The 1930s Atlee B. Ayres House in Terrell Hills was saved from dismantling thanks to the prominent San Antonio architect’s restoration renovation

An Austin homebuilder had only one suggestion when his friend Al Silva considered buying a 1930s Atlee B. Ayres home in Terrell Hills several years ago: tear it down and start over.

The house had not been renovated for decades. Besides the linoleum floors and the small pink kitchen, there were still single-glazed windows and drafty doors.

Worse, he relied on window air conditioners — painted avocado green, no less — to cool things down. Renovating it, warns the friend, would be very expensive.

None of this deterred Silva.

“I love its architecture, the way it flows,” said Silva, a retired food retail executive who lived across the street from the house for years. “It was just one of those feelings you get when you walk in.”

Also, it was an Atlee B. Ayres home. One of the most influential architects to ever work in San Antonio, Ayres was involved in more than 500 projects during his 70-year career. These included the Atkinson-McNay House (now home to the McNay Museum of Art), the Freeman Coliseum, and the Smith-Young Tower (now the Tower Life Building) downtown.

Standing atop a ridge off Canterbury Hill, the house is a beautiful blend of classic Spanish/Mexican architecture with a white stucco exterior, red clay tiled roof, arched windows and a Juliette balcony on a second story window.

Rather than raze the house, Silva tapped Lori Urbano, owner of San Antonio-based Urbano Design and Build, whose portfolio includes the former fire station that’s now the Battalion restaurant on South Alamo Street and Rebelle in the downtown St. Anthony Hotel.

The interior courtyard continues the home’s Mexican influence, with a herringbone red-brick patio, two dining tables, a sitting area with an outdoor fireplace, and a hot tub.

Urban design and construction

Together, Silva and Urbano set out to restore the four-bedroom, 3½-bathroom home to its former glory and beyond. The aim was to preserve and refresh the original features, but also to modernize the interior with elements that still felt historically appropriate. This involved expanding and updating the kitchen and building a brand new owner’s suite.

“We tried things the way we imagined Ayres would do,” Silva said. “Lori said to me, ‘You have to become Ayres, Al.’ ”

Silva declined to disclose the budget for the seven-month project, which wrapped up in November, and only said that once they decided to do things the Atlee B. Ayres way, his estimate initial had doubled.

Ayres’ love of Spanish and Mexican architecture is evident throughout the home, beginning with the entry hall where surprisingly large wooden beams trace the ceiling, each surrounded by decorative brackets. All original, the beams only needed to be cleaned and repainted. Urbano completed the look by adding similar beams in the dining area to the left of the fireplace.

The kitchen is decorated with raised panel dark wood cabinetry with custom turned metal hardware, a backsplash mixes both new and old colored tiles,

The kitchen is decorated with raised panel dark wood cabinetry with custom turned metal hardware, a backsplash mixes both new and old colored tiles,

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

Across the entrance hall, the living room remains essentially the same, its high cathedral ceiling and supporting beams only needing to be repainted and resealed. With a large circular chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a fireplace decorated with hand-painted Urbano tiles found in California, the room looks like a Spanish mission.

Initially, Silva and Urbano simply planned to remodel the existing house. But they soon realized that since there were only three small bedrooms upstairs, they needed to build a new owner’s wing with a separate bathroom, bedroom and dressing room.

“Al said, ‘Design something to go with the house.’ So I did.

Connected to the living room by a small glazed hallway that opens on one side to the central courtyard, the bedroom has a 16-foot cathedral ceiling with heavy custom wood beams and trusses that have the same aged look as those in the foyer. . Large windows on each side let in lots of natural light.

The bathroom combines modern conveniences, such as a walk-in shower without a door, while adding to the historic charm of the house. The ceilings are 10 feet high and the floor is made of antique tiles.

There are several other modern upgrades throughout the house. Urbano replaced approximately 30 original doors – although beautiful, they were warped, cracked and did not seal properly – with reproductions. She also replaced 55 single-glazed windows that flapped in the wind with more energy-efficient double-glazed glass and took the detailed light fixture hanging outside the front door and had several new ones made to fit it. reproduced exactly. These now hang in the yard.

Cooking was another big job. The room had been divided into several smaller spaces, so she removed the walls and pushed the space back about 8 feet to create a large modern kitchen that still looks quirky.

Rather than installing contemporary cabinetry and appliances in gleaming whites and gleaming stainless steel, she instead used raised-panel dark wood cabinetry with custom turned metal hardware, a backsplash that mixes colorful tiles both new and old and a huge 8-by-5 ​​-foot island topped with creamy-toned quartzite stone supported by traditional carved posts.

Urbano had replicas of one of the two surviving outdoor fixtures made.  These now hang in the yard.

Urbano had replicas of one of the two surviving outdoor fixtures made. These now hang in the yard.

Kin Man Hui / Personal Photographer

“I wanted the room to feel warm and in harmony with the rest of the house,” she said. “I wanted it all to flow together.”

The Urbano-designed courtyard continues the Mexican influence, with a herringbone red-brick patio, two dining tables, and a sitting area with an outdoor fireplace/chimney. Then there is the central whirlpool.

“I love the Ayres Elevated Fountain designed for the McNay’s Center Court,” Silva said. “So I told Lori I wanted something like this – only I wanted it to be a jacuzzi instead.”

Historically appropriate with a modern twist, just like the rest of the house.

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini

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