Designing for Comfort

For the Wheeler family, home renovations are more than just a job. This team designs with architectural integrity, family connections and comfort in mind.

SUE AND MARK WHEELER ARE THE OWNERS OF Fredericksburg Custom Homes, a design and home renova - tion studio based in Fredericksburg, Texas. They focus on renovations rooted in personal connections and interior de - sign that embraces cozy comforts. Their latest project is the renovation of a Victorian farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, but this husband-and-wife team didn’t initially set out to make a name for themselves in the home design world. You may be familiar with Sue Wheeler’s early work — Holly Pond Hill greeting cards — and even purchased one of her designs.

“I actually used to illustrate greeting cards for Hallmark,” says Sue. “After Mark and I had our first baby in 1983, I wanted to work from home. I saw this ad in the newspaper for a card illustrator, and things kind of took off from there.” While Sue worked on licensing deals for her illustrations, Mark became interested in the real estate business.

“I was working in the banking industry in Houston, and in the early 90s, we decided to move to Fredericksburg,” Mark contin - ues. “That’s when I built our first home and got really involved with construction. I eventually started doing it for clients.”

In the early 2000s, the recession and internet age en - croached on Sue’s illustration career, and she began helping Mark with the interior design side of the renovation business. “Interior design was really my passion all along,” explains Sue. “We were thrilled to be working together as a team.”

The couple built Fredericksburg Custom Homes on word of mouth alone, and now they specialize in historic-inspired new builds and renovations in the Fredericksburg area. Their sons Travis and Kevin have even joined the family business. Travis designs floor plans and 3D project renderings for clients while Kevin executes them with expert carpentry. “We all have a similar style, so working together as a family is really easy,” says Sue. For the Wheelers, the home renovation business is a personal one. Sue says, “My favorite part of designing for clients is the memories and connections we make with families, like Margo and Juan from our most recent project in Comfort.”

Sue and Mark met Margo and Juan when the Austin couple toured a home the Wheelers renovated in the Texas Hill Country. While that deal didn’t go through with the sellers, Margo knew she found the team that could make her Hill Country dream a reality. “We worked with Margo and Juan from the very start,” says Sue. “Margo and I quickly became like sisters and had a blast sourcing antiques and collaborating on the home together.” Now, the duo meets up to enjoy the beautiful spaces Sue created. “I gained a best friend during this renovation project,” adds Margo. Sue explains that the client relationship is everything when it comes to a successful project.

“Margo was so trusting of our vision, which made it a great design partnership. That’s how you end up with a good result — trust and collaboration.” Margo and Juan purchased the 1904 Victorian farmhouse just off Main Street in downtown Comfort. The property included the original home and tank house on an overgrown lot, which required a complete overhaul to meet the couple’s vision for a relaxing Hill Country retreat.

“We took the house down to the studs and Travis redid the entire layout, rearranging the rooms for better flow and elements: Dave Whittaker refinished the original hardwood floors, Facets supplied period fixtures, tile was sourced from The Tile Shop and Guido Materials matched original windows and doors. The Wheelers also added a German-inspired guest house, a garage and carriage house apartment, and a screened-in back porch to the property centered around a manicured courtyard. Perfectly integrated into the design, these new builds all look like original features.

“Mark is about the structure, and I’m all about the visual details,” explains Sue. When it comes to designing interiors, Sue likes to start from the ground up. “Since we stripped the house down to the studs, we got to start from scratch. I love to ground the design of a room with a rug and then build on with fabrics, furnishings and accessories.” The home is outfitted with beautiful textiles from Calico Corners, window dressings from Smith and Noble and rugs from Rug Studio.

“Margo and I have the same taste, which made shopping for this project really fun!” exclaims Sue. The home is furnished with a vast collection of antiques sourced from the Round Top Antique Fair, Vogt Auction House and Cottage Antiques.

Margo added her own personal touch to every room with chandeliers she collected on trips to Paris. Sue took the responsibility of curating the collections and turning the vast selection of items into a cohesive and welcoming design scheme. “Sue is exceptional at curating a space with treasures while also knowing how to carefully edit to create something balanced and beautiful,” adds Mark. Margo and Juan love the finished renovation. “I couldn’t have picked a better house or a better team to bring it to life,” says Margo. “I pinch myself every day because I am truly blessed to call this place home.”

The renovated gourmet kitchen is the crowning jewel of the Comfort home. While the kitchen was taken to the studs and upgraded with custom cabinetry by CSI and chef-grade appliances — most sourced from C & D Appliance in Fredericksburg, the Wheelers preserved the original beadboard and trim that the homeowners loved and used these details as the design inspiration. The butler’s pantry is framed with antique glass doors and features custom built-ins surrounding an antique sideboard. “The butler’s pantry is my favorite space in the entire home,” says Sue. “It’s just so special.”

While Sue was able to pick a favorite room, Margo cannot settle on just one. “Each room is like a jewelry box that invites you in with Sue’s welcoming designs. I love every space and the unique experience each room delivers,” says Margo.

It is clear to see that every corner of this home renovation is designed for Comfort. See this beautiful home for yourself at the Comfort Home Tour on October 9, 2021.