Furniture, pieces collected through years of marriage create inviting home
After living and working in Santiago del Estero, Argentina for eight years, Don and Sandy Gartman returned to Texas City in 2002 along with 18 custom-made pieces of furniture. As time went by and Don Gartman started thinking about retirement, they decided to give themselves a present. They bought a ¾-acre wooded lot in Dickinson and built a new house.
Sandy Gartman knew just who to call to help her with design details — Eclectic Home in the Houston Heights, owned by Colby Weems and Dale Johnson.
“Colby knew what I liked and selected things for me to choose from,” Sandy Gartman said. “Don and I also bought many items right out of the store, which is a combination antique/retail shop.”
The house has an eclectic vibe from the minute you step through the iron and textured glass double doors into the long entry hall. A downward glance is hard to resist as the 20-by-4-foot porcelain and marble mosaic inset catches your eye. Looking up, you can’t help but notice the iron and crystal-tipped chandelier. A quick glance to the right and a bold floral arrangement pops out along with its reflection from an assortment of beveled mirrors in beaded antique frames, hung in symmetrical order. This is just a teasing prelude to what lies ahead.
Walking from room to room is much like visiting an art museum because of the impressive items the Gartmans have bought and collected during their 21 years of marriage. The custom-made pieces of furniture, all signed by their maker, Franco Barbaglia, are easy to spot because of the intricate craftsmanship.
The most impressive and roomiest part of the house is the open-concept living area. Because the Gartmans love to entertain, providing enough elbow room for family and friends was important.
“It all comes down to the slab,” said Don Gartman, pointing to the 7-by-9-foot granite island between the kitchen and breakfast room. “We call it the slab because it can hold a whole lot of party food.”
Three pendant lamps hang above, giving a luminous sheen to the creamy granite below.
“We often have over 100 people here for parties and no one feels crowded,” Sandy Gartman said.
The brick wine grotto next to the kitchen holds more than 300 bottles of wine. The whimsical wall sconce is similar to the chandelier in the formal dining room — hand-blown art glass with teardrops and large swirls in clear and amber.
Guests are in for a real treat when they use the powder room with Michelangelo marble floors that extend up the wall. Turn on the four-arm, fleur-de-lis chandelier and you see shimmers of gold reflected in the Venice glass vessel below.
The house, with three bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths, along with office and media room, is warm and inviting. The Gartman’s lifestyle is much less hectic now, so they wanted to surround themselves with a combination of things that held sentimental value as well as a mix of traditional and diverse pieces.
A tucked away storage area holds overflow items that Sandy Gartman calls her “Tuesday Morning” room. It’s where she keeps her holiday dishes, sheets, towels and an assortment of things that didn’t fit in her house and is so called because it resembles a Tuesday Morning store. Don Gartman’s three-car garage is, in a sense, his Tuesday Morning.
“The rule was that I wouldn’t put anything of mine in her storage area and she wouldn’t put anything of hers in mine,” he said. But she occasionally encroaches on his space, he said.
But Don Gartman’s office is his alone, he said. His hunting trophies, plaques and awards, and his impressive assortment of collectibles are prominently displayed.
The roomy master bedroom with fireplace is a mix of old and new. Other Barbaglia pieces stand out, particularly a four-poster bed he built, designed by Sandy Gartman. Her grandmother’s settee and her grandfather’s chair add sentimental touches.
The master bath with His and Her marble vanities sit beneath oval framed mirrors. Three gold leaf wall sconces are unusually grabbing with their sculptured head and torso design.
Two guest rooms share a Jack and Jill bathroom. A boot jack in the corner of one of the guest rooms has a nice back story.
“I saw one like it when we were visiting a winery in the Salta province of Argentina,” Don Gartman said. “I told the owner how much I admired it, and he had one of his employees make one for me as a gift. It’s built from a 100-year-old wine cask from his winery.”
The Gartmans also are fond of their outdoor views.
“We love the wooded atmosphere, the nearby ponds and everything about our new house,” Sandy Gartman said.
But it’s the items inside that are near and dear to them.
“Everything in here has a story,” they said.