Modern Vintage Life
Preparation for the Register’s winter issue overlapped with the fall Round Top Antiques Shows. While our paths repeatedly intersected with Paige and Smoot Hull at antiques events and in the fields, it quickly became apparent that technology might be our best bet for catching up with the fast-moving couple to discuss their modern vintage life and lodging business. The Hulls, who own The Vintage Round Top, a local guesthouse that served as the launch pad for a national lifestyle brand, graciously agreed to an interview by e-mail. We asked. Smoot answered. While it was never confirmed, we suspect Paige was sneaking in some “unsupervised” buying while Smoot was busy typing . . .
RTR: What prompted you to start a lodging business?
SH: It all started with a vision Paige had passing a chandelier hanging in a cow pasture during the spring Round Top Antiques Show five years ago. Her “vision” put us on the path that eventually led to purchasing a house in Round Top. In 2011 the recession had hit Texas, and the only way we could afford to buy a second home was to rent it out. We never “planned” on being in the lodging business, but so far things have turned out pretty well for us.
RTR: What was your background that made lodging/hospitality a natural fit for your lives?
SH: Previously Paige was the vice president of Page Parkes Modeling Agency, and I owned and operated restaurants and nightclubs in Houston, L.A. and Rio. Paige’s background in fashion was a huge asset in creating our signature “Modern Vintage Style.” She’s also great at producing beautiful images, and that helps tell our brand story. My prior experience in the hospitality world also came in handy because I learned early on how important it is to provide guests a unique experience.
RTR: Why Round Top?
SH: For us it was many things. First and foremost, we wanted a place in the country for our family to escape the hectic pace of Houston. Nothing beats the green rolling hills of Round Top and the calmness our family experiences every time we’re here. Of course, the antiques show didn’t hurt our decision either. It’s nice knowing that twice a year a ton of people need a place to stay . . . .
RTR: How does the ambiance of Round Top affect your approach to design and hospitality?
SH: It’s hard not to fall in love with Round Top. We absolutely love this town and the people who live here. That’s the major feeling we try to communicate to our guests. The house and our overall brand directly reflect how much happiness Round Top brings our family. Many of the items in the house we purchased in Round Top, which also helps connect the emotional dots for our guests.
RTR: Describe your property as you found it and its transformation including the recent expansion.
SH: We bought the house from a lovely 80-year-old couple who had purchased it about 10 years prior. They had upgraded most of the mechanical systems and had added on to it. The bones were in great shape. We gutted most of the house, knocked down walls and raised ceilings, added a room off the kitchen, redesigned the fireplace and a whole lot more. It took about five months to complete the work on our original cottage that we now call No. 1450.
Currently, we’re in the final stages of adding a new 2,000-square-foot cottage dubbed “Boho” to the property. The cottage will not only allow us to sleep more guests, but we built a “great room” that can be used for events such as small gatherings, rehearsal dinners, workshops and corporate retreats.
Sneak Peek Boho
The Style: Modern mixture of boho, glam and industrial elements.
The Specs: 2,000 square foot, 2 bedroom/3 bath cottage with a full kitchen and a great room that includes 2 seating areas, a living room and a dining room with seating for up to 10.
The Amenities: A gas fireplace, a full-size washer/dryer, premium bed linens, RVT bath products, central AC/heat, Wi-Fi and satellite TV.
The Outdoors: Each bedroom has a private patio while covered decks can be accessed from the kitchen and the great room. Guests at Boho have exclusive use of the back end of the property.
The Function: In addition to lodging and honeymoons, The Vintage Round Top property will now be available to rent for special events such as intimate rehearsal dinners, workshops, corporate retreats, family reunions, wedding/baby showers and more. It can be a versatile backdrop for commercial photo sessions and video shoots.
RTR: How would you describe The Vintage Round Top’s style?
SH: When we purchased the house, the existing major design element was a “sea of sheet rock.” We had two choices: fight it or embrace it. We chose the latter and decided to treat the walls like a canvas to showcase our unique vintage pieces in a very clean and modern way. Hence, our signature “Modern Vintage Style” was born.
RTR: Did the fact that you were going to use the property for lodging as well as personal use affect your design decisions?
SH: Absolutely. The challenge was to design a space that reflected our style while at the same not personalizing it so much that people felt like they were “guests” in our home. We also had to remember that not everyone would treat our home like their own; therefore, the finishes and fabrics were designed to take typical lodging wear and tear.
RTR: What do you do to make the space welcoming to guests upon their arrival? SH: Whenever possible, we have all the lights on and AC lowered (especially in the warm months). We also try to have fresh flowers and leave a bottle of good wine. Before we will rent the home to our guests, we always speak to them by phone. This allows us to learn more about them and their purpose for coming to Round Top. The more we know about our guests the more opportunities we have to personalize their stays.
RTR: What has been the greatest challenge to operating a lodging business?
SH: For us it’s the distance from our full-time home in Houston. We’re about an hour and fifteen minutes away, so we have to plan our trips to Round Top. We still have two children at home, so there’s always the schedule juggling. It helps that there are two of us to manage the business.
RTR: What has been the greatest reward?
SH: Meeting so many great people. Because of the house, we’ve made some really great friendships and business relationships. The house was the launch pad for other businesses such as a home goods line, a hotel amenities line, antiques sales, public speaking engagements and workshop/event production. It’s truly been a life-changing event.
RTR: From a guest’s perspective, what is the biggest difference between staying in an intimate B&B or guest house as opposed to a hotel?
SH: From personal experience they both are great, just in different ways. With a B&B or guesthouse you get to “live like a local.” When we travel we prefer this style of lodging over hotels because we love to take in all the local color and experiences. Hotels can be a little sterile at times. But, on the other hand, hotels sometimes offer a level of amenities that can be hard to beat.
RTR: What is your philosophy of hospitality?
SH: The guests are our bosses. Our goal is to make sure all guests feel they made a great decision in staying at The Vintage Round Top. We feel a responsibility to make sure each stay is memorable and wonderful. Many of our guests are celebrating their first night as a married couple, or a special birthday or an anniversary, so our goal is to make it really special for them.
RTR: How do you spread the word about your lodging business?
SH: We’ve been blessed with good press and word-of-mouth. We also use a couple of on-line booking services and the Round Top Chamber of Commerce lodging page. Social media has also been another great way for us to broaden our reach.
RTR: About how many nights a year do you lease the guesthouse?
SH: As many as we can! Last year it was more than 120 nights.
RTR: Is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you want to share?
SH: We’re often asked how we’re able to generate ongoing press and collaboration opportunities. The Vintage Round Top is not just a business; it’s our passion. We pour our heart and soul into everything we do—and we sweat the small stuff every day. Yes, it’s hard work at times, but it’s also incredibly fun and rewarding.
The Vintage Round Top
1450 N. Hwy. 237
Round Top, Texas 78954
FB: “The Vintage Round Top”
by Lorie Woodward Cantu
photos by Laura Morsman Photography