Now Playing

Round Top Roundup

The tiny burg between Austin and Houston is a bona fide destination for antiques, art and small-town charm. 

Located within walking distance of Marburger Farm, The Rendezvous offers Round Top visitors a trio of cabins. 

(1 of 5)

Smoot and Paige Hull turned a rustic fishing cottage into The Vintage Round Top, a second home and vacation rental. 

(2 of 5)

The Compound, a 57-acre special-event center, is the brainchild of developer Mark Massey. 

(3 of 5)

An example of the eclectic accommodations available at Rancho Pillow

(4 of 5) 

A scene from McLaren’s Antiques and Interiors

(5 of 5) 

It may say population 90 on the Round Top city limit sign, but the defiant 1 square mile is growing steadily. Best known for its twice-a-year Antiques Week, the bucolic Fayette County town has seen an influx of development. Houston native Mark Massey, a preservation-minded real estate developer with third-generation ties to the town, is leading a revitalization in its center, purchasing several prime plots of land and breathing new life into buildings in disrepair. “‘Round Top Magic’ is an indescribable feeling one gets when you’re here… a combination of the town’s natural setting, its history and quaint countryside pulse that really makes you feel like you’re somewhere else,” he says. “With all the work I’m doing here, I strive to maintain that. The last thing I want to do is interrupt that magic.” To experience some of the mystique—during the next antiques show, which runs Sep. 26 to Oct. 1, or anytime—these stops top the list.

The fall and spring antiques shows bring thousands of dealers for a weeklong treasure hunt during which shoppers can find just about anything their hearts desire. Marburger Farm is one of the largest twice-a-year traditions, with 43 acres, 12 buildings, 10 sprawling tents and 350-plus dealers. “Our dealers spend the year combing the globe for the best antiques this world has to offer,” says CCO Tara Suel. There’s a slew of other seasonal shopkeepers during the show, but McLaren’s Antiques and Interiors, which showcases vignettes mixing antique with industrial pieces, is open every weekend. “We handcraft reclaimed pine tables in our England workshop, find antique armoires and double buffets from French chateaux, and visit the palaces of India to discover amazing doors,” says owner Sean McLaren. But Round Top’s offerings don’t stop at antiques. Check out Cache Chic for art and handmade jewelry; Townsend Provisions for home goods, vintage pieces and boots; and Lark for jewelry and gifts. The Compound, Massey’s visionary 57-acre multievent center, also hosts twice-yearly antiques shows.

Darling B&Bs abound, but it’s the homes-turned-hospitality suites that captivate most. Newly opened to the public, Rancho Pillow (rates from $300 per night), whose lodging options include a three-story 18th century Dutch barn and an air-conditioned king-size teepee, was Austinite Sheila Youngblood and her family’s retreat for the last decade. The whimsical wonderland has all kinds of surprises packed into its 20 acres, such as a heated saltwater wading pool, outdoor tubs and a poetry library. Similarly, The Vintage Round Top (rates from $250 per night) started as a second home for Smoot and Paige Hull in 2011, but it evolved into a chic retreat for others. In September, the Hulls will unveil a glam 2,000-square-foot cottage that sleeps an additional six to eight guests and has a private mudroom connecting it to the original home. A two-minute drive from the center of town lies The Rendezvous (rates from $350 per night), the year-old creative collaboration of Gina Galvin, owner of Peacock Park Design, and Carrie Hurley. “For years we passed by the sweet spot and wondered why someone had not turned it into something fabulous,” Hurley says. When the “little slice of heaven was there for the taking,” the dynamic duo took over and worked with Old World Antieks in La Grange to design refuges like the Old World cabin, which features an artful selection of antique finds.

Locals love The Stone Cellar for its fresh sangria and thin-crust pizzas, particularly the Cowgirl Junky, topped with candied jalapeno peppers. Royers Round Top Café, which serves gourmet comfort food, is known for its award-winning pie. Brand-new is Bistro Napoletana, whose owner, Mary Helen Latimer, is a State Fair of Texas blue ribbon-winning pastry chef. Plus, a new spot called Teague’s Tavern will set up shop before fall. Owner Kiki Teague and her husband, Don, will serve craft cocktails and Texas comfort food with a modern twist—think cheesy biscuits with bacon jam. The Teagues will also use crops from a local farm and local distilled spirits. “We are a reflection of Texas—a gathering place with live music on the weekends and art in the bar,” Kiki says. “Round Top is a wonderful, eclectic place, and we wanted to honor that.”