Round Top’s Stylish Hospitality: The Frenchie

Come for Relaxation, Stay for Inspiration

The Frenchie is composed of three buildings: a circa 1890s farmhouse and a cottage of the same vintage and an art studio built in recent years in the style of an earlier time. The property also features a potting shed that is older than the farmhouse; it serves as a lounge available to all guests. The main house also includes a kitchen, coffee bar and wine bar that are used as common spaces.  While The Frenchie is located within easy walking distance of downtown Round Top, it backs up to an open pasture providing country views and privacy. Guests may rent individual rooms, individual suites or any combination thereof. The Garden Cottage is rented as a single unit only. Call for reservations.

Insider’s Info:
Because it’s always the right time to enjoy great wine, The Frenchie boasts an honor system wine bar located in the main house. The wine list is built on The Frenchie team’s favorites; they also selected the antique crystal wine glasses that complete the experience.

photo by Kristin Light Photography

Road to Round Top:
Katy Bader, who lives in Uvalde, discovered Round Top years ago as a shopper. In spring 2017, she opened Bader Ranch at Round Top to showcase the European antiques of her long-time friend and business associate Sabine Geldhof, a dealer based in Belgium. Bader Ranch included a sit-down café that subsequently became Oui Oui Brasserie helmed by visiting chefs.

During that first hectic show, Kristin Light, also from Uvalde, came to help Bader (pronounced Bodder). The pair has been friends since their teenage years.

“I came to help out, but I ended up coming back again and again,” Light said. “Round Top does that to you.”

The next season, Light and her pop-up hat shop, Le Zoute Style, were part of the ever-growing mix of offerings at Bader Ranch.

“We work incredibly hard, but it feels right to work together . . .just like it did when we were 15 and cleaning guest cabins on the Frio River,” said Bader, who grew up as part of a family lodging business in Leakey.

Rolling out the Welcome Mat:

Believing Round Top real estate to be a sound investment, Bader asked local real estate broker Sandy Reed to be on the lookout for likely parcels. When the historic farmhouse and outbuildings within walking distance of downtown Round Top became available, Bader’s phone rang.

“When I asked Sandy what I could do with it, she suggested it was an ideal location for lodging,” Bader said. “I knew the lodging business and thought, ‘I can make this work.’”

They closed the deal—then Bader involved Light. They embarked on what Light thought was a girls’ trip to Round Top to see Bader’s new property.

“I’ve known her long enough to trick her with a clean conscious,” Bader laughingly said.

photo by Kristin Light Photography

When they arrived, the contractor was waiting to do a walk-through to discuss the renovation. Bader stayed for a bit and announced she had a meeting in Austin.

“She said, ‘I think y’all have this—and drove off,’” Light said.

According to Bader, it was a deliberate choice.

“Kristin studied design in LA, and she’s insanely talented, but I knew she’d tell me no because she’d never tackled a project this big,” Bader said. “I just didn’t make ‘no’ an option.”

Once they started construction in December 2017, there was no stopping. The opening was set for March during the 2018 Spring Antiques Show.  The morning of The Frenchie’s opening, the duo were in the fields filling in the last missing pieces.

“We got the bones of the house in shape knowing we’d have the biggest selection on earth right down the road,” Bader said. “It’s a true reflection of Round Top.”

 In a Name:
“We spent a whole lot of time talking about the name. We tried lots of variations of Bader-something to tie it into Katy’s antiques venue. I kept saying, ‘Let’s call it The Frenchie’ because I just liked the way it sounds. Katy was open to it. Once we figured out the name, it drove everything else,” Light said.

The “Antique” Aesthetic:
When they were creating the “elegant but modern eclectic farmhouse,” the friends set out to defy expectations.

“The exterior and the grounds are 100 percent 19th century farmhouse, which has people expecting one thing,” Bader said. “The only hint of what’s to come is the turquoise door on the front porch; we want that to be the portal to ‘wow!’”

To get to wow, Light mixed and matched with skillful abandon.

“We weren’t bound by any design rules,” Light said. “Instead, we focused on making it plush, elegant, fun and happy—and full of things we loved.”

The space is anchored by beautiful, statement making European antiques sourced from Geldhof juxtaposed against thoroughly modern touches such as Melinda Buie’s artwork and the bathrooms’ tilework. Sometimes old and new meet on the same piece. The reupholstered antique Italian sofas in the main house’s living room are now bright and bold.

“We chose everything for a specific place and specific purpose,” Bader said.

photo by Kristin Light Photography

For the duo, the hospitality lies in the details they obsessed over. Killer coffee bar. Modern door knobs on 19th Century doors. Over-sized custom pillows. Bathtubs as well as showers and canisters of fluffy Q-tips in every bath.

“As a host, your job is to care for your guests,” Light said. “Hospitality is in the details. When they sense the attention you’ve put into every aspect of the space, they know they’re being well take care of.”

In a Word:
“Unexpected.” Katy Bader
“Rule-breaking.” Kristin Light

Unique-ness:
“The Frenchie is designed to deliver the warm, personal hospitality you expect at a traditional B&B with all the luxurious hipness of an urban boutique hotel. We tried to push the boundaries of what is expected in small rural town because we believe it’s possible to be trendsetting in the middle of tranquility. Sometimes those hip urban destinations feel unattainable, but everybody can get to Round Top—and once they get here they want to stay.” – Kristin Light

The Roundtopolis™ “Don’t Miss”:
“Sitting on the porch of the potting shed. It’s, in my opinion, the most charming building on the property—and it’s more than 150 years old. Think about all the life that has been lived in that little shed while you watch the horses graze, and breathe in the scent of rosemary and lavender from the herb garden. It’s lovely. It’s worth remembering—and coming back for.” – Katy Bader

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by Lorie A. Woodward
photos by Kristin Light Photography