fresco wrapped with roasted chile poblano, topped with pickled onion and Minus 8 vinegar. You have sweet, sour, savory and spice. The flavor is divine and helps you look forward to what’s next.” Like tiny pieces of art, amuse bouche offer creative chefs a chance to break all preconceptions of how to start a meal. “Amuse bouche make people feel special,” says Josh Watkins, Executive Chef of The Carillon restaurant at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin, who is known for sending out seasonal, individualized amuse bouche for each guest at each table. “That way people interact, asking each other ‘What did you get?’,” he says. Watkins

1. The Carillon’s branzino with Spanish chorizo, charred tomato and corn

6. Uchi’s golden beet, Skyr yogurt, arugula and marigold

2. The Carillon’s beef and brussels

7. Citrus’ crisp duck breast with pecan liqueur-spiked sweet potato and fried garlic root

3. Francesca’s cucumber, cherry tomato, Monterey jack cheese lamination, Minus 8 vinegar and pickled onion 4. Uchi’s tomato, crème fraiche, nasturtium and basil 5. Uchi’s corn sorbet, uni bottarga, crispy kale and fresh uni

8. Citrus’ scallop with urchin sauce and roasted heirloom potato 9. Citrus’ gently poached Gulf shrimp, horseradish panna cotta and sweet tomato syrup


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


and his staff serve two categories of amuse: things that they believe guests will relate to, and things that may be completely new to them, something they’ve never had before. “People are most receptive to trying new things when they are free of charge,” he says. “This way, amuse becomes a testing ground that allows us to play around with new techniques, flavors and menu items.” Jeff Balfour, Executive Chef from Citrus at the Hotel Valencia in downtown San Antonio, fully agrees. “Amuse bouche is one of my favorite aspects of the meal,” he says. “We purchase items daily for our amuse, usually a new or lesser known ingredient that a farmer or purveyor has that we can play with and create one interesting bite,” he states, “This really lets the creativity flow. Often times, really excellent amuse have gone on to become main dishes on the menu.” Unlike other area restaurants, Citrus serves amuse bouche after the guest has ordered from the menu rather than before, so that it flows more smoothly into the rest of the courses. Balfour, who excels in the preparation of fish and seafood, often uses ingredients like squid and shellfish in his amuse bouche. “Cheeses, game, and even egg dishes make great amuse, too. We typically use an item that is quick cooking and can be plated quickly and elegantly,” he adds. “A nice, elegant amuse should be a bite that represents your menu well.”

Amuse Bouche at home

Impress your guests by welcoming them at the dinner table with a beautifully presented amuse bouche. You can make something simple and tasty using seasonal flavors and your own special touches. Here are some tips to get you started: • Don’t get complicated; get creative. Think of a favorite dish and come up with a miniature version. Use imaginative serving vessels. • Think of flavors that are compatible and combine them as main ingredients and garnish. Contrasting textures and flavors add interest: add something crunchy atop something smooth, or combine sweet with spicy hot flavors. Look to seasonal ingredients for inspiration. • Garnish with a pinch of fresh cracked pepper, a fancy finishing salt, tiny herb leaves or herb flowers, or grated citrus rind. • Hot or chilled smooth soups served in shot glasses, or tiny scoops of savory mousse or sorbet on a beautiful spoon, are popular and simple. • Want to get fancy? Amuse bouche allow you the luxury of serving expensive, unique items since the quantities will be very small. v

Resources Citrus Restaurant & Vbar, Hotel Valencia 210.230.8412 Francesca’s at Sunset, Westin La Cantera 210.558.6500 The Carillon 512.404.3655 Uchi 512.916.4808 76

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


Fromage Courtesy of Ernie Estrada, Chef de Cuisine, Francesca’s at Sunset, Westin La Cantera You may use any leftover cheese you wish, such as Cheddar, Parma, Manchego, Queso Fresco, etc. Make sure you use a combination that is not too salty.

Residential Repair, Renovation, and Remodeling

Ingredients 1 pound leftover cheese at room temperature ¾ cup dry white wine 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened 2 tbsp chopped chives, thyme, basil 1 small garlic clove, minced 1 tbsp lemon juice

Our projects are designed, estimated, and built in close collaboration with our clients. Working with a company that you know you can trust is important, especially when

Directions: Remove any rinds from hard cheeses. Grate the hard cheese and cut the others into ½ inch cubes. Place cheeses, wine, butter, herbs and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, approximately two minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for at least one hour for a firmer consistency. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

it comes to your home. At Case our focus is on quality, effective communication, and professionalism.

