As you drive into Round Top on Highway 237, past familiar meadows dotted with wild flowers and thick stands of majestic trees, something new punctuates the landscape. Three bungalows reminiscent of early Texas farmhouses with pitched metal roofs and screened porches, their charcoal-painted shiplap and striking red doors, shutters and antlers a tonal starkness against a milky blue sky.

The new Red Antler bungalows — a boutique hotel of sorts — is the creation of John Cone and Greg Fourticq, both from Houston. Fourticq spent a decade in New York working for Donna Karan Home and Calvin Klein Home, opening boutiques for Carolina Herrera, and designing his own stunning apartments along the way. Cone, the managing partner for family businesses ranging from commercial construction consulting to insurance, follows art and interior design with a passion.

“The bungalows started as a hobby, and we found we really love it,” Cone says. 

Their first three Red Antler bungalows opened in March, just before the Round Top Spring Antiques Show, while three more are slated to open in January in time for next year’s Winter Antiques Show. Round Top, population 90, swells to several hundred thousand during the thrice yearly antiques and design shows, attracting well-known designers from around the world, a slew of HGTV and Bravo home design stars and entertainers such as Gwen Stefani

Red Antler Bungalows as seen from Highway 237 is a striking contrast against the landscape, with red doors, shutters, and antlers.

It’s this influx — a design-savvy, sophisticated crowd — that spurred Cone and Fourticq. With antiques show shoppers sometimes booking hotel rooms as far away as Austin, there was a very real need for accommodations where design is at the heart.

“Round Top has some very cool boutique hotels — Hotel Lulu, The Frenchie and the Round Top Inn, as well as some great B & Bs — but there aren’t enough,” Cone says. “People are booking rooms a year out.” 

Round Top is also becoming a very busy little town year-round, with many antiques venues testing the waters by opening Thursdays through Sundays all year, new retail shops open year-round, and great restaurants and live music most nights in a growing number of bars and watering holes.

Holloway Homes (formerly Texas Farmhouse Homes), located an hour away in Hockley, built the bungalows to Cone and Fourticq’s specifications.

“We wanted something that fit with Round Top’s culture, so we kept a country aesthetic but did them a bit different,” Fourticq says. The dramatic exteriors are painted Sherwin Williams Black Magic with Rave Red accents and Gauntlet Gray trim. Each 1,300-square-foot bungalow has two bedrooms and two baths, separated by a pitched great room with fireplace and full kitchen. 

Large screened porches overlook a creek with chairs handmade from bent willow branches by Rick Pratt from Around the Bend out of Ohio, who sells during the shows at The Halles. There’s also a glamorous round pool with red-and-white striped cabanas and a fire pit overlooking the creek. 

The glamorous round pool and striped cabanas.

While the exteriors are uniform, each of the interiors is a different world and expresses a mood and personality. Furnishings and accessories are a clever mix of items bought in Round Top, Houston and at auction, along with objects and art from the couple’s own extensive collections.

“When we started this project, we didn’t know how to begin,” Fourticq says. “Every time we saw something great, we’d buy it and put it in storage. We ended up with five storage units, filled to the gills.” Fourticq kept a big binder with pictures of everything they bought, plus an inventory sheet of everything needed for each bungalow, from beds and sofas to glassware and drinks trays.

“I’d just check the box as we went along,” he says. 

One bungalow has a preppy Palm Beach vibe; a pair of pink velvet armchairs, a rattan coffee table, and a navy rug were discovered at the Bassett warehouse in Houston, an unexpected new haunt where they’ve found sturdy furniture basics. Flanking the fireplace, a pair of chinoiserie-inspired chairs from Memorial Antiques & Interiors (MAI) in Houston were perfect as-is, covered in chartreuse leopard spot upholstery. In one bedroom, a pair of exquisitely worn blue nightstands came from Round Top Ranch Antiques, which specializes in Swedish Antiques.

The details are divine and include the couple’s charming collection of antique porcelain monkeys, which decorate a pair of chests in a living area, and in a dining area, there’s an ancient sculpture of a Chinese scholar that Fourticq discovered decades ago in Paris. For each bungalow, they commissioned black-and-white umbrella stands made by artisans just outside San Miguel de Allende in Dolores Hidalgo, an area known for ceramics. Beautifully colored handwoven alpaca throws on the beds in all three bungalows are from Alan Vogt at Manos De Sur, who sells during the shows at The Compound in Round Top.

