Alamo Hardwoods Blog

Italy 2016

alamo hardwoods san antonio venice boat canal wooden boat
Bettcha know where this is, right?! YES, the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio (Not really)
Since you're probably getting tired of Mexico, here's a nice change of pace, Italy.

Wood is a wonderful unifying thread throughout so much design and architecture around the world. It immediately humanizes and warms the built environment.  Other materials serve purposes and might be harder, etc, but the feel that wood delivers in a space is unmatched.  There is an ease to working wood that allows details that would be much harder to accomplish in say metal (not to mention more expensive). And while ceramics are great for durability, they tend to slip out of fashion long before their true lifespan is up.

So here's some Italian Dressing for you........

alamo hardwoods san antonio venice gondola canal
These are made out of wood! (what else, carbon fiber?)

alamo hardwoods san antonio rome museum wood baseboard
A unique base detail in Capitoline Museum Roma

alamo hardwoods san antonio heringbone wood floor capitoline museum rome
"Herringbone" wood floor in the Capitoline Museum Roma

alamo hardwoods san antonio rome wood floor walnut
A fancy modern version of the wood floor, Roma

alamo hardwoods san antonio ferragamo museum wood veneer table
Figured (curly) wood veneer used to set off inlaid stone in a museum in Florence

san antonio alamo hardwoods white oak veneer rustic moder panels
Rustic white oak used in a modern setting in Venice

alamo hardwoods san antonio venice wood turned object shop window
Turned wood items in Venice shop

alamo hardwoods san antonio wood turnings shop venice

Here's his card in case you couldn't resist something!

Posted by JR Huebinger on 22nd September, 2016 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: architecture, art, art furniture, cross cultures, details, flooring, history, Italy, millwork, modern, veneer, wood
Tags: inlaid veneer, history, flooring, historic, historic preservation, wood, travel, italy

Church Details in Mexico

alamo hardwoods|san antonio | historic mexican church door carved wood
Mexico City Carved Church Door
The climate of Mexico City is high altitude, non humid, which allows woodwork to far outlast what we have here in San Antonio with a minimum of maintenance. This makes Mexico City a giant museum filled with historic doors and windows around every corner in a remarkable state of preservation.

It's always a treat to walk up to a hundreds of years old building and find a piece of wood that bears witness to the thousands upon thousands of people that have walked through those doors.

The Catholic Church used the finest woods they could find for their altars and religious items. Giant trees that had disappeared from Europe thousands of years earlier (lousy Romans burning up everything to heat their spas) were all over the new world.  Huge Mahogany trees gave giant planks of wood that we see in church pews and altars.  The fine wood took detail for carving as well or better than anything left back in the Old World. And if the French had all of the nice Walnut for carving and didn't want to share? Who needed 'em with the amazing quality and texture of a 500 year old mahogany tree. Species of woods that couldn't be imagined were all over the place (even the humble Mesquite tree has some pretty decent stuff compared to depleted European forests)
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | mexican church door wood nails
The nails that hold it together

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexican church door wood plugs
repairs over repairs

alamo hardwoods san anotnio mexican wod church door panel
Panel design

alamo hardwoods san abntonio mexico church ceiling

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico church end grain wood floor
Traditional, yet with a modern twist!

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico church pew mahogany single piece
Now THAT was a piece of wood! probably Mahogany

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico church carved wood pulpit
Now THAT took more than one day.....

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico church carved wood pulpit details leaves

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico church pulpit carved wood
Take that in to "Antiques Roadshow"

Posted by JR Huebinger on 21st September, 2016 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: architecture, cross cultures, details, history, Mexico, church
Tags: mexican traditional woods, mexico, history, historic, wood, doors, church architecture

Hotel Mediterraneo Rome Italy

alamo hardwoods, san antonio, rome italy lobby hotel mediterraneo
Lobby of the Hotel Mediterraneo, Roma Italia
As much as we love our clients and our work here at Alamo Hardwoods, sometimes we have to get away also. 

Some places, once you've been there, call you back over and over.  Rome is one of those places.  The history just seeps into every corner and oozes out of the tiniest detail.  Having been 10 years ago, the Hotel Atlantico and it's sister, the Mediterraneo offer a dazzling look back into Italy's high design past. The lobby was designed to show off the best elements of classical Rome in a sexy art deco setting. It seems like almost nothing has been changed over the decades. You can imagine people coming into the main train station and walking up the steps in their best suits and furs.

Italy has a strong artisan tradition of fine detail inlay in stone, glass and also wood.  Each piece of veneer was carefully cut and laid out with the grain going just so.  The churches show artwork in what one would assume is a fresco, but on closer inspection is millions of tiny marble chips.  The ancient floors of the villas at Pompeii have colored stones set with the normal ones just for fun (and to show off how wealthy you were, let's not kid ourselves).

