Located just off South Congress Avenue, Austin's main drag, the Hotel Saint Cecilia occupies a sloping, shady acre-and-a-half plot anchored by six monumental Southern live oak trees. When famed hotelier Liz Lambert first saw the property, she envisioned her first guest as "Mick Jagger with a Bentley in the driveway." Hence, the turntables in every room, vinyl record collection, and vintage posters from the 1970s.
When it came to designing the exterior spaces, landscape designer Mark Word (working with his partner Billy Spencer) channeled Lambert's vision of a retreat for rock and roll royalty, adding a jazzy note to the exteriors with a black and white chevron tiled patio, black and white striped awning, and red rattan Parisian café chairs straight out of a Godard movie.
"Here in Austin and other parts of Texas, we've experienced record temperatures and severe drought several years running," Word says. "It's best to choose your plants carefully and water them only as needed." To that end, he used what he calls "tough natives, succulents, antique roses, and exciting exotics."
N.B.: Lambert commissioned a limited edition Hotel Saint Cecilia Perfume from local perfume maker Roux St. James, based on "the scent of sweet tea white roses, cultivated from the hotel's garden, along with grass, wood, and musk"; $100 from the hotel's gift shop (available online as well). Valentines, anyone?
Photographs by Michael A. Muller for Gardenista unless otherwise noted.
Above: The chevron black and white tile extends from the indoor bar to the exterior, creating an outdoor patio.
Above: The Bastille Chair from TK Collections is handmade in France (to the trade only). Another good source for French café chairs is American Country Home Store; the St. Germain Rattan Chair is $299.
Above: A vertigo-inducing pairing of black and white; the awning provides shade and plays off the chevron tiled patio flooring.
Above: Clayton & Little Architects, an Austin firm, overhauled the interiors of the 1888 Victorian (known as the Miller-Crockett House) with a wraparound porch; the architects also added a cluster of bungalows around the pool.
Above: A view of the hotel entrance.
Above: Moves Like Jagger: A vintage Citroën is permanently parked at the entrance (Lambert's version of the Bentley).
Above: The 50-foot-long lap pool is located on the site's downhill slope and overlooks downtown Austin; a neon sign glows red at night.
Above: A secluded seating area with a foliage screen and asymmetrical path. Photograph by Patrick Wong via Mark Word.
Above: Mark Word tends to a Gratia Square planter from DWR; photograph by Amanda Elmore. Other favorites with Word? "Mexican Sycamore (Plantanus mexicana, actually native to the Northeastern New Mexico but works well in our region); Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor); Stemodia (Stemodia Ianata), and Wooly mullein (Verbascum thapsus). These plants can handle the extreme heat and yearly temperature changes as well as heavy soil and all have great foliage and texture."
Where to shop for plants in Austin? Word's own nursery is called Jardineros and is well worth a visit.