| Lone Star Living |
By Tyler Beard
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It was our peripatetic life and the love for Texas deep in our hearts that brought us back home in 1984. My sweet and beautiful wife, Teresa, is a native, and spent much of her time in Texas on her grandparents' dairy farm in Irving. I was born and raised in Dallas.
Before and after the Civil War, my forefathers all hung out GONE TO TEXAS signs, abandoned their southern farms, and settled in Texas. My great-grandparents homesteaded eighteen hundred acres on Bull Creek, just outside Austin, and gift deeded the capital city the land on which fire station No. 1 was built. The eldest of eleven, my grandfather's brother, Glenn, was a Texas Ranger at the turn of the century. After rangering for eighteen years, he moved to Valentine, where he was the town sheriff. My grandfather, Claud, was in the "good old boys" club as a deputy constable in Fort Worth.
I grew up in a boots-and-hat environment full of tall Texas tales and braggadocio. During hunting season and holidays on the original Beard Ranch, I would lie in the bunkhouse by the light of the crackling cedar fire, and listen in awe to family and state history as told by the elders of the Beard clan. I was positively inundated with Texas culture and history, but it was the tail end of the 1960sa time to rebel, even against my own heritage.
We didn't know each other yet, but at the same time that Teresa moved to Los Angeles, I moved, still in boots, to London, England, to pursue a career as a rock drummer. Fast-forward seven years, when a friend introduced Teresa and me; we stuck. We traveled extensively in Europe and lived briefly in Paris, and even more briefly in New York City, before settling in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a budding seacoast town, where we restored historic waterfront properties and country homes, and owned several businesses.
Yearly Christmas pilgrimages to visit our families slowly but surely brought out the Texasness in us, and that old potent state pride began to seep back into our bones. We were struck with an overwhelming desire to rediscover our roots, and we moved back home in 1984. We happened on a tumbledown 1870s German rock house, abandoned and untouched for more than fifty years. The restoration and preservation took a little more than a year. The feather in our hats was the presentation of a Texas Historical Home plaque.
In the mid-eighties, we found a pristine prairie of collectibles just waiting to be plucked and trucked back home. At that time, Texans were in a mild patriotic lullcowboy style on a mass scale had not yet arrived. We started to feel our annual odyssey had led us back home in order to simply rediscover our heritage. We felt that our mission, our destiny, was to collect and preserve our state's lifestyle and culture through her artifacts.
So, dressed entirely in vintage Western clothing, we headed out arbitrarily, north, south, east, or west, on a daily scavenger hunt to see what we could see and buy what we could collect; the idea was to furnish our limestone gem. Our first love was "A" cowboy and ranchthe things that real cowboys and cowgirls wore, used, or lived withthough we could not leave the "B" behind, all the Western kitsch that flowered commercially behind the singing cowboys and Western film genre of the 1950s and 1960s.
A fortuitous shopping excursion took us to the Dallas Polo Ralph Lauren store. I commented that we had a barn full of Western Americana that eclipsed anything they were decorating with at the time. One phone call later, our entire collection of Americana was purchased, and we became the official "Western vendors" for all the Ralph Lauren stores worldwide. Our company, True West, was born. We had reinvented ourselves and, in the process, become the voluntary arbiters of Western style, the deans of cowboy correct, and the ones who held up a historical mirror for Texans to once again see themselves in. It seemed that in a trice cowboy was cool and in demand.
But let's face it, Texas style was originally created by the prairie cowboy, who was punctuated by his trappings, by individual crafts born from isolation, imagination, the work, the land, and a lack of money, all of which contributed to bunkhouse interior design. It seemed that in a dash, the trail drives were over, cowboys were married and had moved into town, barbed wire was stretched, and the crude digs and drafty slapdash structures gave way to buildings erected from milled lumber, planking, and shiplap techniques.
The wealthy cattle kings could now afford to ship supplies in by rail, making way for imported styles from New England and Europe. Their Victorian "prairie castles" were spared nothing in the way of modern conveniences and the latest in trendy and traditional home furnishings. It was certainly East meets West, with a little horn and hidethe only clue that these homes were now decorated west of the Mississippi. Texans had few neighbors and no confines of class and convention, so necessity and wealth conjointly contributed to a new landscape peppered with architectural oddities, eccentric expressions, and a whopping share of overwrought Victorian monstrosities. All of these homes had been financed by cattle and, later, oil and cotton. With no compunction for sharing in the showing of wealth, Texans today continue to astound and amaze passersby with their great diversity in home construction. Diversity best describes the geography, the climate, the culture, the architecture, and, most important, the lifestyles of the people of Texas.
The state motto is "Friendship," and the word Texas, or Tejas, was the Spanish pronunciation of a Caddo Indian word meaning friends. Early settlers shared a vision of their Utopian Texas because a lot of iron was forged and blood was shed before the state motto became their new credo. Even today, the word friendly is the adjective most used by Texans and by the rest of the world when describing the people and the atmosphere in Texas.
This friendly attitude also extends into architectural design, floor plans, and home decorating. In no other state are common gathering spaces so large, elaborate, and utilized. Texans love to entertain and be entertained, a throwback to their Southern roots. "The door is always open" applies to family, friends, and anyone a true Texan has not met yet. Texans relish partaking in a peculiar custom that often perplexes visitors from other states and countriesthe tour, the showing of the house, each and every room, even closet space and the garage.
Texas has always been a unique society, created in large part by an enormously diverse collection of peopleeach person has left his or her indelible mark on the state, and each person's contribution has lived on through Texas's rituals, customs, festivals, foods, music, arts, styles, attitudes, and architecture. When Texans brag about their state, something they do often, remember that this pride is reflected through twenty-six different cultural and ethnic groups, a claim that possibly only New York City could equal. Even if something is not born of Texas, once it becomes part of the culture, it is applauded and embraced for its Texanness.