Even after all the centuries there's a constant feast for the eyes. Then the brain thinks, how could they have done that fine work so many years ago. Then you realize, there was simply nothing good on t.v. back then.
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | fireplace wall inlaid veneers hotel mediterraneo rome italy

alamo hardwoods | San antonio | italian wood veneer wall inlay decoration

alamo hardwoods | san antonio | italy hotel mediterraneo bar

alamo hardwoods | san antonio | veneer wall detail rome italy hotel mediterraneo

alamo hardwoods | san antonio| texas | italy rome elevator curly veneer wall

alamo hardwoods |san antonio | texas| italy hotel wood nightstand

alamo hardwoods | san antonio |texas |rome italy hotel wood veneer furniture

Posted by JR Huebinger on 18th April, 2016 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: architecture, cross cultures, details, Italy, Rome, veneer, millwork
Tags: Furniture, inlaid veneer, historic, exotic hardwood San Antonio, art deco, modern design

Mexico City, one more time!

mexico city subway
Unfortunately, the "easiest" way to get around Mexico City
Mexico City is a constantly changing mishmash of culture, food, people, and of course, traffic.  People complained about traffic in Rome recently, but it was quaint 1950's vintage postcard traffic compared to Mexico City's life changing (and threatening) daily commute.  Tuck your money in your shoe and take the subway, trust me.

But once you pop up out of the ground like a big touristic gopher, you can find insulated pockets of calm and quiet such as the Sanborn's downtown in the historic Casa De Los Azulejos.  You can just imagine yourself rolling into the big central court in your horse drawn carriage and climbing up to the second floor in your best Pride and Prejudice wear for an intimate formal dinner for fifty.  The details that survive the hundreds of years despite the daily onslaught of tortillas boggles the mind.

Even Mexico is not immune to the faux craze of tile and plastic imitating real wood.
Of course, wood could hold the odor of freshly cooked tripas, so maybe that's not a bad idea.....
mexico city, alamo hardwoods, san antonio, sanborns , azulejos
The Courtyard in Sanborns, downtown Mexico City

alamo hardwoods san antonio sanborns mexico city
Sanborn's ceiling

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico sanborns azulejos food
Come for the building, stay for lunch

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico city azulejos parquet floor
Parquet floor holding up in Sanborns

alamo hardwoods san antonio mexico city sanborns orozco
Orozco mural in Sanborns Azulejos

alamo hardwoods san antonio Pozole

alamo hardwoods san antonio
TRIPAS! ummmm.....ewww

alamo hardwoods san antonio fake wood tile and table
Do you really have to fake it that hard?

alamo hardwoods san antonio teak deck mexico city
Now isn't the real thing better?

Posted by JR Huebinger on 21st January, 2016 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: architecture, travel, Mexico, history, urban
Tags: mexico, history, urban life, historic preservation, historic

Tobin Smith Architect

alamo hardwoods san antonio tobin smith architect mid century modern house restoration
Original view (Most people would have run)
Once a year, the San Antonio chapter of the American Institute of Architects hosts a home tour to raise awareness of the value that architects provide to a project.  Their years of training and experience raise what can be an ordinary remodel or new build into a work of living art.

Recently we had the pleasure to see a young man we knew as a child grow into an adult, earn his license as a architect and help create a dream home for him and his lovely wife.  Tobin Smith, AIA saw the potential in a 1960's house in an area of San Antonio notorious for tear downs and Mcmansions and saw the potential behind the...well, you see.
alamo hardwoods | tobin smith architect child
Tobin Smith with early design work
After working closely with Tobin for many months, we recently sat down with Tobin and Courtney to find out about the experience:

 (A.H.) what made you decide to enter the field of architecture?

Tobin:  When I was in high school one of the art teachers created an Introduction to Architecture course. He took us to a diverse group of architectural sites, from Wright’s Fallingwater to Waterford, Virginia, a historic town. These experiences awakened something in me. On top of that, our design projects were critiqued by panels of professionals working in creative fields… this was serious preparation! He saw my passion and encouraged me to apply to architecture school. The course changed my trajectory and we still keep in touch.

(A.H.)  My father remembers you and your father making birdhouses together when you were a young boy. Do you remember that?

Tobin:  TRUE! During the giant snowstorm in the 80’s that closed down the city, my father went to raid the scrap pile of a construction site near our house where Alamo Hardwoods had delivered material. We used the “salvaged” wood scraps to build birdhouses while we were snowed in. I was always busy building when I was young. I was a Lego maniac and had a set of Lincoln Logs as well. My sister and I had a playroom that was somewhat of a free-for-all zone so eventually I started constructing multi-level structures out of futons and playroom furniture. My parents would come in and find me near the ceiling.