Lobster Rillette with Curry Aioli and American Caviar Courtesy of Josh Watkins, Executive Chef, The Carillon

Call to schedule a consultation. 512.300.2273 This business is independently owned and is operated under a license agreement with Case® Handyman & Remodeling Services, LLC


Ingredients ½ lb cooked lobster meat 1 tbsp mascarpone cheese 1 tbsp shallot, diced 1 tsp parsley, chopped 3 tsp lemon juice 4 large egg yolks 1 cup canola oil 1 tbsp curry powder 1 clove garlic 2 tbsp cold water


For the Lobster Rillette: In a mixing bowl combine lobster, cheese, shallot, parsley and 2 tsp lemon juice. Season with salt to taste and place in refrigerator to let chill. For the Curry Aioli: In a small sauce pan combine curry powder and canola oil. Let simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes taking care not to fry the curry. Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer. Place in refrigerator until cold. Place garlic and egg yolks in a blender and puree until smooth. While blending at medium power, slowly add cold curry oil until emulsion thickens. Blend in cold water if mixture is too thick. Season with 1 tsp lemon juice and salt to taste. Method: Remove lobster meat from fridge and mold onto a plate. Garnish with curry aioli and caviar. Serves four.


Design Ecology - A landscape architecture design build firm specializing in residential estate master planning, pool design and the highest level of detail during the construction process. We offer services ranging from design through construction of all elements within the outdoor built environment. 1706 South Lamar Blvd, Suite B, Austin, Texas 78704 512.914.0388 | |

Plants for the

Southwest look.



Landscape Designs and Consultations •

fabulous finds destination

Central Texas


By Julie Catalano


Lakeway Resort and Spa

he only thing better than a spa is a spa that might not be on your radar. In the quest for perfect

pampering, if you want to get away to a place just slightly off the beaten track – or at least your beaten track – try one of the following truly fabulous finds. Along with the usual basic menu of mani/pedis, massages, facials, scrubs, wraps and salon services, each has a signature touch that makes it special. But they all have two things in common: 1) they are outside the big city hustle and bustle, some getting extremely up close and personal with nature, and 2) even those with lodging are open to the public as a day spa. Visitors welcome! So this year, instead of yet another dust-collector or hand-knitted tie, gift a spa trip to yourself or others and start the new year in pure, relaxing, Texas-sized bliss.

Escondida Resort and Spa

23670 State Highway 16 N, Medina, Texas 78055 888.589.7507 With a name that means “hidden place” you can expect seclusion among nature, and that’s what you’ll find at Escondida, about 16 miles south of Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country. Co-owned by Christy Carnes and Bob Phillips (of Texas Country Reporter fame), this small gem of a resort features a spa that “was designed from the ground up,” says Carnes, who insisted on comforting, non-clinical treatment Escondida Resort and Spa


Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

rooms. The extensive menu of services includes collagen infused manicures, sports and therapeutic massages, stone treatments, skin care, and a full line of Pevonia products. “Our facials are out of this world,” says Carnes, who recommends the Pevonia Caviar facial for the ultimate indulgence. Another favorite is the Eastern-influenced Ayurvedic Dosha Balancing massage, a 60-minute full body massage followed by a 30-minute Shiradhora scalp treatment. “We drip warm oil on the third eye on the forehead,” Carnes says of the almost trancelike experience. She recommends adding a half-hour body scrub to any massage. “That’s probably the most blissful thing you can do, to have your entire body exfoliated with sea salt.” Need more relaxing images? Look out for roaming deer, mouflon sheep, and the random herd of pigs on the pastoral, picturesque property.

San Saba Spa

Lakeway Resort and Spa 101 Lakeway Drive, Austin, Texas 78734 800.525.3929 Fresh from a six-year stint at the iconic Houstonian, Tania McCorkle is thoroughly enjoying her surroundings as director of the San Saba Spa at Lakeway Resort, perched high on the hillside overlooking Lake Travis. Lakeway Resort and Spa “Obviously the setting makes us unique. Everybody who comes here just loves the view.” The family-friendly resort, newly-managed by Redstone Properties, is 18 miles northwest of downtown Austin and features 168 deluxe guest rooms and suites, luxury

condos, three pools and nearby championship golf – which could explain the increase in men seeking massages, pedicures, signature facials and a new ‘do. McCorkle credits a manlier men’s lounge – complete with snacks and a flat-screen often turned to ESPN – for the testosterone surge. Holiday note: Men can score big points by booking romantic and candlelight retreat packages to share with their better halves. McCorkle and her 20-member team are adding new product lines, a fresh spa menu – complete with on-site herb garden – and other surprises for the new year. But one thing that won’t change, says McCorkle, is that lovely view of soul-soothing waters and spectacular sunsets: “Here you are totally relaxed. We have that away-from-everything feel.”

