O’Neil Ford-designed Terrell Hills home features artisan details
O’Neil Ford, known as the dean of Texas architects, may not be a household name, but his impact on architecture in Texas is undeniable. His work can be seen throughout the state, including in the city of San Antonio. One such home in the Terrell Hills neighborhood is a perfect example of Ford’s commitment to artisan details and craftsmanship.
The Legacy of O’Neil Ford
O’Neil Ford was a prominent early modernist architect who preferred working with natural materials such as wood, stone, and ceramic tile. Unlike the predominant use of glass and steel during the midcentury modern period, Ford’s designs stood out for their use of traditional materials.
He also had a knack for collaborating with local craftspeople, commissioning hand-crafted fixtures and furnishings for his projects. Unfortunately, over the years, many of these pieces have been lost or removed. However, there are still homes in the San Antonio area that contain these unique pieces or have reproduced them in Ford’s style.
A Terrell Hills Residence Preserving History
A recent visit to a home in Terrell Hills revealed it to be a repository of O’Neil Ford’s work. The current owners, who have chosen to remain anonymous, are the third family to live in the house since it was designed by Ford in the mid-1960s. They have a deep appreciation for the home’s significance and are committed to preserving its history.
Several pieces in the house, including light fixtures, fireplace surrounds, chandeliers, and shutters, were either created by Ford himself or reproduced to his specifications. Even when the home underwent extensive upgrades, the homeowners and the architects in charge made sure to honor Ford’s design spirit.
Craftsmanship and Collaboration
In a time before big-box stores and the internet, Ford had to rely on local craftspeople to create the unique fixtures and furnishings for his projects. He sought fixtures that were craft-based and suitable for the region, adapting to the specific needs of Texas. Ford collaborated closely with these craftsmen, integrating their ideas into his designs.
One such craftsman, Bill McDonald, recalls the collaborative process with Ford. He explained, “We’d integrate the ideas they gave you into the pieces you made. Both sides were very involved in the process.”
Artisan Details in the Terrell Hills Home
The Terrell Hills home showcases several exceptional pieces that highlight Ford’s commitment to artisan craftsmanship:
- The living room fireplace features a beaded lead surround created by Lynn Ford, O’Neil Ford’s brother.
- Over the fireplace hangs an 800-pound screen of hand-carved wood, also crafted by Lynn Ford.
- The chandelier in the home has removable inserts with patterns of holes punched in them, allowing for varied lighting effects.
- Window shutters throughout the house boast Ford’s trademark chevron patterns.
- The wood flooring has unique touches, including screws secured with darker wood pegs, reminiscent of a pirate ship’s deck.
Even the recent upgrades to the home were done with great care to stay true to Ford’s original design intent. The pendants in the carport, produced by Isaac Maxwell Metals, maintain the same style as other fixtures created during Ford’s time.
– O’Neil Ford is often referred to as the dean of Texas architects.
– He preferred using natural materials such as wood, stone, ceramic tile, and brick.
– Ford’s designs can be seen in prominent locations throughout Texas, including Trinity University, HemisFair ’68, and upscale neighborhoods like Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills.
O’Neil Ford’s commitment to artisan craftsmanship and collaboration with local craftspeople shines through in the Terrell Hills home. It serves as a testament to his lasting impact on the architectural landscape of Texas.
O’Neil Ford may be one of the most famous architects that people have never heard of. However, his designs and attention to detail have left a lasting mark on Texas architecture. The Terrell Hills residence stands as a remarkable example of Ford’s commitment to artisan craftsmanship and his ability to create timeless designs that still resonate with homeowners today.