• Hip Hotels: Austin's Chic Boutiques

     
    FROM THE Winter 2014 ISSUE
     
    Photo credit: Kimber Modern

    From thoroughly modern motor courts to ultra-chic contemporary retreats, Austin’s boutique hotels stand out from the crowd.

With its heralded art scene, eclectic eateries, musical diversity and gorgeous Hill Country backdrop, Austin is arguably the hippest spot in the Lone Star State. And, as if Austin wasn’t cool enough already, in 2014 it will become a regular stop on the X Games circuit, replacing Los Angeles and beating out Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte, N.C., for the honor. More to the point, Austin is home to a collection of thoroughly modern and luxurious boutique hotels.

Kimber Modern

With its floor-to-ceiling windows, chic furnishings and carefully curated local art, the Kimber Modern is a south Austin standout-one that’s attracted the Indy Hall (a co-working community in Philadelphia, Pa.) retreat for the past four years.

"The location is prime, close to countless bars, restaurants and music venues, and the look and feel of the Kimber just can’t be beat. We were ready to book our return trip for the following year before we’d even left our first visit," says Alex Hillman, co-founder of Indy Hall. The Kimber Modern has seven guest rooms surrounded by common spaces punctuated by 100-year-old live oaks, a 20-foot water feature and outdoor firebox. Amenities include free hotel-wide Wi-Fi, daily breakfasts and happy hours. The venue is a frequent site for small luncheons, evening events and exclusive weekend retreats, and the hotel can be booked as a whole, says Cassie Bills, Kimber Modern manager.

"The common areas, both indoor and outdoor, are the absolute best part of staying at the Kimber," Hillman says. "We’d spend time having conversations in the lounges, brainstorming with Post-its on the glass sliding doors and soaking up a bit of sun peeking between the trees’ shade cover."

For Indy Hall’s retreats, adds Hillman, the company reserved the Kimber Modern for 10-plus guests and booked accommodations for another six at nearby hotels within walking distance. "A big part of what people forget about when selecting a venue is the impression it leaves," Hillman says. "Every single person we’ve brought to the Kimber Modern has been absolutely blown away."

Heywood Hotel

The newest boutique hotel in Austin, Heywood Hotel, offers "small batch" hospitality, says Kathy Setzer, who, along with George Reynolds, owns the property.

Imagined by Setzer and Reynolds and realized by local architecture firm KRDB, The Heywood was created by modernizing and expanding a 1920s Craftsman bungalow. An adaptive use and urban infill project, the property has received architectural acclaim, including a 2012 Merit award from the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"The Heywood opened in December 2011," says Setzer, "and it reflects the qualities that make Austin unique: creativity, an easygoing lifestyle and an appreciation for all things local." Plus, the east-Austin venue is within walking distance of downtown, the convention center and the Sixth Street entertainment strip.

The Heywood Hotel has seven rooms and must be reserved in its entirety for special events. Although it doesn’t have dedicated event space, groups frequently use its lobby to set up "coffee table" meetings, says Setzer, something that works well for small teams. The hotel also has a 450-square-foot private rooftop courtyard. At the front of the structure, a modern patio and veranda with hanging basket chairs greet guests.

The Driskill Hotel

The 189-room Driskill Hotel is a historical showpiece. Built in 1886 by cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill, it was designed to rival luxury hotels in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Enter today, and your steps will still land on marble floors and halt under the hotel’s signature stained-glass dome for a lingering look.

The Driskill is within walking distance of the state capitol and the Austin Convention Center, as well as Austin’s famed entertainment district. Better still, the hotel has 18,000 square feet of meeting space, free Wi-Fi and on-trend audio-visual systems.

If you plan a meeting here, you’ll join the ranks of some illustrious guests. Lyndon B. Johnson waited in one of the hotel’s suites for results of his 1948 Senate race, his 1960 election as vice president and his 1964 bid for president. During Johnson’s presidency, the Driskill served as White House press corps Headquarters, and one of its fifth floor suites, known as the Governor’s Suite, was permanently reserved for the president.

During the 2000 Florida recount, George W. Bush set up a temporary office in the Driskill Ballroom. It is rumored that he accepted Al Gore’s second concession call from one of its rooms. In addition, former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have stayed at the Driskill.

Hotel Ella

In addition to exceptional event spaces, Hotel Ella (formerly The Mansion at Judges’ Hill) includes 48 guest rooms.

Hotel Ella traces its roots back to 1846, when it is said the land was first granted to Adam Maag by the state of Texas, one year after it was admitted to the Union. This historic home has undergone a multimillion-dollar historic restoration and renovation. It reopened in September.

The mansion offers more than 8,600 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, including a 3,500-square-foot grand ballroom flanked by windows and a spacious veranda overlooking the courtyard. The grand ballroom can be divided into smaller meeting spaces.

"Hotel Ella is Texas’ only member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World," says Nicole Kubitza, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Catering is exclusively in-house, with the exception of wedding cakes, and the entire venue may be reserved for private events, adds Kubitza.

Hotel San Jose

Although Hotel San Jose doesn’t have dedicated meeting space, meetings still frequently take place within its walls. "Hotel San Jose can accommodate small meetings," says Maryam Brown, the property’s publicist. "Meeting planners need to rent a room and events can be held in or around the room."

Just minutes from downtown and the Texas State Capitol, Hotel San Jose is located on South Congress Avenue, which is known for its shopping, dining and nightlife.

Hotel San Jose was built in 1936 as a modern motor court and has become a local landmark. Now a 40-room bungalow-style hotel with an expansive courtyard, Hotel San Jose offers accommodations ranging from basic rooms to deluxe courtyard suites.

The historic Austin hotel, The Driskill, has appointed Nori Meisner to its staff as historic tour guide and special events concierge. In her new role, Meisner will bring to life the stories of the hotel, which was built by cattle baron Colonel Jesse Driskill in 1886. Among the many memories she’ll share with guests on the history tour is the first date between former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. The two met over breakfast on that fateful day.

 

When it comes to meeting at the Austin Convention Center, the numbers are forever in your favor. Let’s start with six. That’s how many full city blocks the convention center extends in the heart of the downtown business district. Or 12,000—the number of hotel rooms within a two-mile radius of the venue. Twenty-thousand is how many wireless devices that can be simultaneously connected, ensuring all of your guests won’t miss a meeting, Zoom call, presentation or email.  

 

 

Keep your eye on the skyline of Austin. The sustainably focused hotel brand, 1 Hotels, is coming to a mixed-use hotel, residential and retail project currently under construction at the meeting of Waller Creek and Lady Bird Lake. The property will be the tallest tower in Texas and will overlook the historic Rainey Street district.