Six vintage Knoll Brno chairs, covered in red mohair and snagged from a dealer going out of business, started the basis of the design for the modernist bungalow.

“There’s a mix of contemporary and traditional, with some Asian references,” Fourticq says. “That’s my style, and if you look at Florence Knoll design books, she always included orientalist pieces in her interiors. It all naturally fits together.” 

These Red Antler bungalows are stylish, but it’s a hotel, so furniture has to be long-lasting and comfortable. A plump sofa, made by online company Grandin Road, is slipcovered in blue linen so that it can be easily cleaned, and a pair of rattan chairs from another online source, Article, have a hint of Asia with elegant swooping arms. In one of the bedrooms, there’s an old rattan desk that came from 209th Designs about 40 minutes from Houston in Tomball, which owners Troy and Mandy Garza lacquered a stunning navy blue, with new hardware. The Garzas also lacquered the red antlers appended to the bungalows’ exteriors.

Art and objects from the couple’s collections include brilliantly hued minerals and crystals and graphic black-and-white photographs of horses by photographer Steven Klein, whom Fourticq met while shooting an advertising campaign eons ago for Calvin Klein in New York.

Layered in pale brown, gray, and ivory, a more neutral bungalow is an all-around guest favorite, Fourticq says. “People react to its monochromatic look. But it’s not boring at all — we went far enough with the design to keep it interesting.”

In front of the fireplace is a bench with spool legs, scallop carving, and an intricately woven seat they discovered at Lewis & Maese Antiques & Auctions in Houston. 

A dining room includes a Baldwin brass table from Memorial Traders, Houston and Safavieh rattan chairs. Lamp from Elizabeth Street Gallery, NYC is a cast bronze reproduction of an antique gargoyle. Painting by Texas artist, Liz Ward from Moody Gallery, Houston.

Cone also sourced a lot of furniture from Memorial Traders, a private Facebook shopping group, including a coffee table and pair of chests from Houstonian Robin Goodland, who finds and refinishes vintage furniture.

“She has a good eye for simple shapes and lines and spot-on pieces that she takes down to the wood,” Fourticq says. There’s also a pair of smoky Murano glass lamps Cone found in Italy years ago and black Wedgwood bowls and vases, a burgeoning obsession of theirs. 

“A lot of these things you would love to have in your own house or probably already have — that’s kind of the point,” Fourticq says. “People want where they stay to be at least as nice as their own homes, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Longtime Houstonians Cone and Fourticq fell in love with Round Top’s rolling countryside, as well as the people who live there. “It’s a cool little town with cool people doing all kinds of unusual things you might not expect in a small Texas town,” Fourticq says.

Cone grew up on a farm in Austin County, not far from Round Top, and was familiar with the town’s lively vibe. “You can go dancing or listen to live music, or go to a great restaurant,” he says. “People are very social, entertain and host dinner parties.” 

Greg Fourticq and John Cone, owners of Red Antler Bungalows.

The couple are building a house nearby and plan to move permanently in a few years when their youngest daughter graduates high school. Red Antler Bungalows was conceived as a way to stay busy once they retire.

“Our goal is to create something unique and personalized,” Cone says. With seven-day notice prior to arrival, they can arrange car service from airports in Austin and Houston, and stock your refrigerator, pantry, and bar. 

For the uninitiated, a first trip to Round Top can feel a little like being marooned at sea. The town’s only mercantile closes at 6 pm on weekdays and even earlier on Sundays, many restaurants are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“I tell people it’s like a yachting experience — you have to plan in advance,” Cone says. 

Red Antler has already caught the attention of top interior designers. They won’t name names, but “we’ve had a lot of prominent designers stay here from all over,” Fourticq says. “One recently flew in from San Francisco, and there’s a lady based in the Bahamas who’s very well known.”

Recently the high-profile owner of a Dallas private club reserved all three bungalows for friends flying in from New York and Los Angeles. Fourticq and Cone filled a big silver bowl — shaped like a deer’s head with antlers — with champagne, rosé and white wine. “It was a huge hit, and they had a blast,” Fourticq says. 

“Next up is Fourth of July weekend,” says Cone, “a serious holiday in Round Top which hosts the 172nd annual Fourth of July parade, the longest-running Fourth of July parade west of the Mississippi, and on July 3, fireworks and music at The Compound.”

Red Antler Bungalows, 125, 131, and 137 Gretchen’s Way, Round Top

The photography for this story was shot by Pär Bengtsson. Michelle Aviña did the art direction.