European Day Spa

Trois Estate 318 Trois Lane, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 830.997.5267 European Day Spa


Westin La Cantera Castle Rock Spa

Luxury living,

Austin Style

mainly to the quality of the 23-member staff and practitioners dedicated to tender loving care. “What sets us apart is that we have a very high bar here,” says spa director Gloria Rodriguez. “It’s critical to hire people with characteristics of personal accountability, compassion and respect.” Not to mention being just plain first-rate at what they do. Their blissful 100-minute TLC Signature Rosemary Mint Body Wrap and Massage is a complete Aveda treatment right down to the herbal tea poultice, as is the TLC Signature Radiance Facial that leaves skin polished and glowing. The sprawling, luxurious, yet down-home resort sits on one of the highest points in the city while being only 14 miles from downtown, making it the perfect Alamo City getaway for those in search of calm and comfort. “The essence of TLC is what we live by, what we practice, and what we manifest in our spa,” says Bonnie Blair, director of operations. Adds Rodriguez, “You’re trusting that when you come in you’re going to walk away feeling better.” Oh, better than better – heavenly.

By Judith Bundschuh, Chairman, Austin Board of REALTORS®


hen you think of Austin, many things come to mind including live music, innovation, eco-friendly and a “weird” culture. One item, however, that probably does not spring up is luxury living. But guess what? Austin offers many spectacular luxury home options — perhaps more than you’d think — such as the following. Lakefront Property – Austin is listed as one of the four most popular areas in the country for lakefront living. Situated along Lake Travis and Lake Austin, these luxury properties offer pristine scenery, privacy from city life and water recreation. Suburban Homes – While they may be short on acreage, these properties make up with their convenience to the city, strong sense of community and pedestrian- and child-friendliness, often within gated communities. Sky-high Urban Condos – Hip-home seekers who long for convenience, cuisine and culture are drawn to neighborhoods in Austin’s downtown area. Where these properties lack in space, they compensate with outstanding views and lavish amenities. Golf Community – Living in a golf community is more than having a golf course at your back door; it’s also about the social clubs and events. Many of these properties include memberships to country clubs with dining, spas and recreational facilities, such as tennis courts and pools. Wine Country Estates – Boasting hundreds of acres of lush greenery, luxury homes in the Texas Hill Country offer extraordinary views of rolling hills and fertile land for growing grapes. In addition, the open space provides ample room for horseback riding and other outdoor activities. Austin offers a wealth of luxury property options for a wide range of lifestyles, and demand is increasing. In fact, 31 percent more luxury homes were sold year-to-date in Austin than in 2010. If you’re in the market for a high-end home, it’s important to note that searching, evaluating and financing for an affluent property can be very different than other home purchases. If a REALTOR® guides you through the process, you are sure to comfortably land in the lap of luxury. v

Spa Terre

It makes perfect sense that one of the most magical places in Texas would have a special spa. “We emphasize that the spa is not just about our little place, but a whole experience of the Trois Estate,” says spa owner Carissa Ballard. That’s “whole” as in wholistic – the running theme in Ballard’s approach to the synergistic treatments that she and her staff bring to guests. “I take a little bit from various teachers and mold it to our unique style.” Sixteen miles north of Fredericksburg and across from Enchanted Rock, the spa is about as cozy as it gets. “We have a small building that’s very private. There aren’t multiple rooms where people are walking around. It’s all for you.” The Couples Enchantment Package – body and scalp massage, facial, and hand and foot treatments for two – can be upgraded with a wine prelude at the on-site fine dining restaurant. An underground grotto and locallysourced products keep everything natural. “Enchanted Rock is a very healing place,” says Ballard. “We moved from town to be in a setting like none other, which allowed nature to nurture.” Enchanting, indeed.

La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa 600 La Torretta Boulevard, Montgomery, Texas 77356 936.448.3023 Luxury, luxury, luxury. You can’t say it often enough about SpaTerre. Texas-sized at 17,000-square-feet – with a 10,000-square-foot fitness center to boot – this state-of-the-art facility has something for every body. The consultants were from Las Vegas, says spa supervisor Kegan Wilson, to give it that ecochic touch. “There are no other resorts on Lake Conroe, so they wanted it to really feel like a resort spa.” Supersized relaxation lounges, 20 beautiful treatment rooms, and a full range of services from traditional to cutting edge keep clients coming back. The steamy Hamam opens pores pre-treatment, and the locker rooms’ Signature Shower Experience pumps 12 gallons of water every minute in a massaging rain dance. To detox and soothe tired, crampy muscles, Wilson recommends the Flotation Journey – 800 pounds of Epsom salts in 170 gallons of heated water. Exotic Global Rituals include Passage to India (two Ayurvedic therapies), Essence of Thailand (body massage, scrub, and a royal foot massage), and Wilson’s favorite – the Fijian Ritual – features a pure coconut milk bath, cleansing sugar scrub, and body massage. Take the islands home with you from the spa’s Pure Fiji product line. v Spa terre

Castle Rock Spa

Westin La Cantera 16641 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, Texas 78256 210.558.2252 The feel-good vibe that permeates the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio extends to the Castle Rock Spa – thanks 80

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio

Urban Home Austin – San Antonio


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Call Today for FREE Home Assessment 2004 Howard Lane, Austin, Texas 78728 512.251.2247 • 800.288.5582 • 512.251.3315 Fax

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