Not often considered a design capital, Austin is more known for its neon makers and barbecue than its furniture. However, just over an hour from the famed Round Top Antiques Market, the likes of Leanne Ford and Martin Lawrence Bullard (buying for none other than Gwen Stefani) flock to the Lone Star State for inspiration (and to fill the trunks of their cars with small treasures for customer projects). Even Kelly Wearstler has her eyes set on the city, having designed the downtown Austin Proper Hotel in early 2020.
Adorned with its signature eclecticism, the property feels more like your really cool aunt’s house than a hotel, and that was the point. The sculptural staircase (composed of more than 60 assembled runners) recalls Wearstler’s home in Malibu, while the seating areas are meant to evoke the feel of a living room. The space is constantly changing, so it can look different from visit to visit, which is all the more reason to book a visit. “I like to let a piece marinate, and I’m always collecting and adding to a space,” Wearstler explains. Read on to find out which design ideas we want to bring home from that five-star stay.
Turn off the lights for an instant ambiance
In the lobby of the Proper you will find many lamps missing a few bulbs. But don’t worry, it’s done on purpose. By not using the maximum amount of power, a softer glow washes over the different areas. “Warmer ambient light complements the color story better,” Wearstler says. Think of it as a shortcut to installing a dimmer.
knock on wood
As guests enter the property, they are greeted by an abundance of oak paneling (and parquet floors). Tambour wall treatments in the lobby bar, sleek accent walls in the bathrooms, and a gridded layout in the front desk underscore Austin’s affinity for craftsmanship. Wearstler chose to honor tradition with ebonized wooden lines that draw the eye to the gingham fabric ceilings.
Don’t cut corners
The design pro leaves no space untouched, including the corners. From a stone plinth to an iron floor lamp, every square foot of the hotel has been designed with intention. There’s even a miniature pottery museum under the central staircase. Wearstler notes, “Transitional spaces can really be what sets an interior apart; hallways and hallways can harness energy to change tone and mood.
Tile more than floors
In the property’s lobby restaurant, The Peacock, mismatched upholstered dining chairs were inspired by an intricate tiled wall nearby. The unsold ceramic squares, sourced from a family in Portugal, are meant to represent the vibrant cultural history specific to Austin with its patchwork layout. A mix of 3D flat and raised tiles cast shadows across the space as the sun moves throughout the day.
Largely instinctive for Wearstler, mixing patterns and textures is her favorite way to add warmth and personality to a space. Lobby areas can often prioritize function over beauty, but easy-to-clean leather and linen (which look good even when wrinkled) adorn many seating areas.
Upstairs in the bedrooms, grasscloth walls are paired with damask printed bed frames. “You have to be willing to take risks,” says Wearstler. “Sometimes an unexpected pairing can collide the wrong way.” Using complementary geometric patterns like directional stripes and subtle plaids in a monochromatic color palette keeps things from feeling overwhelming. School is in session.