Each spring and fall, antique enthusiasts descend on the area around Round Top — located off Highway 237 between Houston and Austin — for Antiques Week. World-class antique pieces abound, and for every bluebonnet dotting the landscape, there are at least three vendors selling their wares. From giant air-conditioned tents boasting high-end decorative art pieces, to quaint stalls hawking junk treasures, there’s truly something for every collector at Round Top.
Of course, considering the sheer size of the whole shebang, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Enter Austin-based The Distillery’s Round Top Trips. Owned and curated by Catelyn Silapachi, The Distillery is a collection of specialty goods and handmade items with an emphasis on antique jewelry. And, in addition to her love for unique jewelry, Silapachi is a longtime Round Top aficionado.
She recently began taking groups of friends to the area during Antiques Week, to help them parse through thousands of pieces and find the special gems they were looking for. At which point she realized, there was a need for this sort of thing. “I saw that people needed moral support in making decisions about what to get. Friends started asking me to bring their friends, and people started showing me pictures of their houses and asking my opinion. I quickly realized this was something people wanted,” she says.
The Distillery’s Round Top shopping tours are highly customized and intimate — this is no big bus excursion we’re talking about. For one, she only brings small groups of up to four people to Round Top. (Guests from outside of Austin can meet Silapachi in Round Top.) She also takes time to thoughtfully curate each person’s aesthetic and shopping list ahead of time, all while taking individual budgets into consideration. Of this preparation, Silapachi says, “I do everything from giving people surveys, to looking at their Pinterest boards. I even go out to Round Top beforehand, just to scout things out. My role is to help people figure out what would look good.”
This expert curation is important, because it’s nearly impossible for antiquing novices to find their dream pieces at Round Top, due to the number of vendors, as well as the nature of antiquing itself.
“You really have to be an expert in a specific kind of antique to determine if it’s authentic,” she adds. Which is where her years of expertise and treasure hunting come in — during a Distillery tour, not only are all the logistics of the trip covered, but the stress of combing through dozens of reproductions to find one-of-a-kind pieces is removed.
The Distillery's tips for those heading to Round Top on their own:
- Antiques aren't perfect. “People should keep in mind that antique and vintage pieces aren’t perfect. When it comes to rugs or art, they’ll have signs of wear if they’re authentic. Like, for instance, most antique rugs were dyed with insect dye or other natural dyes that fade in the sun, so there is usually some discoloration.
- Watch for old and new. In addition, Silapachi also notes that those on the lookout for true antiques should be wary of vendors that sell a mix of old and new items, as this usually signals that vendors are going for more of an overall "look" — as opposed to specializing in authentic antiques.
- Research before you go. As a general rule of thumb, Silapachi also advises Round Top-goers to research vendors beforehand, since each has its own reputation and style. "Find vendors that are reputable, keep an open mind, and remember: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is."
- Feel free to negotiate. “Maybe half the time negotiation works, and vendors do expect it. Regardless, all the vendors are experts in what they do. It’s fun to ask them questions and get them talking about their pieces!”
You can find more info on The Distillery's fall tours, as well as an example itinerary, on the website.