Ecclesiastical Art, Antiques Make Fort Worth Town Home Grand

Fort Worth antiques dealer Carter Bowden’s glamorous mid-century modern house is home to a large collection of ecclesiastical art and antiques.

Antiques dealer Carter Bowden with his Scottish terrier, Angus, in front of his book collection.

Carter Bowden is proud of the finery he displays in his antiques shops in Fort Worth and Dallas. But at the moment, one piece in particular—a 1960s relic—captivates him the most: his mid-century modern town home in Fort Worth. Here, he showcases his answer to The Great Question: How can one blend highly decorative pieces with streamlined architecture? “Carefully, but beautifully,” says Tyler Cobb, a good friend and decorator enlisted to do just that.

Bowden’s sleek, California-aesthetic-style haven—a Ridglea town home designed by architect John Wesley Jones in 1960—most notably features an imposing stone wall that flows from his living room to an outdoor patio (creating a seamless look thanks to large sliding-glass doors). Before decorating began last year, Cobb chose organic materials and colors to work in harmony with their surroundings. Such choices, which might easily ring rustic, would need to be elegant enough to serve as a backdrop for Bowden’s distinctive antique, contemporary, and custom furnishings, much of which have ornate Italian, French, even ecclesiastical, origins. The latter, Bowden points out, might be a bit heavy in tone, “but if you think about it, fine art originated in churches,” he says. “I just find these carved Italian and Spanish Colonial objects, with their richly aged patinas, so beautifully moving.”

To set the stage for it all, dark-stained bamboo flooring marries with walls painted a slick brown “wet seal” color that Cobb had custom-mixed. Such dark earth and sky lend the pieces—and people—within the place the appearance of floating. He purposely creates a dreamy setting. “Since I’m usually working during the day and only here at night, I really wanted it to be in a relaxing and warm place,” says Bowden, a native of Fort Worth who began collecting art in high school. He later went on to receive his MBA from New York University before opening his own galleries and serving on the board of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for more than a decade. “I’d known people early on who’d lived in these town homes, but I’d never appreciated their simple beauty until now.”

LEFT: Atop an 18th century French rococo console is an Italian bust of an 18th century bishop from a New Orleans collection. Bowden appreciates the ecclesiastical pieces’ history and patina. “Do you know how long it took to get these chips and unique discolorations? Seemingly forever,” he says. “And to think of where they have been over the years.” The painting—a contemporary work by Fort Worth artist Ron Tomlinson—is inspired by a series of paintings by Georges de La Tour (1593-1652) at the Kimbell Art Museum. “I don’t feel like everything has to be framed,” Bowden notes. “Casual can be sleeker.” The caned bergère chair is late 19th century French.
RIGHT: The 72-inch, round dining table is Tyler Cobb’s design. Finished to resemble marble, it is inset with an antiqued mirror that beautifully reflects the crystal chandelier overhead. Early 20th century chairs are Venetian with their original paint. Cobb had them reupholstered in Koplavitch & Zimmer silk, as well as Hermès leather. The hand-colored 18th century engravings are Italian. “When pieced together, they form a celestial globe,” Cobb says. The carved and gilt laurel wreath on the mirrored wall is 19th century Italian.

Not only do the home’s slick brown walls and flooring create ethereal environs, but they also help the 1,640-square-foot, two-bedroom space (one-third smaller than Bowden’s last home) appear larger. “Design-wise, I think small spaces tend to be more interesting,” Cobb says. “I love to walk through a door and see artfully arranged furniture that ties into a space creatively, as opposed to having a place where everything feels lost or not grounded.”

Dark finishes are featured in the main living areas “to enhance the presentation of Carter’s collection of French and Italian antiques and artwork, which range from the 17th century to the present,” Tyler Cobb says. Custom pieces are upholstered in neutral fabrics so as not to draw attention away from the art. “Mirrors were used throughout to add drama—especially in the evening by candlelight,” he adds, noting that seating is arranged in casual groupings for an atmosphere of comfort.

Above a crescent-shaped leather bed designed by Tyler Cobb, 18th century carved angel wings help ensure a good night’s rest. The Italian chair, from Pease-Cobb Antiques Inc., stems from the same period. Also shown: a pair of early 20th century Italian appliqués that have been converted to sconces and large-scale engravings from 19th century Italy.

His home’s dark canvas “was a natural choice because it makes everything pop,” Bowden says of his furnishings, much of which are gilded. “During the evening, all of it appears to shimmer.” Such a design scheme works out just fine, since Bowden loves to entertain alongside Angus, the Scottish terrier he got from a rescue group. Nighttime is particularly dramatic, since the living room’s massive mirrored wall reflects both the fine and contemporary art Bowden has collected, while the dining room’s 72-inch, round antiqued-mirror-topped table radiates twinkling candlelight from an oversize antique chandelier.

The overall design “really plays up the furnishings much more than the architecture, which is refined and relaxing, but not overbearing,” Cobb says. Bowden agrees. “If the architecture were more complex, it would really compete with the intricately detailed furnishings and work against them. Fortunately, that’s not the case. This actually is the perfect setting to balance everything. And me.”

Seal of Approval

One of designer Tyler Cobb’s signature touches is a custom paint color that legendary mid-century modern tastemaker Van Day Truex referred to as “the color of a wet seal”—a lacquered, high-gloss deep brown hue that, when light hits it just right, has a mahogany undertone.

This engaging color “is meant to accentuate all of the gilt and patina finishes of Carter Bowden’s collection of 18th century Italian antiques, and at the same time provide a dramatic backdrop for his collection of art,” Cobb explains. “It creates a very sophisticated atmosphere when paired with candlelight, which is how Carter often entertains. I liken the whole atmosphere to being in a wonderful tortoiseshell box.”

In the guest bedroom, Tyler Cobb adopted a 19th century Chinese court painting for use as a headboard. To the bed’s left is “San Miguel at Night” by Fort Worth artist Betty Alcorn; at right is “Allée in Novembre” by Fort Worth artist James R. Blake. The gilt-wood chandelier is early 20th century Italian. The coverlet, from Peacock Alley, pairs with heirloom monogrammed linens.

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