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Homestate Hotel Glory

New list of Best Hotels in the South includes a renovated Houston surprise

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Hotel Derek lobby updated March 2014
Hotel Derek recently underwent a renovation that caught the attention of Southern Living. Photo courtesy of Hotel Derek
Hotel Derek couple walking outside hotel at night
Hotel Derek exterior. Photo courtesy of Hotel Derek
Exterior of Hotel Ella in Austin
Hotel Ella in Austin is one of the best new hotels in the South, according to Southern Living. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ella
Pool at Hotel Ella in Austin
The cabana-lined pool at Hotel Ella is a big draw. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ella
Library at The Joule hotel in Dallas
This swank library nook is part of the lobby expansion at The Joule in downtown Dallas. Photo by Eric Laignel
Hotel Derek lobby updated March 2014
Hotel Derek couple walking outside hotel at night
Exterior of Hotel Ella in Austin
Pool at Hotel Ella in Austin
Library at The Joule hotel in Dallas

In its March 2014 issue, Southern Living magazine has produced a list of the best new hotels in the South, including some recently renovated properties worth a revisit. Three Texas hotels — one each in Austin, Houston and Dallas — caught the editors' eyes.

Listed among the noteworthy renovations is Hotel Derek in Houston. The property had a recent facelift courtesy of Flick-Mars, who made "brazen design choices" such as snakeskin-patterned bathroom walls, bold colors and zebra-print chairs that are "meant to echo the fashion of Houston's Galleria."

Hotel Ella in Austin gets props for being "prim and proper with a touch of rogue masculinity." Although the property is under new ownership, it had been operating as a hotel, the Mansion at Judge's Hill, before its reincarnation as Ella last year.

Originally built in 1898 as a wedding gift from one of UT's founders, Thomas Wooten, to his son and young bride, the mansion retains its historic charm with features like a wraparound porch. But the cabana-lined pool, for example, is totally of-the-moment — especially for enjoying a well-shaken cocktail.

However, Southern Living failed to mention Hotel Ella's greatest asset: those sumptuous beds you may never want to leave. Depending on your agenda, you may never have to.

In Dallas, the Southern Living staff noticed the recently renovated Joule — although "renovation" hardly seems sufficient to describe the downtown hotel's swanky transformation. "A big-budget expansion sleeked out this 1920s landmark with multilevel penthouse suites; a bird's-eye rooftop terrace; and CBD Provisions, a modern brasserie serving proud Texas fare," the magazine notes.

Sure, but what about the new spa, fitness center, LA retail imports Traffic and TenOverSix, and Weekend coffee shop?

Sadly absent from the reno list is W Dallas Victory hotel, whose redo has likely been overshadowed by its sparkling downtown neighbor. Houston-based design firm MaRS executed the cowboy cool update to all 252 guest rooms, including 26 suites.

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