Liz Lambert

43, hotelier, Austin
Liz Lambert
Photograph by Andrew Yates

She’s the avatar of cool for the inn crowd’s in crowd. Thirteen years ago the native Odessan, a UT and UT Law grad, purchased a seedy motel on South Congress Avenue, in Austin, and transformed it, with the help of San Antonio’s Lake/Flato architects and designer pals from California, into the sleek, modern, high-end, achingly fashionable Hotel San José—an early sign of life injected into what is now the Capital City’s famously vibrant SoCo district. Ten years later, she repeated her success in Marfa, renovating the fifties-era Thunderbird Hotel into an upscale, low-slung San José—style boutique hotel, complete with a pool in the courtyard that is, quite literally, an oasis in the desert. In 2006 she turned a large plot of land in Marfa into El Cosmico, a compound with Spartan trailers, tents, yurts, and wood-fired hot tubs. Now she’s at work on her next two must-stays: the St. Cecilia, in Austin, a small, exclusive hotel in a converted Victorian around the corner from the San José, and a bigger project, in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, where Lambert’s stripped-down, retro, ascetic, clean, calm sensibility is sure to be embraced by locals and visiting hipsters alike.

A Web Exclusive Interview

Do you remember a singular moment when you decided to leave your attorney job and remake the Hotel San José?

There were definitely a few moments where I realized that I needed to take a chance and make a big life change. The instance that I remember is when I learned a good friend was dying of AIDS—it was that week that I called a realtor to inquire about the San José. I wanted more creativity in my life than I was able to realize as a lawyer. Realizing that you want to do something different is really the small part. Actually doing it was where the real life transformation happened for me.

What are your expectations for your new project, El Cosmico in Marfa?

El Cosmico is a very personal project for me. I have roots in West Texas and it’s a special place. I’m inspired by nomadic dwellings (yurts, land yachts). I’m also interested in past examples and new ideas about how to interact with the land gently. What I hope to create at El Cosmico is an artistic playground, an inclusive and accessible place to

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