|Charlotte Comer and her beautiful collection of blue and white porcelains.|
Crossing the threshold into Charlotte Comer’s 94-year-old home feels a bit like opening the cover of a worn and wondrous storybook. Awash in natural tones and textures, the house has become an anthology of personal expression and experience.
“We’ve collected furniture and fabrics from all over the world, just things I like,” says Comer, an award-winning interior designer known for evoking comfort and romance in residences here and across the country. When renovating her Craftsman-era house in historic Vickery Place, she relied on untraditional adaptations of elements, graceful treatment of scale, and fine artisanship. In other words, all the signature things that have characterized her 30-year design career.
When Comer and her husband moved into the house seven years ago—from just down the street—it presented two floors of space in which to set down functional antiques and objets found around the globe. Wrapped in painted finishes of “grayed-down” blues and greens, creams and golds, the rooms recall a vintage era in which people actually sat upon, dined upon, and slept upon truly beautiful things. There is an absence of “precious” here, despite the elegance of the textiles, furniture, and accessories.
In the living room, a formerly carpeted rectangle with low windows has been transformed into an elegant salon with reclaimed wood flooring and a “rug” that’s actually a painted canvas, just as it would have been done in the early 1600s. Beams of whitewashed fir were added to the 10-foot ceilings, reminiscent of country French and Italian cottages. Much of her furniture is upholstered in unusual fabrics, such as a custom-designed settee, which is covered in burlap and studded to accent its curve. A pair of side chairs is decked in wedding dress silks, complete with embroidered bugle beads. Windows are draped in antique lace, a delicate counterpoint to the creamy white painted walls, which have hints of gold leaf peeking through. The room is anchored at the far end with an original fireplace, enhanced with recycled French tile, and on the mantel, a textural, 19th century Chinese undergarment woven from bamboo becomes art.
|LEFT: The airy dining room boasts a custom-made zinc table and French-style, open-backed chairs slipcovered with sheer bridal material. The seat upholstery is from Koplavitch & Zimmer. Gilt picture molding was used in lieu of traditional wall moldings, and a new, faux pearl chandelier adds whimsy. The ceilings were hand painted by Anne Hines, and a “rug” is painted canvas by artist Carol Pankratz. RIGHT: Rustic beams were added during a recent renovation. The Comers commissioned artist Mark Holden to paint the walls and ceiling. The mantel is original wood, but Charlotte had it faux finished to resemble stone. An antique Chinese bamboo undergarment is displayed over the mantel; stone columns are from The Gathering; windows are draped in antique European lace; the tall bird sculpture is by Larry Whiteley, Charlotte’s son-in-law.|
A narrow hallway lined with tall, hand-painted cabinets leads to the kitchen, which you enter through an antique French wrought-iron door from the living room. The cabinets are painted with a mural of poppies and the Italian countryside. “It is perpetual spring,” Comer says.
The dining room is a cultivated mix of old and new, and a lesson in tricking the eye. With high ceilings and a low window box, Comer needed to reconcile issues of proportion. She wanted to keep the windows but avoid filling in the space above it with excessive crown molding. So, she chose 6-inch gold picture frame and ran it around the room, about 18 inches down from the ceiling.
|LEFT: Along the hallway off the kitchen is a custom mural by Anne Hines that ingeniously doubles as storage for the Comers’ collection of crystal.
RIGHT: The master bedroom, located on the second story, was added during the renovation. High ceilings, dormer windows, a custom-made leaded glass window, and reclaimed wood flooring help make this the Comers’ refuge. Antique European linens on the bed are by Pandora de Balthazar; Italian made iron bed by Renaissance Collection. Antique bird cage is hand-painted by Anne Hines.
The walls, striéed in a greenish yellow and waxed for subtle sheen, complement chairs upholstered in embroidered aqua silk and topped with dainty beaded back slip covers in sheer cream and gold. The chandelier is made from faux pearls, and a rustic zinc-topped dining table is an unexpected textural surprise among all finery.
Upstairs, antique textiles gathered from world travels drape the windows and beds in two guest rooms. In one, an iron bed has a poufy skirt made of bridal lace. In the other, a pair of beds is draped in antique linens.
|A peek inside Charlotte’s storage cabinets, which hold antique glassware including a set of gilt Steuben goblets, and part of her extensive collection of antique and vintage plates. Also shown are two of her antique, European silver molds that have a sculptural quality.|
Comer began collecting antique linens 30 years ago. She is drawn to them for their artisanship and connection to the past. “It is fascinating that a woman would sit with a candle, often from childhood through old age, and create such beautiful work,” she says. “It is a lost art, and I love that I can use the pieces every day.”
The linens, stacked by type, are stored in a Mexican pine armoire outside the guest rooms. Sheets, pillowcases, and hand towels, adorned with embroidery and lace, have found their way to Vickery Place from England, France, Italy, Germany, and the Eastern European block countries.
LEFT: Comer designed a pair of iron beds for the guest bedroom. Antique European lace hangs at the window, and the antique bed linens are from Pandora de Balthazar.
For Comer, falling asleep atop such special bedding is an unmatched experience. “When you take it out and unfold it, there is that fresh-linen scent. And when you get into bed, there is a coolness that is very sensuous.”
The master suite, comprising of a bedroom, bath, office, and terrace, was added on recently, but it retains the house’s grand old feel. It’s a 2,000-square-foot addition built over the new kitchen extension, and it continues the blue and yellow tones found elsewhere in the home. With cathedral ceilings, dormer windows, a small fireplace, and a large balcony, the bedroom is Comer’s refuge among the treetops. A soaring, light-filled perch, the space is also home to eight zebra finches housed inside a hand-painted, 1920s wire cage, to which Comer had a set of drawers added.
|Charlotte has framed a collection of antique fabric remnants and grouped them together. An antique chair from Art of Old India, with all of its textural qualities, looks great with an antique etched glass door from an architectural salvage company in Houston.|
What is most compelling about the upstairs, for Comer, is its serenity. “I love the calmness of the blue and the glow of the outside,” she says. “It feels like being in a tree house.”
|Charlotte Comer’s Black Book|
Pankratz finished the walls surrounding the fireplace and glazed one guest room in a basket-weave design, incorporating a metallic powder for a bit of glisten. 1450 W. Allen St., Fort Worth. 817-923-2141. www.carolpankratz.com.
Antique European Linens
Lovers Lane Antiques
www.loverslaneantiques.com. Blue-and-white china and small antique pieces, including furniture. 5001 W. Lovers Ln. 214-351-5656.
Orion Antique Importers
Dishes From The Past