People come to Austin to live out their dreams, says Kathy Setzer. She is one of them — originally from St. Louis, she came to Austin in 1999. The realization of her dream in the form of the city's newest hotel, the Heywood on the East Side, has happily put her in the middle of the creative and entrepreneurial energy that drives Austin.
The Heywood Hotel
celebrated its grand opening over Christmas weekend 2011, and Setzer and her husband George Reynolds could not be happier. The Heywood is a groovy little oasis of mid-century style and East Austin's first boutique hotel. The design is a knock-out as soon as you walk up. From the street it looks like a house, blending in with neighboring 1920s-era houses. The back is a modern courtyard hotel, inspired by Palm Springs hotels and the interior courtyards of homes and hotels in Spain.
Designed by Chris Krager and the architect firm KRDB
, this masterpiece of design took the original early 20th century home and remodeled and expanded it, creating the seven-room hotel. The entire process was a three year labor of love for Setzer and Reynolds, who bought the property in 2008 with the intention of opening a bed-and-breakfast and living on-site. Zoning complications resulted in a change of plans to the seven room hotel; the couple live nearby on the East Side.
It would be so awesome if the City processes could give local citizens a break when they are trying to do things that are small in nature, and supportive of neighborhoods and Austin values.
"Even though I knew this project was going to take a long time and we would encounter difficulties, I never expected that it would take almost three and a half years to open after we purchased the property," Setzer says. "We were pioneers with some aspects of the City development process. Being classified as a hotel made the construction process more difficult, expensive and time-consuming."
A self-described worrier and pessimist by nature, some of Setzer's most worrisome fears were realized during the lengthy building and zoning process. While City Council members Mike Martinez and Chris Riley were extremely supportive and helpful during the process, she wishes that it was easier for local people to open such a small business.
"It would be so awesome if the city processes could give local citizens a break when they are trying to do things that are small in nature, and supportive of neighborhoods and Austin values. I know that there are individuals in city government that want the same thing," Setzer adds. "It is so desperately needed."
Fortunately, in addition to Martinez and Riley the couple were supported by many others that believed in the Heywood project, such as their interior designer Kasey McCarty
, contractors iON Constructors
and Waterstreet Engineering
. Finally the construction was complete, legalities in place, the last coats of paint and designer touches in place.
It was important to us as owners that we maintain the warmth of the Craftsman aesthetic — wood floors, handcrafted elements, soft textiles — while bringing in the aspects of modern architecture that we love.
"It was important to us as owners that we maintain the warmth of the Craftsman aesthetic — wood floors, handcrafted elements, soft textiles — while bringing in the aspects of modern architecture that we love: high lofted ceilings, tall skylights, exposed brick walls," Setzer says.
The dual nature of the building influenced the choices that she and Reynolds made with the interiors. Taking a mixed-period approach, upcycled classic wingbacks and Danish arm chairs were paired with minimalist, handmade furnishings and modern artwork. The result is cozy, colorful and a little funky, which Setzer thinks fits in perfectly with the neighborhood.
"It's a fresh combination of vintage and modern," says interior designer Kasey McCarty. "The goal was to be homey and welcoming, and not at all intimidating."
The first visitors arrived just before Christmas, an entire family visiting other family members for the holiday. "We could not have found a better hotel if we had built it ourselves," guest Alison Friel said of the Heywood after her stay. "The beds are phenomenal, the linens are plush and elegant, the decor is upbeat and interesting. Each of the seven rooms is slightly different, but all are great."
Setzer says that it was gratifying to hear such feedback from the first guests, after all the hard work and bumps along the way. "It was just such a relief," she says. "It felt like a validation of everything we have been doing, and what we wanted to accomplish."
For her part, Setzer's favorite thing about being the proprietor of Heywood Hotel
is introducing first-time visitors to Austin.
"Everyone who comes here is in such a great mood and so excited to experience our city. My favorite thing is having the opportunity to show off Austin, to showcase the local artists and artisans who are on display in the hotel and to introduce folks to our local businesses, especially the mom and pops in our East Austin neighborhood. It’s also cool that the people staying here get it — they appreciate the opportunity to stay in a small hotel that offers a unique, crafted Austin experience."
Setzer loves the optimism and bootstrap nature of Austinites, and many local products and artworks are featured throughout the Heywood. From wall art by Alyson Fox
, Darvin Jones, Stevan Alcala, Carolyn Porter and Carly Weaver to pillows by Leah Duncan
, wood vases by Brian David Johnson and handmade cards by Letterpress Delicacies
and a logo designed by Cody Haltom
, staying local is a big part of Setzer's and Reynolds' philosophy.
"The support for local businesses is one of the most important things that sets Austin apart" Setzer says. "It’s unbelievably rewarding to drive business to other locals who are working so hard to live out their dreams. That is, far and away, the most rewarding thing about this business — it makes the rocky journey to opening day and all of the long hours worth it. Running the hotel is a lot of hard work, but it’s energizing to be surrounded by happy, relaxed people."
Setzer plans to host local events and other community socials. Setzer's enthusiasm for the journey is contagious. "Next to my husband, Austin is the love of my life," she concludes.
Heywood Hotel is located at 1609 E. Cesar Chavez in east Austin. Rates start at $179 weekdays; $209 weekends, single or double occupancy.