Beyond Antiques Fair: Downhome Meets Design-forward in Round Top Any Time of Year

Beyond Antiques Fair: Downhome Meets Design-forward in Round Top Any Time of Year

Il Cuculo at Hotel Lulu

ANTIQUE SEEKERS AND interior-design aficionados have long been fans of Round Top, the small town halfway between Houston and Austin. And for good reason: The semiannual Antiques Shows are treasure troves, increasingly beloved by local celebrities and even Hollywood ones (rumor has it Gwen Stefani had a serious haul last year).


But it’s becoming clear that the quaint community — a unique mix of old-time western and coastal-shabby-chic, with a high-end shellac finish — is worth a visit year-round.

Places to stay nearly outnumber the count of official residents (89, fyi). There’s the Frenchie — a glam getaway for the girls, with a boutique-hotel-style main building and a trio of poolside chalets, all infused with a signature scent.

Hotel Lulu, owned by Houston’s Cinda and Armando Palacios, is a favorite — not only for its crisp Italian linens and Tuscan poolside scene, but also for its lobby bar, Il Cuculo.

And the Cotton Pearl Motel has a main house and several suites, all with access to pickleball courts, fire pits and a private pool.

The town itself, walkable from all of the above arrangements, is just a handful of cafes and shops, ranging from curated and perfectly posed to a tad chaotic — yet infinitely charming — in presentation. (It appears that shopkeepers are either busily hosting the weeks-long Antique Shows, or equally busily “preparing for Show” at any given moment.)

In addition to the classics — Royer’s, and intimate wine bar Prost, which lives in a stone cottage lined with string lights and facing an empty field — there are a number of trendy new restaurants popping up. Merritt Meat Company, previously Round Top Smokehouse, is newly owned and operated by Truth BBQ proprietor Leonard Botello. And Boon is a casual-chic café with an artful gift shop proffering Houston-kissed items like Maidas accessories and cheesecakes made by Tony Vallone’s daughter; its upstairs bar and lounge just opened, and is already a see-and-be scene — not unlike the nearby Ellis Motel, which is, in fact, a lively bar and not a motel. Nightlife abounds in Round Top, again perhaps disproportionately.

A few minutes from town is a hidden gem, not just within the Round Top vicinity, but the entire region. The Round Top Festival Institute is a concert venue, music school and conference center established by pianist James Dick more than 50 years ago. It hosts promising instrumentalists from around the globe each summer, and its current building — stunning and medieval-recalling — was designed by Dick and built out over many decades.

The Festival Institute is one of many surprisingly poignant moments to be enjoyed in Round Top — whether it’s Show time or not.

World-famous Royer’s Cafe

A stylish selection of boots at Junk Gypsy

Pastries at Boon & Co.

Round Top Festival Institute

The pool at the Frenchie

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