Cloche Designs | Ode to Jackie’s Playhouse Artisans
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Ode to Jackie’s Playhouse Artisans

Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Photography by: Christin Gish

Dear Jackie’s Playhouse Artisans,

It was an incredible gift to celebrate last Sunday’s ribbon cutting with you. Thank you for being Cloche’s honored guests among 500 gathered to experience the reopening of Jackie’s Playhouse with all proceeds benefitting The Generations Fund at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. Here’s a sneak peek at the breathtaking @jessicagiesey party pics…much more to come in our next Love Letter and on Instagram @clochedesigns!

I’m writing to express my gratitude for your extraordinary talents and overwhelming generosity towards this Special Project. I began by asking, from the bottom of my heart, for favors. Yet as time went by, there were light bulb moments when I knew each of you had realized your own heartfelt connection to Jackie’s Playhouse. From there emerged personal passions that subsequently transcended all other reasons for your involvement. It was magical to witness and magical to walk alongside you in your trades. I have come to adore each of you, both professionally and personally. As the daughter of an artist, the entire creative journey from start to finish has been a beautiful privilege for me in every way.

To those of you reading this Love Letter who have been following our story over the past several months, let me share some important thoughts about the connection between Cloche and this legacy project. Each of us has those places we hold close to our hearts where we made our happiest childhood memories. Jackie’s Playhouse is why I first fell in love with Easter Sunday, and why I first fell in love with The Argyle. Four decades later, my three children love Jackie’s Playhouse as much as I still do. It is truly where The Argyle story begins for future generations.

Last summer, I was lamenting to my Dad over how time had taken such a toll on something so dear to me. He fired back: “Quit whining and go do something about it!” I took his advice and the idea, to my amazement, was met with enthusiasm by The Argyle Board of Governors. My cousins, the Donnell family, agreed to fund construction— including a thoughtful porch extension and the addition of a tiny boxwood garden. The rest is now history. From the fullness of their humble generosity, The Argyle and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have received one blessing after another.

Over the past year Cloche has since donated our time and talents at the helm of Jackie’s Playhouse project. Our mission was to bring a San Antonio treasure back to its original glory while raising funds for biomedical research. We began with $40,000 donated towards construction, and to date have grossed $180,000 for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. How did we dream that a tiny playhouse could inspire such tremendous enthusiasm and support from our community? Suffice it to say, we believe in magic. And you can’t tame the spirit of someone who has magic in their veins. My mother taught me this and it is, perhaps, the greatest lesson of my life.

A quick bit of background for anyone new to The Argyle story: built in 1854 before the War Between the States as the headquarters of a horse ranch, The Argyle as we know it today was founded in 1955 as a private dining club devoted exclusively to the support the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. For more information, visit The Argyle’s website. Jackie’s Playhouse was build in 1953 as the childhood retreat of Jacqueline Beretta, a sixth-generation Texan. Jackie’s parents, Mary Austin, a descendant of Stephen F. Austin, and Jack Beretta designed the playhouse and commissioned a talented woodworker who lived on their ranch to build it in honor of their daughter’s birth. In 1974 Jackie donated the playhouse to The Argyle grounds. To learn more read “The Story of Jackie’s Playhouse at The Argyle.”

Here is Jackie’s Playhouse on the Argyle lawn before construction began this July…

Here are some progress shots during construction which lasted two months…

And now here is all the beauty you’ve been waiting for (captured by the amazing @verryrobin_co who traveled all the way from Charlottesville to photograph the magic)!

Roof: The ‘Majestic Slate’ shingles are made from recycled materials by EcoStar in ‘Federal Grey’. This slate roofing replica that was donated by Leland Stone and EM Estrada features stunning unlacquered copper detail.

Interior Paint: Farrow & Ball’s ‘Arsenic No. 214’ a lively and stimulating mint green, coats the kitchen wainscot and cabinetry. ‘All White No. 2005’ coats the ceilings in both interior rooms. ‘Pink Ground No. 202’ a warm blush color, was chosen for the wainscot and fireplace mantel in the living room.

Wallpaper: We will forever swoon over the living room’s ‘Mushroom Forrest Wallpaper’ by Paris artist Nathalie Lété in collaboration with Anthropologie featuring illustrations of bunnies and toadstools. In the kitchen, ‘Teaspoons Wallpaper’ by Studio Ditte for Anthropologie depicts illustrations of (sentimental!) spoons and keys. Seriously y’all, the cutest wallpapers EVER!!

Furnishings: All original pieces were refurbished and reupholstered in strawberry ‘Rousham Romp’ from the Robert Allen Madcap Cottage Collection which we coated in clear vinyl to hold up to future years of wear and tear. Furnishings in the playhouse curated by Jackie’s mother include a Victorian chaise lounge, a marble top table and chair, a highchair, a French footstool and an iron café table and chairs.

