A 2Modern (Modern) Austin City Guide


Welcome to the land of margaritas, cowboy boots, music, armadillos–and really awesome modern design. I moved to Austin four years ago never in a million years thinking I would stumble across such talent, creativity and dedication. And the best part: Austin doesn’t try to be like other bigger cities–this constantly evolving style is always changing, but it’s always ours.

So what is this mythical Austin aesthetic we keep hyping? We’re not afraid of bold color and we embrace our natural surroundings for inspiration with materials and more. We love incorporating designs from around the world but support local designers and craftsman whenever possible. We love music, good drinks and good food, and our spaces–both residential and commercial–are often designed with entertaining in mind.

Welcome to 2Modern’s first modern city guide. We’ll be bringing you mini tours of some of our favorite cities and some of the fun, modern things to do/sleep/eat/drink/shop within. “Modern” of course is pretty relative, and we look forward to seeing how that word is defined by each city and each region. We’re not even going to promise we’ll cover everything in each city–this isn’t so much comprehensive as it is a sweet little taste of some of the modern details in cities we love. SXSW 2011 is right around the corner, where tons of folks will descend upon the city to interact, listen to music and watch films. We highly recommend you grab our suggestions here for a fun, modern stay–though since you’ll probably be pretty busy for SXSW, we suggest coming back when you can enjoy all of Austin’s modern details when you’re more relaxed!

Eat Modern
Trying to pick only three restaurants in Austin is like trying to pick a favorite child. We chose these three based on that awesome chill we get every time we see the interiors. And it doesn’t hurt that the food is delicious, too. La Condesa and Uchiko were both designed by that fabulous architect Michael Hsu, and La Boîte by architect Mark Meyer. If you’re here for SXSW, note that Uchiko is a bit out of the way, so try SushiBOX, a trailer located just downtown and designed by La Boîte’s architect, for a modern sushi fix.

Sleep Modern
When you think high-end place to stay in Austin, you think Liz Lambert, and with good reason. She’s the creative hotelier behind Austin’s fabulously modern Hotel St. Cecilia and Hotel San Jose. Both exude a perfect example of casual, modern Austin aesthetic, and they’re both located in a hip part of Austin. Kimber Modern is a more subtle, tucked away bed and breakfast that features gorgeously clean interiors with pops of bold, bright colors, all tucked away in a residential neighborhood and hugged by big oak trees. Looking for a more “home away from home” feel? Try Verde Camp, where you can rent small little bungalows and drink Lone Stars (the official beer of Texas) on the porch.

Drink Modern
It’s true there’s an abnormally high number of margaritas to be found in this city…but that’s not the only thing we use to whet our whistle here. Two new arrivals in the “bar with modern decor” category are Haddington’s and Second Bar and Kitchen. The Highball’s a hip, retro throwback (and you can totally bowl and do karaoke, too) and the Snack Bar is a casual place with sweet Mid-Century Modern details and an awesome patio. After you’ve taken in all the modern details you can and ready to enjoy more drinks, modern interior or not, head on over to where the locals go, the other Sixth Street.

Do Modern
While here, we highly suggest trying to attend a taping at the new Austin City Limits Live venue in downtown. Not only will you catch a good show, you’ll enjoy crawling around that area. The Mexican American Cultural Center is a surprisingly modern structure set on the banks of the lake and full of fun art. And you can’t visit Austin without seeing the fabulously modern new home for the Arthouse museum, located just blocks from the capitol building.

Shop Modern
If you’re looking for some of the biggest names in global design and some of the coolest people who create locally, Aviary is the place to go. Oh…and they happen to also be a cool bar and lounge, too. Barry Jelinski’s Howl is a crazy cool store that embodies the “keep Austin weird” spirit. Threshold is one of the best places to go for high-end style in the city, and their in-store designers have the best attitudes and advice. Believe us when we say these are only three from a ton of cool stores to choose from.

Don’t forget…
To check out the gazillion food trailers out here (way too many for us even to venture to choose one). To go to Barton Springs if the weather permits. To watch the bats fly if the season’s right and…to have a ton of fun.

A video with tons more modern Austin photos:

A map for your navigating pleasure:

View (Modern) Austin in a larger map

Austinites and Austin lovers: speak up! Did I make amazing suggestions? Really dumb ones? Have some SXSW experience under your belt and want to weigh in on your own favorite modern Austin haunts? Please contribute in the comments your favorite suggestions!

Images: Uchiko and La Condesa shot by Paul Bardagjy; Highball interior shots by Chris Petunas; Kimber Modern shots via Kimber Modern website; Verde Camp photos from verdecamp.com; Hotel St. Cecilia shots from hotelstcecilia.com, video and architecture shots by Adrienne Breaux; all other shots by Adrienne Breaux for Apartment Therapy. Music from the video is Emerald Park’s “The Commonfield,” licensed for use under Creative Commons.
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  1. Henri Coleman

    Mar 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

    GREAT ARTICLE!!! Although I live here…you have included a few places that I have not tried or heard about! You are always on top of all the great happenings…:))) I can’t wait to check out the restaurants.
    Thanks Adrienne!

  2. erin

    Mar 14, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    great piece! a good reference for friends- both out-of-towners & locals. thanks!

  3. Heather

    Mar 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Great! Splendid! I have found out about mid century modern style just now and it’s fantastic! And it’s also amazing to see how much modern designs and trends own to the 50’s…

  4. Peter Raab

    Mar 21, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Nice to read an article that focuses on modern design here in austin. Thanks!

  5. Katy Broussard

    Mar 8, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Another spot to “Drink Modern” would be icenhauer’s on Rainey St.

    • Adrienne Breaux

      Mar 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

      Yes! I debated on whether or not to add that one! I’ve still never been but have seen photos and it definitely looks mega modern.

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