Cool Hunting 2009
Top hoteliers reveal the best new design discoveries in London, Texas, New York City, Buenos Aires & Mexico City.
Liz Lambert, former Manhattan district attorney turned hotelier
Born to a West Texas ranching family, Lambert is the visionary behind Bunkhouse Management, a hotel development team that has defined its own breezy brand of cool. Lambert's aesthetic pulls the beauty of the outdoors in—and combines it with a sense of play. Top projects The 40-room bungalow-style Hotel San José, a spare oasis that matches Austin's funky sensibility; the glamorously high-end 14-room Hotel Saint Cecilia, which reopened in 2008; and two characterful Jo's coffee shops (Bertoia stools, vintage signage). On the horizon A redesign of the swank Belmont Hotel in Dallas, and this summer, Lambert plans to open the El Cosmico compound in Marfa, where guests can choose from yurts, tents, and six vintage Airstream trailers.
Her Texas favorites
The Menil Collection, Houston
"This place feels like the house of an uncle who has traveled the world throughout his life and collected random beautiful objects along the way," says Lambert. The museum, founded in Houston by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, has a mix of antiquities, minimalist works, and African art. "I am always so inspired by what I see in there."
Marburger Farm Antique Show, Round Top
"Twice a year I head about an hour and a half outside Austin to the small town of Round Top—population 77—for one of the biggest antiques markets in the country," says Lambert. Vendors set up their booths in barns and fields that stretch for miles, and you can find anything from French stone gargoyles to Turkish rugs to taxidermy. "They also sell the best fried chicken on a stick you've ever had."
Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale
"Growing up in West Texas, I spent a lot of time at the artesian spring pool at Balmorhea," says Lambert. Apache Indians once frequented the oasis to water their horses, and the bathhouses, adobe cabins, and huge, one-and-three-quarter-acre pool were built in the 1930s as part of a New Deal public works project. "The architecture is beautiful in its stark, utilitarian simplicity. Look for the cottonwood trees—that's how you can always find water in the Texas desert. It's a really magical place."
Interstate 40, between Arnot and Hope Rds., Amarillo, antfarm.org
Houston Museum District
The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
2301 Flora St., Dallas, meyersonsymphonycenter.com
Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora St., Dallas, nashersculpturecenter.org, tickets $10
Hotel San José
1316 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512/852-2350, sanjosehotel.com, from $95
242 W. 2nd St., Austin, 512/469-9003; 1300 S. Congress Ave., 512/444-3800, joscoffee.com
The Menil Collection
1515 Sul Ross St., Houston, 713/525-9400, menil.org, free
Marfa, 512/852-2331, elcosmico.com
901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas, 214/393-2300, belmontdallas.com, from $109
Marburger Farm Antique Show
2248 S. Hwy. 237, Round Top, 713/622-0300, roundtop-marburger.com, next show begins Sept. 29, tickets $10
Balmorhea State Park
9207 Hwy. 17 S., Toyahvale, 432/375-2370, tpwd.state.tx.us, tickets $7
NEW YORK CITY
Design is woven into the daily fabric of New York. Its layout is largely based on an easy-to-understand grid; perhaps no other city in the world has a topography so user-friendly, navigable, and distinct. The city's relationship with design is intrinsic and fully about embracing both the high and the low. At SoHo design shop Moss, Alessi teapots are elevated to the level of a museum exhibition. Meanwhile, all around town, cast-off Eames chairs and funky 1970s lamps are reincarnated at the Housing Works and City Opera thrift stores—some of the most reliable troves. The key thing to understand is this: You don't need a Manhattan address to take advantage of this bounty—you just need to know where to look.