Flooring: The carpet and linoleum were removed revealing, to our great delight, original Longleaf Pine floors which have been refinished in a dark walnut stain. A darling ‘Gypsy’ pink and green area rug was selected from the Dash & Albert Rug Company.

Fireplace: The original black and white lithographic stone that depicts whimsical imagery from nursery rhyme scenes was preserved.

Artwork: All framing was donated and installed pro-bono by Art Incorporated. Original watercolor art commissioned for the “Mr. McGregor’s Secret Garden Party” invitation (donated by Gina Langford, Town & Country magazine acclaimed watercolor artists) stars above the fireplace. P.S. When we contacted Gina we had no idea she was in the process of moving to San Antonio and that she was married at the Argyle not many years ago! What are the odds (we don’t believe in coincidences)? Follow all her gorgeous work @gina.langford.

The story of “The Tale of Two Bad Mice” by Beatrix Potter is framed page by page behind a series of plexiglass panels that wrap the entire span of the living room wainscot at a child’s eye level starting at the right side of the kitchen door and ending at the left.

A pair of framed paper cutouts original to the playhouse in shadow boxes and a cross stitch piece have been restored and hang in the kitchen. Silhouettes of my three children—Nancy Nell, Marguerite and Byron, hang just inside the new back door.

Kitchen Countertop: Calcutta Michelangelo marble was donated by Delta Granite who milled a faux sink into the slab.

Kitchen Hardware: Created in collaboration between Atelier & Co. and Stone Standard, the ‘Alexandria Faucet’ was made from solid unvarnished brass. An antique German towel rack from the original playhouse was re-installed in the kitchen donning new tea towels monogrammed with Jackie’s initials and The Argyle boar crest.

Lighting: The interior features a pair of Italian tole vintage flush mount fixtures and ‘Invisible Light Switches’ by Forbes & Lomax with toggle switches made of brass. The exterior showcases a circa 1890’s pair of oil carriage lanterns that were resurrected and electrified and copper firefly tree lighting to illuminate the playhouse at night.

Window Treatments: Wooden cornices were hand stenciled and painted using the chantorne trompe l’oeil technique to mimic a curtain valance by Vigini Paint and Design. A wonderful moment was the day we needed to match paint to our already selected wallpaper. Of all the names in the English Language, can you guess what appeared from the Sherwin Williams app on our iPhone as we stood huddled in the playhouse living room? Check it out below…total chill bump moment!!

Exterior Paint: Selections were matched to the exact exterior colors of The Argyle mansion.

Front Door Hardware: A traditional skeleton key mortise lock and a pair of oval door knobs with a polished brass finish donated by Leland Stone adorn the doors. The keyhole is covered by tassel-shaped hardware. The original solid brass door knocker remains.

Front Window: Cloche designed the beveled diamond shaped glass window to the right of the front door, restoring it, as it had been broken years ago. The design incorporates Jackie Beretta’s ‘JB’ initials, an olive leaf garland and The Argyle’s legendary boar crest.

Garden Fencing: John Troy designed a wooden fence inspired by the shape of rabbit ears that encloses ‘Mr. McGregor’s Secret Garden.’ The gateway to the garden features hand-forged antique sterling silver spoon hardware with the engraved initial ‘B’ for Beretta.

Garden Features: A 58” scarecrow replica was created from salvaged metal pieces (some original to the playhouse) and affectionately named ‘Voss’ after the artisan who made him (and gave him a heart, the nerve and a brain!). His design was inspired by the scarecrow in Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Cement rabbit statues donated by John Troy from The Brookfield Company in a ‘White Wash Sandstone Finish’ happily embellish the garden.

I am forever and ever (and ever and ever, and ever and ever) grateful to you, Jackie’s Playhouse Artisans, the dream team who donated your time and talents to bring such exquisite finishes to Jackie’s Playhouse project:

Construction: David Mauzé & Chris Pearson, Mauzé Construction
Remodel Architect: Malcolm Chesney, Chesney Morales Partners
Interior Designer: Michele Stevens, Intoto Interiors
Landscape & Exterior Lighting: John S. Troy Landscape Architect, Wally Baker, Casa Verde Landscaping & Kelly Francis Illumination
Hardware & Roofing: Leland Stone (“A Man For All Details”), Stone Standard
Metal Works: Ted Voss Metals
Interior Artworks: Art IncorporatedGina Langford
Countertop: Delta Granite
Window Treatments: Vigini Paint and Design
Refinishing & Upholstery: Rick Edgington, Edgington Upholstery
Interiors Photography: Robin Verrier, Verry Robin & Co.

Each of you has left a lasting mark, a true legacy for future generations, on the grounds of The Argyle—and on my heart. We made magic together. I will treasure each and every moment for the rest of my life.

“I don’t believe in magic.’
The young boy said.
The old man smiled.
‘You will when you see her.”

Ever grateful and full of love,
Cloche Designs