by Georgina Callan
|But then you knew that there was more to South Congress Hotel man. The first clue was the sign
outside, the visually implied suggestion that whatever the words “South Congress” mean to you
may change after a stay here.
Our man is well-read. In his large library/bar area, there’s a thoughtfully edited collection of books
on art, architecture and design, an unexpected but welcome treatise on an art movement, a
monograph on an architect, as well as novels and biographies, all displayed amongst plants
and vines and found objects designed to remind you of other corners of the world.
He’s clearly traveled around a bit, as the décor implies, and he knows what comfort looks like.
Take a guess and you’d think his roots were in Northern California and that he wound up in
Austin, Texas, via South America and the Far East. Wherever he’s travelled, he has been
collecting mid-century furniture and art for some time. The furnishings are a mix of vintage,
found and new pieces. The focus is on leisurely stylish comfort.
|While we haven’t spent the night at the hotel (South Congress Hotel man didn’t ask), we’ve
toured several rooms. The guest rooms feature king size beds and large walk in showers, while
the suites also offer a free standing soaking tub, a place of immersion while watching the
street activity from the window. The rooms are hallmarked by details, closet handles of
leather, trimmings in denim and brass, carefully coordinated colors and a theme that is a
continuation of the décor of the main hotel floor, so often a disconnect in hotels. The overall
colors, a palette of grays, blues, denims, charcoal, many shades of brown, muted metal
and wood tones, support the modernized rusticity and earthy sophistication, contrived
but not self-conscious.
|And that’s the point of the hotel, it feels like “home” without being “homely”, it feels
established and settled as if it has been open for more than just a few months, and
it’s laid out to optimize space for parties and big events as well as smaller gatherings
of neighborhood folk.
The premise of the South Congress Hotel is social. It was designed to be both an anchor
for a local community, located on a busy stretch of a popular street in South Austin,
and a hub for weekend activity when the street hosts art markets and food trucks
and lots of out of town visitors. It adds three restaurants, and two bars, a coffee shop
and a juice bar to the already popular mix of venues on South Congress, and will
therefore lure visitors and locals alike to its doors. There’s a terrace at street level for
side-walk interactions and atop the 3rd story a pool with down town
views – and a bar.
|The furniture and textiles at the hotel have inspired a “shop” that will soon be launched so
you can, in some way, take the South Congress Hotel (man) home with you. In the
meantime, shop one of the retail stores within the hotel yet still accessible from the street,
such as Revival Cycles, an Austin hub for enthusiasts with restored motor cycles and all
the associated gear.
|To meet the South Congress Hotel man—you’ll know him when you see him-- visit 1603 South
Congress, Austin, Texas 78704 512 920 6405. southcongresshotel.com
Creative direction for the South Congress Hotel emerged from Waterloo Workshop, of New
Waterloo Hotel and Management. The architect of record is Dick Clark and architecture is
credited to Michael Hsu Office of Architects. Furniture and textiles created, fabricated and
sourced by Studio MAI.
If the South Congress Hotel was a man, he’d be someone you’d want to know. Or date.
About 5’10” tall (mid-rise in hotel terms), and with the refined but rugged good looks that might
lead you to believe he had starred in a few movies, South Congress Hotel man has a defined but
understated sense of style that is evident upon first meeting. His jeans (and there is a lot of denim
in the hotel, even in the elevators), are the perfect shade of blue, the color we always thought
denim should be, cuffs fashionably rolled up. His shirt is crisp, white, like the Matteo bedding in
the 83 hotel rooms, and his sports jacket is textured, tweedy, cut fashionably close the body
without being trendy, with leather elbow pads.
He wears a bracelet wrought of leather and stones, a decorative device that you’ll catch him
moving around his wrists from time to time. He carries a canvas bag, trimmed with leather and
brass. His look is highly textured, muted, sophisticated but in a laid back way that immediately
puts you at ease.