Intoxicated with their own vim and vigor, Texans have led the nation in the production of oil, cotton, beef cattle, natural gas, petrochemicals, sheep, goats, mules, rice, bees, wool, pecans, mohair, spinach, roses, and rattlesnakes! In one hundred years, Texas has become urban. The state is a national industrial leader and a capital-intensive environment that is sophisticated in all areas of financial, social, and cultural affairs.
It's interesting that most Texans seem uniquely comfortable both at home on the ranch and in a concrete city landscape. This book presents both lavish ranches and stylish urban lofts to reflect these different Texas lifestyles. The popular ideal is to possess some "stretchin' room," some cattle, and a few horses. Texans are still passionate about guns and hunting; traditional Western clothing is still the most widely expected and accepted mode of dress; and the ubiquitous ranch entrance continues to dot every highway and country road, effectively saying, "This is my homestead, keep out!"
The rousing individuality and robust independence that have for so long distinguished the Texas character have also affected "Texas style," once considered an oxymoron by the more stodgy design gurus of the Northeast. But Texans poor or rich never fiddled much with that humble out-of-Texas attitudethe "you'll never know what I have or what I think" mentality.
Frontier style was varied enough before excessive and eccentric stereotypes were ushered into the twentieth century with the first real Texas oil boom. At the time, Spindletopa 140-acre mound covered with oil derricks, where a single acre in 1910 cost $1 millionwas considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. Oil changed everything and helped to create a composite picture of the stereotypical Texas millionaire. The oil impresarios put on the dog and wore him well. In fact, the term filthy rich resulted from the oilmen's excesses. Their lifestyle was marked by a swaggering self-confidence and a razzle-dazzle approach brought on by a wheeler-dealer moxie and the belief that "too much is just enough."
These pre-1960 superrich Texans did not give one scintilla what anyone else thought. They found it hard to resist tarting-up any and all traditional time-tested styles. Their approach on how to spend money was influenced by the fact that the institutions and manners of Texas came mainly from two sourcesthe Old South and the old southern upland frontier, combining the courtliness and castes of one with the ferocious independence, combativeness, and crudities of the other.
There are countless books and anecdotes describing powerful and wealthy Texans at home, at work, and at play. The 1960s and 1970s ushered in a new era of grandiosity through architecture, design, and personal style. The undisputed dean of good taste through excess was Stanley Marcus. For more than fifty years he took Texans by the hand and guided them through his famous "Fortnights," magical two-week shopping extravaganzas that exposed culture-hungry Texans to fashion, food, music, art, and home furnishings from around the world. The coveted Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog continues to be wildly anticipated for its outrageous his-and-her gifts, including matching airplanes upholstered in cowhide with diamond initials on the dash, home robots, submarines, jewel-encrusted saddles, speedboats, and even his-and-hers Harley-Davidsons swathed in sterling silver and hand-tooled leather. These retail dream emporiums are the first stop if shopping to impress. The original flagship downtown Dallas store remains the state's second most celebrated institutionafter the Alamo, of course.
The "me, me, me" attitude of the eighties, which continued into the nineties, had no better home than in Texas, the land of no restraints. At a time when style became affordable and trickled down to the masses, lifestyles took on an air of nonchalance, and it seemed that everyone was suddenly entitled to luxurieswondrous wardrobes, designer home furnishings, lavish home theaters, an SUV for Mom, a customized pickup truck for Dad, and a fantasy dream home. Texans are unrivaled and renowned for tearing down buildings and homes every few decades and replacing them with grander and, of course, better ones. In the 1990s, a trend throughout the old prestige neighborhoods of Houston and Dallas began. Multiple mansions built in the 1920s and 1930s were rampantly being leveled to accommodate a single megamansion with square footage ranging from twenty to forty-five thousand square feet.
I have noticed one attribute that Texans possess with regard to money and not having it that other folks just don't seem to share. In Texas, the class system never fully developedcowhands have always been able to bunk with cattle kings, a throwback to a time less than one hundred years ago when they were all on a level playing field. Texas did not have much "old money" until the 1920s. It always seems that the ones without money are more proud than envious of their fellow and more fortunate Texans.
The image of the hat-clad, cigar-chomping, Cadillac-driving, Western dud-wearing, six-shooter-wielding, wheeler-dealer type driving the endless highways of Texas, looking for more cattle, land, and oil fields to buy has simply been replaced by a cap-clad, cigar-chomping, Hummer-driving, wheeler-dealer toting a laptop and doing business on his cell phone. Through a mesh of moxie and self-aggrandizement, these new bohemian entrepreneurs and old-coot cattlemen remain one breed of Texas hero. The style of these Texans is inexorably linked to the state's ranching eraa unique period in time that gave us the cowboy and cowgirl, figures that continue to be most often identified with Texas. The original free spirits, they had great style! Buried somewhere deep in every Texan's soul, let alone every American's soul, is just a little bit of cowboy achin' to get out. These mythic men and women, who moved ever so briefly across the West, continue to be a part of our cultural consciousness.
The open spaces of Texas translate to freedom of expression and the notion that there is plenty of room for everyone to do their thing. Texans feel that going to extremes through building and decorating is a birthright. Whatever the personal taste, whatever the scale, home design inside and out has emerged as a vital form of self-expressiona monument to who you are, where you have been, and what you might yet become. Texas style is not one specific and constant motif, but an exotic hybrid born primarily of Texas's multiculturalism. The result is an unequaled heritage in home decorating and architecture.
Excerpted from Lone Star Living , by Tyler Beard . Copyright (c) 2003 by Tyler Beard . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top