Dos Sueños, Two Dreams in Spanish, was inspired by the architecture and culture of Andalusia.
Set sail with us on a trip into an interpretation of Spain’s glorious region right here in Texas
Written by: Bonnie Casseb
Photography: Paul Bardagjy and Jeff Truitt
When Spanish explorers first set foot on what would one day become the state of Texas, they must have been amazed by the bountiful lands, rivers and lakes. Fast forward about 500 years and a role reversal occurred when two native Texans explored the southern region of Spain, known as Andalusia. Al Aguilar and Gisela Girard, founders of the successful San Antonio-based full service advertising agency Creative Civilization, were inspired by their visit to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The adventurous couple set forth with a vision to create a piece of this mystical and enchanting palace in their home town of San Antonio. “Few spaces on earth have inspired us more than this architectural masterpiece built by the Moorish civilization in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,” says Al Aguilar. “The simplicity of the design belies its intrigue and artistry.”
Trickling fountains, hand-crafted mosaics and palatial spaces typify some of the details they wanted to incorporate on eight acres at the threshold of the Texas Hill Country. There, on the brow of a sunny hill with golden Texas sunsets, the dreams of “Dos Sueños,” as the property is known, came alive. “Every day I wake up to enjoy a world of peacefulness, aesthetics and a Zen-like environment like no other I have ever experienced,” says Gisela Girard.
The couple’s creation of Dos Sueños was a love affair with a culture that transcends into a special feeling that the homeowners frequently share with their many guests. The rambling property has served as an engaging setting for many gatherings and social events such as cast parties for the San Antonio Opera, welcome parties for celebrities visiting the city such as Hollywood director Garry Marshall, singer Joseph Leo Bwarie who plays Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys,” and numerous non-profit organization fundraisers. “Many a toast has capped an enchanting evening of celebration at Dos Sueños. From intimate dinner gatherings, to large dance parties by the fountain of the garden court, we’ve found this is a place that makes you feel like you are truly in a different world”, muses Aguilar.
When choosing an architect to design their home, Aguilar and Girard were looking for a firm that would fuse this traditional design of Andalusia with the landscape of their hilltop retreat. Michael G. Imber Architects was the perfect fit because Imber’s background in classical design provided a foundation to translate these early Spanish styles to a current home for the 21st century romanticist clients. “The classic design of the Alhambra in Granada, along with its adjoining gardens of Generalife provided the context for a home which also needed to complement their modern lifestyles,” comments Imber.
“Standing in awe at the footsteps of the Alhambra, we thought, ‘now this was a creative civilization.”’
Imber’s solution? To create a compound situated in open loggias looking out over the rolling hills below. These spaces serve as the circulation axis of the home while connecting the public and private areas. The ultimate design presents a home that is bright and airy with arabesque arches, vaults and loggias, all typical of the architecture of Southern Spain. A unique touch incorporated into the home are the artifacts and materials the homeowners brought back from their myriad travels, such as an antique chandelier in the dining room from a Spanish church, antique tiles known as “azulejos” and carved wood from Morocco.
Along the main hallway corridor is a series of dramatic groin vault ceilings leading to the main living area that is an extravagant space with soaring wood coffered ceilings, a decorative plaster fireplace and handcrafted ironwork. Located off the principle room are the library, dining room, kitchen and two wings, including the master wing and a soaring tower wing with guest bedrooms, a study and a dark room to accommodate Gisela’s talents for black and white photography. Room to roam indeed.
The other dimension of the homeowners lives at Dos Sueños, whom they share with their two Great Pyrenees, “Little Papa Bear” and “Sugar Bear” and their two terriers, “Mr. Bud” and “Boo Boo,” is the couple’s fast pace life as the owners of one of the region’s most successful companies. “Wouldn’t you know it, we named our agency to honor our visits to Spain,” confides Girard. “Standing in awe at the footsteps of the Alhambra, we thought, ‘now this was a creative civilization.’”