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A Texas Hotel Design Revolution

The Lone Star state’s been on the upswing for some time now, and not just for oil tycoons or wannabe ranchhands — in fact there happens to be a lot to love for fans of design-centric boutique hotels. In fact there’s something of a local movement afoot, adding a unique homegrown sensibility to a long heritage of big-hearted hospitality. Here are a dozen reasons why Texas might just be the future for the American independent hotel.

Hotel Saint Cecilia
Austin
Hotel Saint Cecilia

If the name doesn’t give it away, the vintage vinyl library surely will — the eponymous patron saint of music smiles beneficently on musicians, tastemakers, and hip travelers with a song in their heart. Small but well-outfitted and vividly colorful, this is the type of joint in which you’ll enjoy a courtyard and a swank lounge, with a small and equally colorful crowd. This just might be our favorite small hotel, certainly in Texas if not all of America — so be sure and live it up.

Lone Star Court
Austin
Lone Star Court

As in “motor court,” naturally, and the classic retro vibes are thick in the air at this haute-retro hideaway. The great outdoors makes for the perfect foil to the vintage fridges and neon camp: a poolside lounge area, a handful of fire pits, and a food truck will have you shooting the breeze with the best of them. Achieve peak Texan at the Water Trough with hearty eats, cowboy cocktails, and live music from every flavor of Americana.

Hotel Emma
San Antonio
Hotel Emma

The dynamic duo of Roman and Williams (the High Line, the Ace Hotel New York) reinvigorated this Second Empire stunner inside and out, taking care meanwhile to preserve traces of its former life as a 19th-century brewery. The Pearl Brewery complex is a Culinary Institute of America production, and its fifteen on-site restaurants should do the trick, we imagine.

South Congress Hotel
Austin
South Congress Hotel

As America’s fastest-growing city, Austin’s clearly got it going on. It’s a capital of many guises, this one filled to the brim with design-junkie materials: weathered woods, steels, bronzes, bricks, and terra-cotta weave harmoniously throughout the mesmerizing public spaces. Snag a flat white and read up on what it all means via the lobby bar’s collection of design tomes.

Hotel Van Zandt
Austin
Hotel Van Zandt

Kimpton’s generally reliable when it comes to smart design and contemporary comfort, a fact we attribute to their willingness to adapt to the environs. Here, that means chic-historical (historchical?) Rainey Street, the perfect accompaniment to the wink-and-nudge rock’n’roll implicit in the hotel’s name. Live music, authentic barbecue, and craft beer complete the equation admirably.

Kimber Modern
Austin
Kimber Modern

The low-key Kimber Modern makes an artful impression thanks to Kimber Cavendish’s curatorial prowess: it’s serene and hyper-contemporary by turns, and the architecture and ubiquitous local art will have you blinking in pleasant disbelief. Laid-back and design-forward at the same time, this is the ideal point of departure (and return) for honorary Austinites.

Camp Comfort
Comfort
Camp Comfort

There’s quite literally nothing else like this turn-of-the century bowling alley in central-Texas Hill Country. The quaintness is strong with this one, but it never impairs the convenience; you’ll have a knowledgeable guide to show you around, but you’ll also have the space and privacy to drink things in on your own terms. Slow all the way down and sit a spell, stranger.

Hotel Havana
San Antonio
Hotel Havana

We keep coming back to age-old character, here of the pre-Castro Cuban variety (as you might well have guessed from the name). A Riverwalk fixture for nearly a century, the Hotel Havana is enjoying a renovated second act in the capable hands of the Bunkhouse Group. Hardwood floors, wrought iron, and chandeliers, oh my!

The Heywood Hotel
Austin
The Heywood Hotel

Everything’s bigger around these parts, as they say, so don’t be surprised at the height and square footage you get in this East Austin mainstay. And lest you forget, they take every opportunity to reinforce hometown pride: the artwork, music, design cues, and roasts are local through and through. Spend a few you nights and you’ll feel like one too.

Hotel San Jose
Austin
Hotel San Jose

Yet another Bunkhouse best-of, yet another South Congress contender: can you blame us? We’re quite taken with its outsider charm, though — this erstwhile motor inn now subsists by virtue of clean minimalism with a touch of the zany. A good night’s sleep followed by a good day’s people-watching — you could do much worse.

Belmont Hotel
Dallas
Belmont Hotel

Our lone Dallas entry is, as it happens, also a reimagined motor inn — big state, lots of driving, it’s easy enough to see how the boutique motel would find its peak in Texas first. Here the hip positively drips, be it from the taps of the indoor-outdoor bar or the private hot tub in the sumptuous Terrace Suite.

Hotel Derek
Houston
Hotel Derek

Here we have the forerunner of Uptown’s nascent boutique streak, replete with mid-century slickness and just a quick jaunt from the city’s finest retail and entertainment outlets. The nosh is of particular note: the heaping Texas breakfast, absolutely, but we also hear there’s a scrumptious alligator burger for the adventurous….

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