Elton and Martha Hyder’s stunning home in Fort Worth, Texas, is a testament to a lifetime of passionate—and extraordinarily wide-ranging—collecting. “My mother could find something she related to in any style from any period anywhere in the world, and did so during her many travels throughout life,” notes Martha’s daughter, Whitney, who, along with the Hyder family, has consigned the collection to Sotheby’s Home.
From antique Oushak rugs to 17th-century tapestries to sculptures from New Guinea to French Regency doors, Martha’s propensity was guided by a simple premise, as she said in a 1975 Architectural Digest feature on her home: “We buy things because they are beautiful and interesting.” The resulting house was an ever-evolving “mélange” that was the center of the Hyder family’s lives.
In 1962, Elton and Martha bought a four-story English Tudor estate built in 1916, and transformed it into an Italianate villa and backdrop for their encyclopedic tastes and roving spirits. It was also where they raised their three children, Whitney, Brent, and Elton III, and where they hosted countless family and social events, from weddings to reunions.
Famed as a social tour-de-force in Fort Worth, Martha was instrumental in establishing the renowned Van Cliburn International Piano Competition while serving as its chairwoman and on the board. Her devotion to the arts was matched by her love of entertaining, so countless musicians, dignitaries, artists, scientists, and writers spent time enjoying Martha’s singular surroundings. As Martha also told Architectural Digest, “I think the décor and furnishings of a house don’t matter nearly so much as its warmth. The most important thing when you walk into a house is that it should look friendly and hospitable.”
The dark, “grotto-like ambience” of the house was an ideal contrast to the bright Texas weather, and provided the perfect backdrop for the Hyders’ many collections. These included Chinoiserie, outsider art, antique architectural features, Old Master drawings, and miniature art and objects.
A renowned traveller with an eclectic eye, Martha Hyder had a second home in San Miguel and her abiding love of Mexico can be seen in these 19th century folk art carved and painted wood skeletons (below).
A few of the other highlights include a George I gilt-and-red-Japanned bureau bookcase from circa 1720, which exemplifies the Chinoiserie style throughout the home; and the 1825 Russian Imperial porcelain plate from the Kremlin Service, which is just one of many examples of her vast collection of Russian art and antiques.
But just like the collections, the house was never “done”. As Martha said in Decorating with Mrs. Elton Hyder: “A house must evolve, it must change always. You must continually do something to make it live—from flowers put in a new place to a colorful tablecloth to a priceless antique.”
Martha’s devotion to creating a home filled with collections that spoke to her, in all their eclectic glory, was matched by her commitment to the arts and civic causes, resulting in a grand vision that was simultaneously a hospitable center of Fort Worth social life. Above all, it’s a testament to a life well lived, with a deep love of aesthetic exploration and discovery at its core.