Case Study in Style

Atomic Ranch - - Contents - By Sarah Jane Stone • Pho­tog­ra­phy by Pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of NEST Mod­ern

An ex­pan­sive gem in the Lone Star state de­fies ex­pec­ta­tions.

Orig­i­nally built in 1956, this Ter­rell Hills neigh­bor­hood split level home has long been turn­ing heads. Dou­glas Gal­loway, the co-owner of fur­nish­ings store NEST Mod­ern, pur­chased the prop­erty

five years ago and still ex­pe­ri­ences peo­ple slow­ing down to ad­mire the mod­ernist abode.

As one might ex­pect in the Lone Star state, this San Antonio, Texas home is larger than life—in the best way pos­si­ble.

“I wasn't par­tic­u­larly look­ing for a house, but some­times I think I willed this house into ex­is­tence,” Dou­glas says.

Hav­ing just opened the first NEST Mod­ern store out­side of Austin, Dou­glas and his busi­ness part­ner were con­sid­er­ing rent­ing some­thing closer to the new San Antonio store to make trav­el­ing eas­ier. One of their em­ploy­ees, whose mother is a re­la­tor, shared about an in­cred­i­ble list­ing and said that he sim­ply had to see it. Dou­glas’ busi­ness part­ner saw the house, con­firmed it to be amaz­ing, and Dou­glas sent in an of­fer with­out ever step­ping foot on the prop­erty or see­ing it in per­son. His was taken as a backup of­fer, but shortly there­after Dou­glas was hold­ing the keys to his new home.


Af­ter do­ing some dig­ging, Dou­glas dis­cov­ered that the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tect was Milton Ryan, whom Dou­glas de­scribes as be­ing a for­ward thinker. De­spite mov­ing from tract homes to mod­ernist, in­no­va­tive de­signs, Ryan’s work in the San Antonio area has been largely over­shad­owed. Not want­ing the ar­chi­tect’s legacy to en­tirely dis­ap­pear, Dou­glas, along with the help of neigh­bors and Do­co­momo (the in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee for doc­u­men­ta­tion and con­ser­va­tion of build­ings, sites and neigh­bor­hoods of the mod­ern move­ment) have been able to un­earth a lit­tle about the home’s his­tory as well as bring at­ten­tion to Ryan’s work.

Ac­cord­ing to Dou­glas, the first owner of the home only lived there for a year. Af­ter that short pe­riod of time, a fam­ily moved in and stayed in the home un­til Dou­glas pur­chased it. With so few own­ers, changes to the prop­erty were min­i­mal and the house was in good shape over­all.

Nev­er­the­less, he has metic­u­lously re­stored the house room by room—only just get­ting to the last of the bath­rooms. Some of the work he did in­cluded ad­ding in­su­la­tion, up­dat­ing wir­ing and roof fixes as well as re­mov­ing hand rails added by the pre­vi­ous owner, tak­ing down a green­house, re­build­ing the per­gola and ad­ding a large deck.


Some of the many orig­i­nal fea­tures still in­tact are the Saltillo tile floors and many of the home’s count­less win­dows. Ryan’s de­sign in­cor­po­rated a com­bi­na­tion of both clear glass and tex­tured glass— which Dou­glas likens to the tex­ture found in school win­dows. The tex­tured glass fills in all the lower win­dows, cre­at­ing pri­vacy in the main liv­ing ar­eas. Some of these panes needed to be re­placed due to age and dam­age, but luck­ily Dou­glas was able to source the same glass lo­cally. At night, the com­bi­na­tion of the many win­dows and the in­te­rior lights gives the home a warm glow from the street view.

“This house isn’t just mid­cen­tury, it’s dif­fer­ent,” he says. Dou­glas says that any time some­one comes to work on the house, he warns them, “Just for­get what you know.” To ensure that the home’s unique na­ture was pro­tected, Dou­glas was hands on with ev­ery as­pect of the ren­o­va­tion. One of the things that makes the house so dif­fer­ent from its mid­cen­tury coun­ter­parts is that the fram­ing of house is ac­tu­ally the win­dow frames. “Milton Ryan just de­cided he was go­ing to do ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ently,” Dou­glas says. “There were only three orig­i­nal work­ers and they built ev­ery­thing—it’s all cus­tom.”

Dou­glas has per­son­al­ized the home by blend­ing vin­tage and new fur­nish­ings—in­clud­ing Milo Baugh­man classics, a vin­tage wall mounted shelf unit, and pieces from NEST Mod­ern. He’s also had fun with the home’s color story—keep­ing it con­sis­tent and cheer­ful through­out. Var­i­ous pot­tery, most of which is dis­played on the fire­place, and a col­lec­tion of en­tirely mid­cen­tury art­work fin­ish the home’s jour­ney. “This place al­ways makes me smile when I walk in, and every­one else, too,” he says.

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