– follow Liz –www.bunkhousegroup.com
“So smart, so Texan and so Global” – Creator of the Hotel San Jose, a converted motel, The Saint Cecilia, a secluded Estate in Austin…Havana, the twenty seven room hotel in San Antonio and El Cosmico…trailers, tents and teepees on eighteen acres in Marfa, A Hotel Life catches up with Liz Lambert…
WHAT INSPIRES YOU MOST?
Such a good question. I would have to say that travel inspires me in the most immediate manner — getting out of my day to day surroundings and seeing something new. I love to explore neighborhoods, local scenes, customs, food, craft, bookstores, landscapes, music.
GRUPO HABITA CO OWNER CARLOS COURTURIER HAS CALLED YOU 'SO TEXAN AND SO GLOBAL AT THE SAME TIME'
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
I like that. I'll take it.
- A room at Hotel San Jose - Austin, TX
HOW IMPORTANT IS COLLABORATION AND WHO HAVE YOU ENJOYED WORKING WITH MOST?
Collaboration is hugely important to me — not only have I learned volumes working with the talented designers and artists that I have, but I also find that it's a true test of the strength of your own ideas. The Hotel San Jose was designed in full collaboration with RL Fletcher and Jamey Garza, almost every piece of furniture, every paint color, and every hook – literally, we worked through the design of the black steel bathroom hooks together. I work collaboratively every day with our in-house team and a host of consultants — for instance, the soundtrack to each of our properties is created by taking the kernel of an idea to Leanne Flask at Orchid Music Design...it takes a village.
WHO DO YOU ADMIRE MOST IN THE FIELD OF DESIGN / HOSPITALITY?
That's a tough one. I'm a huge fan of Sean MacPherson, of the care and detail he puts into a project like the Bowery Hotel or the Jane. I have a lot of admiration for Chip Conley, who created Joie de Vivre Hotels and who was my mentor early on, and I love what Carlos and Moises are doing at Habita in Mexico and now in New York. Outside of the field of hospitality, Nina Garduno of Free City is a friend and a constant inspiration -- a great designer and true bohemian, she's been making soulful handmade stuff for many years, long before the rest of the country caught up.
- A room at Hotel Saint Cecilia - Austin, TX
YOU'VE RE IMAGINED AN OLD MOTEL, OWN/MANAGE A 14 ROOM URBAN 'LUXURY' RETREAT AND ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE 'GLAMPING' PHENOMENON IN THE US. PRETTY IMPRESSIVE. WHAT'S NEXT?
We’re working on some exciting things for the future, but none that I can talk about yet. As for glamping, El Cosmico is actually all about simplicity, living on the land, getting your hands dirty if you feel like it. It’s actually pretty anti-glam.
DID YOU ALWAYS HAVE A DESIRE TO WORK IN HOTELS / HOSPITALITY?
No. I was a lawyer first. I sort of fell into the hotel business. I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier.
- The dining room at Hotel Havana's Ocho Restaurant in San Antonio, TX
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG HOTELIERS?
Work hard, travel a lot, keep your eyes open. It’s a delight to be in this business, or it should be. I mean, it’s the business of adventure, travel, exploration. I can’t imagine anything better.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU'VE SEEN IN YOUR INDUSTRY IN THE PAST FEW YEARS?
Well, I see the words ‘boutique’ and ‘lifestyle’ get used a lot in the industry. I guess what they are trying to describe are non-homogeneous experiences. Some of that is just marketing talk, but I do think people are becoming more aware of a need to create authenticity and a sense of place in hotel design. And of course technology is having a big impact on the hotel industry. There are some really cool new things emerging in that realm.
WHAT WOULD YOUR DREAM PROJECT BE?
I already have my dream project — it’s El Cosmico. It’s an 18 acre campground hotel where you can sleep in vintage trailers, tepees and tents in the middle of Marfa, Texas - this little ranching town in the middle of the high plains desert in West Texas that happened to become an international arts Mecca when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved there in the 1970’s. It’s a really unique place for the convergence of majestic nature and really interesting culture. I think it will take years and years to get El Cosmico to the place I would like it to be — we have plans for a huge pool, a pavilion, cabanas, work sheds and a bathhouse. We just bought the three acres and big house to the south of us, and we're going to turn that into rooms. I am always excited about what is going to come next out there, what kind of show we're going to put on, who's going to drive in the gate.
- A vintage trailer at El Cosmico Hotel in Marfa, TX
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE HOTEL AMENITY?
WHAT'S THE NEXT BIG THING IN HOSPITALITY?
Well, there has been a big movement in the industry to begin designing for the millennial traveler — away from the big desk and good lighting in the room for the lonely business man and toward big lobbies with lots of space for working on laptops.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE HOTEL IN THE WORLD (OTHER THAN YOURS)?
It's no secret that I love the Chateau Marmont in LA. But I am going to come up with another answer to this question — I am going to have to get busy traveling.