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Jennifer Thornton | Photo: Courtesy Images | July 9, 2013
If you haven’t packed for an overnighter lately, you don’t know what you’re missing at hotels that have kicked up the design quotient with space reconfigurations, multimillion-dollar revamps and design-star-branded interiors. From highly touted hotels to their boutique-chic counterparts, never has Texas hospitality been bigger—or better.
Boutique Streak in Big D
Tapping into Dallas’ buzzing art scene is the keeper of one of the most impressively curated hotel art collections, The Joule (thejouledallas.com). At the center of the downtown five-star property’s well-known multi-million dollar expansion is its armory of modern art (17 museum-caliber works from celebrated names such as Warhol). Set to infuse the hotel’s Adam Tihany-interiors with even more creative elan are more than 30 museum-quality works; a showstopping bronze nautilus from British artist Tony Cragg is already installed in the lobby. Artsy allure continues in the Taschen Library, which, in addition to hosting limited-edition art books, also serves as a bookstore for take-home titles, and a sibling to the boutiques Tenoversix and Traffic LA. These, along with The Joule’s remaining retail roster, offer a Texas-sized array of style-minded stock options.
In the same aesthetic nexus is the Le Meridien Dallas near Galleria Dallas (starwoodhotels.com), which makes a dramatic overture with its amped-up, bright-pink backsplash behind the front desk. Consider it reinvented check-in with a check-it-out punch of color.
Haute in Houston
Turn south to Houston, where Hotel Derek (hotelderek.com), the Galleria district’s sole boutique hotel, represents a massive design rethink, having emerged from a recently completed renovation. Its edgy rep is restored, thanks to Texas-based design firm Flick-Mars, which helmed the overhaul to feature a Houston-specific narrative told through a vibrant color palette and a patina of textured fabrics, snakeskin wallpaper and natural materials. Adding substance to style are LED lighting upgrades. Rebranded to appeal to traveling professionals with a refined sense of place, the hotel also features am-to-pm reconfigurations of its culinary duo Valentino and Valentino VIN Bar.
Heightening the already blissful experience at Travaasa Austin (travaasa.com) is the spa resort’s all-new men’s Western Sky treatment room. Designed by Maggie Werner, senior director of spa and retail for Travaasa Experiential Resorts, the space lives up to its billing with a fiber-optic celestial ceiling suspended over a massage table with six Bose speakers—created to mimic Hill Country stargazing. “We’re lucky in Texas that many of those Western design elements can be tied into a masculine idea of serenity,” Werner notes. “The notion of cowboys resting after a long day on the ranch or travelers finding a place to relax for the evening served as inspiration for the design.” In this unique orbit are flashes of early frontier Texas, including reclaimed Douglas fir culled from a Texas schoolhouse for the walls, with loblolly pine trim sourced from an equally bygone library. Cowhide-like carpeting and a rawhide chair, faux suede duvet and flannel throw are among the other Western flourishes, counterbalanced with steam punk wall sconces. Though winking at the past, the space nods to the present with the use of non-VOC paint and a toxic-free, soy-based finish.
Meanwhile, the kicky-cool kid on the block in Austin’s South Congress neighborhood, Hotel Saint Cecilia (hotelsaintcecilia.com), is anything but standard. With the patron saint of music and poetry as its namesake, this eclectic-mod concept, envisioned and realized by hotelier Liz Lambert, is small in size but large in style, with a design footprint informed by ’60s- and ’70s-era musicians, writers, and artists (a little retro, a lot rock ’n’ roll). With 14 units, the glam pad pairs modern furnishings with original artwork and ups the luxury factor with handcrafted Hastens mattresses hailing from Sweden. Even the pool deck shoves aside the norm to make way for a neon-coated sign bearing the word “Soul,” of which this hotel has plenty.
Keeping it unique-chic in San Antonio is Hotel Havana (havanasanantonio.com). Echoing the hotel’s overall design philosophy—“to reflect the really vibrant Latin culture of San Antonio and of nearby Mexico,” says Bunkhouse Group’s Isadora McKeon—interiors take shape with original Bastrop pine flooring, antique furnishings, Turkish rugs and Cuban art. But its new-world and old-world sensibilities best converge at Ocho, a dine-and-drink hybrid with two distinct spaces. The first, an upper-level lounge, is encased in a glass and Tiffany-blue steel conservatory. Recalling a birdcage, this reimagined aviary opens to a cafe table-filled courtyard on the River Walk. When it comes time to fly the coop for sips in saucier surrounds, imbibers make their way downstairs to a dimly lit space, this one with flaunty velvet sofas and antique leather club chairs. The subterranean space vibes with Ocho’s Pan-Latin-influenced cuisine
Like It? Buy It!
Love that cashmere throw from your favorite boutique hotel and wish you had one at home? Enter Kiyo Ohara, president of the hospitality design firm Dragon 88 (dragon88.com), which designs superchic accessories for top-tier hotels like Hotel Palomar in Dallas. She launched her e-commerce site this past spring in response to consumers’ demand for her stylish hotel designs. A key from the hospitality pros to updating your look is bold use of accessories such as pillows and throws, says Ohara. Hoteliers know that well-chosen accessories help set the ambience or mood of the room as well as the hotel’s overall design aesthetic. “People tend to connect with accessories in particular because they remind them of a very special stay
they want to emulate at home,” she says. Build a room at home around a favorite pillow or throw, then add furnishings to reaacreate your favorite boutique