(A. H.)  In design what is the very first thing you consider on a project?

Tobin:  (long pause) How it should be anchored.

(A.H.)  What is the most important thing that you consider on a project?

Tobin:  I would say client mindset is the most critical thing. Understanding where they’re coming from is the first step in assembling a proposal that will be meaningful to them.

(A.H.)  How does South Texas Influence your design philosophy?

Tobin:  In the same way any unique set of conditions does. A deep understanding of climate, culture, and context is critical to each approach… each beginning. Here in San Antonio we’ve had a strong tradition of responsive and responsible architecture for generations so there is plenty of inspiration, plenty to learn from. My years at Lake/Flato were certainly critical to my development. I learned a great deal working with Ted and David and am grateful for the opportunity they gave me right out of school.

(A.H.) How have your skills changed in your career. How have you grown as a professional?

Tobin:  Less sleep and more gray hair.

(A.H.)  What is the single design project you are most proud of and why?

Tobin:  I’m proud of the work that’s been executed to this point, but I’m also self-critical. Each needs to build upon previous efforts. A smart man once told me, “You’re only as good as your next project.”
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | tobin smith architect mid century modern
Tobin's new entrance vision takes shape
(A.H.)  What was the best part about working on your own house and being your own client?

Tobin:  Having the ability to sometimes make quick decisions and experiment and sometimes pause and deeply consider ideas. There was a flexibility to do what felt right, fast or slow, without the usual ticking clock, until Courtney said “I gave up our apartment and we have 4 weeks to move in.”

(A.H.)  What was the most challenging part of the project?

Tobin:  Refer to last question!  The part about my wife…

(A.H.)  What was the best part about working with Alamo Hardwoods on your house?

Tobin:  When I asked you to tell me if the wood decking was longleaf pine and you sniffed a board to figure it out.

(A.H.)  What was the most important thing Courtney brought to the project?

Tobin:  Courtney was always on board… she was “in” for the journey, a great sounding board and supporter.
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | tobin smith architect mid century modern house natural wood
Removing paint to reveal the beauty of the wood beneath
(A.H.) And Courtney, what was the best part about working with Tobin on your house?

Courtney:  I loved that I was always consulted and my view taken into consideration. When we were working on the master suite with limited space, he said we could have a good closet or bathroom, which did we want? I said great bath, but in the end he managed to fit all of it into the space! Everything had to work for both of us. It was a collaborative process.

(A.H.)  As an artist yourself, what was your biggest influence in the project?

Courtney:  My husband. We’ve both learned a lot from each other.

(A.H.)  And what is your favorite part of the house now?

Courtney:  I’d have to say our library with all of the family photos and collected items. Everything in there has a history and a story. It’s very cozy and we spend a lot of time together in that space. I love to cook and entertain so my kitchen is a close runner up...
alamo hardwoods | San antonio | tobin smith architect | mid century modern red clay
during reconstruction
Tobin felt that the old house deserved respect for the construction method and materials, and found ways to celebrate them, versus covering them over.
alamo hardwoods |San antonio | tobin smith architect mid century modern house wood ceiling
Now what to do with THAT?

alamo hardwoods | san antonio tobin smith architect wood ceiling mid century modern
With proper selection, new wood can be found to blend in with historic
In areas where the original ceiling/roof deck had rotted or where Tobin wanted to expand a space Alamo Hardwoods came up with alternative woods and sizes to keep the project flowing and on budget.
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | tobin smith architect cypress ceiling mid century modern
Finding the right wood and grain to blend in with the original

alamo hardoods | san antonio | tobin smith architect | mid century modern restored revised
The new vision is complete (Photo by Mark Menjivar courtesy of the Smiths)
The newly created Portico uses all new Cypress wood to blend with the original structure, but create a grand entrance to the couple's home.
alamo hardwoods | san antonio | aia homes tour tobin smith architect mid century modern house
The Smith Home will be open for the 2015 AIA Homes tour Saturday, October 17

previous tour information can be  can be found through the San Antonio AIA chapter site

tickets will be sold at each individual home,The Twig Bookshop or at HEB grocery stores.
alamo hardwoods | san antonio tobin and courtney smith architect mid century modern  house
Tobin and Courtney Smith

alamo hardwoods | san antonio tobin smith architect sign aia homes tour
In case you want to hire Tobin for your own project, he can be found at

Posted by JR Huebinger on 13th October, 2015 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: architecture, historic homes, mid-century modern
Tags: AIA homes tour, modern design, historic home restoration, mid century mod, alamo hardwoods, tobin smith architect

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