From its bungalow porch setting with wicker and foliage to its English Victorian-meets-American Craftsman interior, Austin’s newest boutique hotel, the Heywood, is an urban restoration in the residential East Side. The hotel is in the middle of a Cesar Chavez neighborhood within walking distance of downtown.
Owners Kathy Setzer, also a user experience architect at IBM, and husband George Reynolds, also a senior software engineer at Spiceworks, envisioned the Heywood when the couple realized they were constantly building sites for employers’ clientele, yet nothing for themselves.
“After the dot-com bubble bust, we were working 70 to 80 hours a week,” Setzer said. “We figured if we were going to be putting this much energy in something, it would be nice if we had something to show for it.”
Reynolds and Setzer, who is also the general manger of the hotel, wondered how they could have something of their own, and decided they would buy a property on the East Side when they found an old house they could make work.
“The dream was to be living more of the Austin experience rather than having the desk job where we sit around all day,” Setzer said.
That’s when the three-and-a-half-year project began, leading up to the Heywood’s opening last December.
The 6,100 square foot space falls in line amongst the standard residential lots in East Austin. The architects from local architecture firm KRDB packed in seven rooms, a lobby, a public bathroom, a laundry room, storage space and a parking lot on the property. Setzer said the principal designer, Chris Krager, speaks of the space as a puzzle to make it all fit.
“Our rooms are spacious for what the concept of the hotel is, and while it’s not as spacious as a big hotel outside of downtown, it feels like there’s enough room for everything,” Setzer said. “It has its own culture and interest, and it’s more on the undiscovered side than a lot of the other areas in town.”
The hotel’s interior is warm with soothing yellows, greens and greys. The simple lines are easy on the eyes and follow the Craftsman’s ideal of practical floor plans and artful details. There is an apparent marriage between this craftsmanship and the more ornate Victorian feel, with its textured shingles upon the facade, delicately carved wooden furniture and round-edged embellishments fixed on pieces like armchairs and lamps.
Setzer said she and her husband reclaimed the trim of the base boards and around the doors from the whole house.
“Some parts of the house retained the original flooring while others have reclaimed pine product,” Setzer said. “It’s like the old historic pine they’ve veneered and turned into this new flooring material.”
The hardwood floors are from old barns, which they’ve veneered down to a quarter of an inch. The owners were able to take the old wood and use it for hundreds of feet of flooring.
“We like that it has the character with the knots and the old nail holes from however it was originally used,” Setzer said.
To keep the space cozy, the software engineers knew they needed a name for the hotel that would sound easy-going and friendly while maintaining its own identity.
“The ‘hey’ part of it is a friendly greeting, and the ‘wood’ is the organic craftsman feel we go for,” Setzer said.
To keep the lodging as neighborhood-friendly as possible, Setzer and Reynolds decided to incorporate as many local elements as they could. The lobby and rooms are filled with illustrations and photos from Austin-based artists. Even the pillows and some ceramic pieces are local.
To solidify the Austin feel, Setzer decided to hang oil paintings of grackle birds with striking yellow eyes and iridescent colorings in the lobby, which were painted on birch wood panels by Carly Weaver.
“While grackles are in a lot of other places, they are kind of a mascot in Austin, so by nature that brings a local flare,” Weaver said. “The Heywood is a boutique hotel that has all sorts of cool details, and having specific artwork for certain rooms and areas is just one of those things that make the hotel unique.”
Austin artist Darvin Jones said that, aesthetically, his work and the Heywood share the same style and taste. He said his artwork conveys a DIY aesthetic along with a young,
“It portrays emotion and rawness, and it’s abstract,” Jones said. “I think these traits are very Austin since this is a place where young entrepreneurs are building a lot of businesses that are driving the city’s growth and culture.”
So with the help of the local art, cautious design and hard work on the behalf of many, Setzer thinks they’ve accomplished the inviting feel with an eclectic and funky mix.
“Ultimately, our goal was to have an urban residential hotel experience, and I think we’ve succeeded with that,” Setzer said.