Rancho Sabino Grande, which presides over thousands of acres along the Sabinal River in Texas Hill Country, is reflective of the adventurous international lifestyle, world travels, and myriad eclectic collections of its owner, who has populated the legacy property with a variety of exotic African animals, including giraffes and zebras.
The interior design program, by Peace Design, is a marvelous mix and mesh of styles and time periods inspired by the ranch’s Spanish and African influences, rich Texas history, natural elements of the property, and the owner’s own oversize lifestyle.
“Although newly constructed, the ranch harkens back to a time when extraordinary craftsmanship and the use of rare materials culminated in homes built for generations,” says William Peace, the founder and principal of the eponymous design firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Bozeman, Montana. “The owner gave us one dictate: ‘Make it look collected and curated through time.’ To that end, we spent five years traveling the globe to amass unique materials and furnishings.”
The art objects and furnishings, which date from the 16th through 21st centuries, range from European antiques and period carpets to contemporary art and custom furnishings by Peace Design.
“We dug deep into the owner’s history and interests to make this, his primary residence, special,” Peace says, adding that the rarities include reclaimed gunstock walnut paneling, ancient Egyptian porphyry, and millennia-old Roman stones in homage to the owner’s passion for geology and conservation.
The design team went to great lengths and faraway places to source the items, which range from the rare World War II-era Japanese Navy observation binoculars that the owner uses to watch the wildlife through the expansive walls of bronze windows in the living room to the 16th-century Italian Renaissance table with original painted detailing and massive carved eagle legs that is the centerpiece of the entry vestibule, which is illuminated by a 19th-century carved giltwood chandelier.
From the dinosaur leg and the contemporary bronze cocktail table by Lebanese artist Aline Hazarian in the great hall to the 1,000-year-old sinker cypress salvaged from a Louisiana river bottom that panels the library filled with a curated collection of books that reflect the owner’s interests, the pairings are profound—and soulful.
“It’s rare to find so much sinker cypress, and this was underwater for many years,” Peace says. “Throughout the entire ranch, we chose woods that even though they were not all sourced from the ranch property are indigenous to the area.”
He notes that the library’s shelves are not entirely filled. Some were intentionally left empty so the owner can add volumes, which as a consummate collector, he undoubtedly will.
In the hallway that leads to the primary suite and its custom-designed bed, a George Nakashima cabinet—the last he designed before his death and completed by his daughter—a painting by Texas artist Julian Onderdonk and a grouping of mid-century Swedish pottery create a vibrant vignette.
In every room, there’s a sense of surprise that holds special significance for the owner. In the dining room, for instance, a solid Claro Walnut table, antique litoteca, and antique console tables form a conversation-sparking backdrop for the four-foot by eight-foot photo/painting of a luminous white fallow deer by Todd Murphy.
The most personalized space, the lounge, features a bar whose front is made of antique book-matched Jasper stone and a custom mural by Peter Gorman Studios that depicts the life and adventures of the homeowner.
It includes images of a World War II plane (the owner collects and pilots them, and the ranch has a landing strip and hangar); exotic animals (the ranch’s menagerie wanders through stretches that are reminiscent of the Serengeti); oil-industry workers (that’s the business the owner is in); and flying-ace Chuck Yeager (the owner’s longtime friend and inspiration).
Peace Design brought in luxurious silk velvets and buttery leathers to serve as soft, textural counterpoints to the ranch’s hand-rubbed plaster walls and handcrafted metal and woodwork.
The key to the success of the project, Peace says, was the collaboration among all parties that lasted from conception to construction’s end.
“The client had so many interests—he collects everything from arrowheads and knives to pre-historic artifacts and historic warplanes—and we don’t usually get clients who have this level of unique interests,” Peace says. “I’ve done many projects, but few of them stand up to this. I’d do this project again any day.”
Peace Design peacedesign.com
Michael G. Imber Architects
Sebastian Construction Group
Marmi Natural Stone, Struttura, Skylar Morgan, Chateau Domingue
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE FIRM
James Hyatt Studio
Robuck, Maison Gerard
Alfredo Bovio Di Giovanni, Julian Onderdonk, Todd Murphy, Wayman Adams, Kathleen Morris