Even though Austin’s newest boutique hotel, the Carpenter, had only been open for a week (official date was November 2), the lobby was already filled with locals who looked like regulars—one group sat hovered around the community table having a work meeting over kolaches, while others reclined in the low-slung leather sofas and chairs with newspapers, or laptops and lattes from the hotel’s walk-up counter coffee shop, Hot L Coffee.
Among the relaxed Thursday morning crowd was former Ace Hotel group co-owner Jack Barron (he still owns the Ace Hotel Portland), and his architect wife, Jen Turner. Transforming the Local 1266’s Carpenters Union Hall, built in 1948 and set back from Austin’s bustling South Lamar Boulevard, in a sea of pecan trees, into a modern vintage hotel and restaurant was all the native Texan couple’s idea. In fact, the designers, who specialize in preserving historic buildings, knew just what the property was meant to be the first time they toured it five years ago. They never thought they would do a project in Texas, but seeing this building changed everything (they also now have plans to build a multi-restaurant and bar concept on San Antonio’s River Walk, with construction starting in early 2019).
The Carpenter is a collaboration between local developer John Davenport, Austin-based art and design studio LAND, and the team at Barron and Turner’s hospitality group, the Mighty Union, where the food and beverage is led by powerhouse New York transplants Christina Skogly Knowlton and Andrew Knowlton (the Bon Appetit editor at large and host of the new Netflix series, The Final Table, which premieres November 0=20). The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Carpenters Hall, is run by executive chef Grae Nonas, a co-founding chef of Austin’s celebrated Olamaie and an alum of Los Angeles’s Son of a Gun. The Hall, designed to be a neighborhood spot, serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.
“The whole point for me with our projects is to create living, breathing places,” says Barron, who relocated to Austin from Portland in 2013. “It’s figuring out what creates energy and connectedness. It’s easy to make sacred, quiet spaces because those are only really made for one person. Those can be beautiful, but how do you make a space feel vibrant, interesting, and comfortable when there are 20 people in it? We love figuring out how to animate a public space.” Take the full tour to see how the visionary pair honored the historic building’s past as a union hall in fresh ways, unveiling the result of the big undertaking that was years in the making.