Along with grazing cows and Instagram-worthy wildflowers, the Texas Hill Country is home to a thriving antique scene. Gentedimontagna senior editor Berit Baugher headed south to scope out Round Top’s legendary antique fair.
ROUND TOP, Texas - When you live in a concrete jungle like New York City, weekend trips are essential for maintaining perspective and reminding yourself that there is a world out there with trees and grass. During the summer months, I escape the crowds and humidity by driving out to the beach or countryside; come winter, I try to leave the slushy, snow-filled streets for warmer climates and a much-needed dose of Vitamin D. This year, after a series of late-in-the-season snowstorms, there was little hesitation on my part when an invitation arrived to fly down to sunny Texas for a road trip in the newest model of the Chevrolet Equinox. With plenty of room for found treasures, the spacious SUV was the ideal companion for a solo drive around Texas Hill Country. My destination was the Original Round Top Antiques Fair, a legendary bi-annual marathon of junking, antiquing, and flea marketing that takes places across a stretch of small towns on Texas 237 between Carmine and LaGrange.
The four-hour flight from New York City to Austin was a breeze. Upon entering the airport I was greeted with the strong scent of Texas barbeque. Along with a few other notable Austin establishments, The Salt Lick Barbecue has an outpost inside the airport, which means you can sample the best of Austin cuisine without going into the city. The line was long and I had already eaten, but the idea was tempting. I made my way to the departure curb to pick up my ride for the weekend. Along with a spacious trunk with fold-flat rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a rearview monitor screen to help with backing up, the Chevrolet Equinox has WiFi, so I was able to download episodes of my favorite podcasts and sync my iPhone with Apple Carplay. The one-hour drive from Austin to Round Top was scenic with the famous Texas wildflowers in bloom and herds of cows munching on grass.
Arriving at Rancho Pillow feels a little like getting dropped off at a wildly eccentric summer camp. The 20-acre compound consists of several buildings, including a main house, three smaller cottages, a vintage trailer, and a giant teepee. All are decorated in owner and designer Sheila Youngblood’s eclectic style, which mixes Latin American folk art with collected curiosities from years of hunting the town’s famous antique fair. There is a heated saltwater wading pool, a playground, outdoor seating, and a fire pit. If you’re in the market for a colorful location to host a wedding or reunion, this would be a great option. I spent the rest of my afternoon roaming around the compound before heading to Rummel Square in the tiny village of Round Top (population 90) for hand-tossed pizzas and fresh salads at Lulu’s.
The key to visiting any antique fair is to start bright and early before the crowds descend. After a low-key breakfast at Rancho Pillow, I made my way to Market Hill, a large warehouse-style space with nineteen vendors selling a mix of old and new furniture with a strong French country vibe. Much of the goods on sale are sourced directly from France, including the piece that got away – an antique oak side table that I can’t get out of my head. From there I headed to the Big Red Barn & Annex. With over 30,000 square-feet and an additional tent filled with an array of beautifully displayed early Americana, Texas primitive, and Continental furniture and accessories, there is plenty to see and buy. I did a speed tour and found myself most taken by a folding table covered with crates of antique botanical prints and maps that would look lovely framed.
I ventured back to Rummel Square for lunch at The Garden Co. Marketplace and Cafe, a tiny oasis of fresh food, verdant plants, and gardening supplies in a chic farmhouse-style space spread across two buildings. A cup of the Texas Pecan roast at Expressions Coffee & Art, a sweet coffee shop in a vintage farmhouse that dates back to the late 1800s, followed. The square is also home to a handful of shops worth stopping at, including Townsend Provisions for curated antiques and vintage cowboy boots, Lark for nature-inspired jewelry and gourmet chocolates, and Stash for artisan-made leather goods.
With a dinner reservation at June’s All Day and an overnight at South Congress Hotel in Austin looming, I made my way to my final stop – The Compound, a 25,000 square foot space and one of the newer antiquing outposts in Round Top. It was the second to last day and the cold weather I fled from had ironically made its way down to Texas, so most of the vendors had already packed up.
In the end I didn’t buy anything on my trip to Round Top. The items I was most taken with were of the larger variety and not suited for a Brooklyn-sized apartment. Next time I go, it will be when I have a house to fill and a shipping container to transport my finds up north.