In the last few years, Austin, Texas has stepped up its boutique hotel game beyond mainstays like the Hotel Saint Cecilia, Hotel San Jose and South Congress Hotel. Hospitality megabrands like the Sydell Group and Miraval have recently expanded into the market in the hopes of bringing the outdoors in and tapping local talent. “The Texas Hill Country surrounding Austin conjures a style all its own,” says architect David Rau, a principal at Hart Howerton who oversaw the Miraval property. “This special place is suffused with a strong sense of place, a pioneer legacy and an architectural vocabulary reflecting a simply, pure life under wide, open skies.” Several of these new properties are located in the burgeoning East Austin neighborhood. “Austin is an amazing city with talented craftsmen, artists and musicians that has a laid back sensibility but at the same time very thoughtful and uniquely its own,” says ARRIVE Hotels co-founder Chris Pardo. Here are six new properties championing fresh design points of view.
The LINE Austin showcases 108 suites and 320 guest rooms designed by Los-Angeles based designer Sean Knibb, who worked on the brand’s original West Coast hotel in Koreatown, and Austin-based architect Michael Hsu. Located at the intersection of Town Lake and downtown Austin, the property boasts design elements, furnishings and art by talented local artisans. “The organic and textured ground floor is the jumping off position for the design conversation, juxtaposing materials and textures to begin the design dialogue throughout the property,” says Knibb. The hotel was built in 1956 and opened as The Crest Inn a modernist mid-century building before turning into a Radisson. “What makes the property special is the fact that the work is all about inside looking out, a true interior experience,” says Sydell Group founder and CEO Andrew Zobler. “It has a raw yet metropolitan feel in a downtown setting where the interior design emphasis is about being more refined.” The brand new 1,475 square foot apartment-style, open floor plan RWB Apartment Suite on the hotel’s 12th floor offer panoramic views and natural light and features a collection of vintage books and original artwork. “We had a strong relationship with Sean from our past work together and we knew he would draw from the DNA of the flagship LINE hotel, but make it responsive to Austin,” says Zobler. “A lot of what we did was subtraction, removing layers to reveal the concrete bones and taking out some of the walls that obstructed the gorgeous view. The Brutalist architecture had become buried under years of evolution, but I knew we could reveal the bones and restore its glory.”
The Carpenter Hotel
The Might Union hospitality team’s first venture in Texas is the new Carpenter Hotel at Zilker Park and Barton Springs. The property is comprised of two bright and airy buildings: a new concrete and terracotta block building with open corridors that houses 93 rooms (all with terraces) and a low terracotta brick building built in 1948. The Mighty Union team, founded by designer and architect Jen Turner and Ace Hotel alums Donald Kenney and Jack Barron, purchased the original Carpenter’s Union building in 2014 in the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. They brought on Specht Architects to aid with the construction process and create three distinct buildings knit together by pecan trees and a pool. “The exterior landscape spaces (designed with Pharis Design) are essential to the project because of how they weave together the distinct spaces of the project and ground it all in a sense of place,” says Turner. With a color palette of blues, terracottas and a mix of custom and vintage furnishings, Turner calls the aesthetic “Cosmic Tex-Mex Moderno” meaning “we design things we like and we hope are an appropriate response to the place.” The lobby boasts vintage Sapporitti and deSede leather sofas, painted white brick walls, steel trusses, custom tables and floor coverings.
Set on 220 acres overlooking Lake Travis, Miraval Austin is a new resort experience from the wellness group which boasts locations in Tucson and the Berkshires. Its latest, where the Travaasa property was previously, offers 117 guest rooms and suites, a serene Life in Balance Spa, a 10-acre farm and ranch and a state-of-the-art Life in Balance Culinary Kitchen. The design firm Hart Howerton was tapped to create this harmonious space using a soft neutral color palette, hand-crafted accessories and art to create a restorative atmosphere. Conceptualized by renowned designer Clodagh, the serene 20,000-square-foot Life in Balance Spa boasts 30 treatment rooms, a spa pool, relaxation rooms, salon, sauna and steam room. “Our work at Miraval Austin is based on the natural palette of the regional landscape, with new buildings designed to feel as though they have their own deep history, and interiors meant to set the stage for contemplative experiences,” says architect David Rau, a principal at Hart Howerton. Guest rooms feature exterior porches with sweeping views, open bathrooms (some with outdoor showers) and custom built-in beds with hand-painted murals as headboards. “The design for Miraval Austin was inspired by the natural environment and architectural legacy of the Texas Hill Country location, as well as the vibrant counterculture of the larger Austin community,” says Rau. “The result is a uniquely Texan experience: at once rustic and refined, edgy and elegant.”
Designed by Texas based interior design firm Design Duncan Miller Ullmann, Hotel ZaZa Austin features 159 guest rooms and uniquely-designed suites, a full spa and pool. Bold bursts of color, intricate textures and patterns and a vibrant mix of art and furnishings differentiates this property from the pack. “The guts and function of the building are state of the art, but it feels like an old building that has been repurposed as a luxury boutique hotel,” says Charlie Givens, ZaZa’s co-owner and developer. “Cast stone brick, iron windows and railings and up lighting makes the structure stand out and the aesthetic of the rooms feel as though each guest has entered the home of a well-traveled, eccentric friend.” The lobby boasts a hand-scraped floor and plaster walls offset with a full corner of glass, bricks were treated with a wood stain to give it a patina and graphic wall coverings make for quirky surprises. “With all of the tech development of late, much of Austin is now starting to feel pretty sleek, and we wanted to be a departure from that,” says Pamela Vaughan, senior project designer at Design DMU, which oversaw the renovations. “The building is on the site of a former glass blowing factory–we wanted to capture that history and make this feel like it has been there forever.”
East Austin Hotel
The four-story East Austin boutique hotel from La Corsha Hospitality Group (the team responsible for the iconic Driskill Hotel’s renovations) encompasses 75 rooms (including pool side rooms and suites with private balconies), a lush courtyard pool and several food and beverage concepts. Local designers Robin Kelley and Kathy Steele collaborated with architecture firm Rhode Partners to create the mid century modern space with strong Scandinavian influences. “While mid-century modern is undoubtedly the major design aesthetic our goal was also to incorporate a global feel,” says Steele. Custom craftwork and found art sourced from Denmark and Morocco are incorporated throughout the minimal, clean interiors. “With a nod to the Wes Anderson technique of color blocking, we stayed true to a color palette inspired by a mix of mid-century Palm Springs vibe while incorporating all the color, energy and vibrancy of east Austin,” says Steele. The design team utilized a bold color palette of pinks, greens, blue and gold but also enlisted local artisans to bring their eclectic vision to life (think custom tiles created by artisan Tom O’Neill and quirky morals by urban street culture artist Jason Eatherly).
ARRIVE East Austin
ARRIVE East Austin is an 83-room hotel with a modern industrial warehouse vibe and funky decor elements. ARRIVE Hotels co-founder Chris Pardo brought on Baldridge Architects to execute the brand’s vision and aesthetic for combining a quirky early 1900s brick structure with a new construction building. “The building’s strong architectural language exudes strength and security and the rooms offer a lighter and more delicate habitat,” says Pardo. The rooms feature polished concrete floors, exposed concrete ceilings and custom built-in plywood furniture juxtaposed with golden velvet drapes, oriental rugs, custom avocado green upholstered banquettes and artwork created by local artist Sarah Presson. “The building’s facade is not only striking, but has a whimsical nature,” says Pardo. “It successfully speaks to the industrial character of the neighborhood while offering an almost musical nature, truly becoming a work of art itself.”