Come On In—Austinites in every direction share their secret spots and stories of the ‘hoods they love most.
Come On In—Austinites in every direction share their secret spots and stories of the ‘hoods they love most.
by Mike Hondorp
The funny thing about Austin (we’ve heard this is not an uncommon experience) is that when we both arrived here, we immediately felt that this city was home. Quickly after falling for Austin, we coincidentally fell for each other, and deliberately set out to find the perfect place to settle down. Sometimes, the cards just fall into place, and that’s how we ended up in Travis Heights.
We came from New Urbanist dream cities, Portland, Oregon, and New York, and were looking to keep that happy urbanist dream alive when hunting for neighborhoods. It had to be walkable to the essentials of daily life (coffee, bars, restaurants and grocery stores), commutable to downtown via foot or bike and an established neighborhood with the eclecticism and personality we had fallen so hard for in our previous homes. Our first (rented) house together in Austin, with our best pup, Baxter, was a charming cottage in Clarksville. It was just about right, but it wasn’t ours, per se.
When the purchasing conversation began, our list of neighborhoods quickly dwindled to two, and Travis Heights was at the top of the list. In fact, it was the neighborhood we always dreamed of living in, back to our first visits to Austin years ago; we just didn’t think it was possible, or at least it was a few years down the road. Then, when Joe was casually telling his boss that he was maybe-kind–of-looking for a house, said boss pointed us in the direction of a half-finished foreclosure just up the hill from Big Stacy Park. We walked into a 1930s bungalow comfortably settled into an overgrown patch of weeds that was ripped down to the studs and filled with random building materials.
Joe, who works in construction and design, easily saw the potential. I took a brave leap of faith. Eight months into ownership and slow-but-steady restoration, (not to mention some time spent at the City of Austin permits office), we’re still not physically moved in, but we’ve considered this “home” since the day we first glanced at that charming hot mess that just needed a little love.
What we love about Travis Heights is that it’s everything a neighborhood ought to be—a walk to the grocery, a walk to our friends’ houses, a walk to the coffee shop. We’ve quickly found during our construction project that it’s also about a highly effective, yet informal neighborhood watch program, as well as a frequent friendly handshake or wave for the newcomers (that would be us) from those lovely neighbors.
Joe’s inner urban design nerd loves learning about the history of the ’hood: the fact that the Congress Avenue Bridge helped establish the development, that the nearby pool was a WPA project and that South Congress Avenue was a 120-foot-wide gift intentionally established to maintain a grand view of downtown for the public. I love the houses built into the tree-covered rolling hills, a just-big-enough backyard, the diversity of architectural styles, and the general and serious charm of the place. And, trained well to live efficiently in New York, I love that the house is the perfect size—every last square foot has a purpose. Being close to running trails, fitness, a creek and a green belt was an added bonus for both of us.
Speaking of fitness, Baxter has deemed the backyard his personal jogging heaven since he first discovered it, and we envision morning jaunts to Jo’s to grab coffee, walks to Perla’s for tasty bites on the deck, and nightly post-dinner strolls around the hilly blocks surrounding our house to discover a new bird, tree, or maybe just an architectural detail. If only Baxter were allowed to swim in Big Stacy Pool. . .
Add all of this to the charm of our soon-to-be-finished old-meets-new home, and we couldn’t be happier at the idea of the decades to come in one of Austin’s quintessential neighborhoods.
Joe Holm is a project manager and designer for McGuire Moorman Hospitality, and Mike Hondorp works in marketing at Facebook. Baxter, their rescue mutt, is an avid social media enthusiast who also enjoys food, walks, runs and his dog friends. And treats. And toys.
by My-Cherie Haley
The first time I visited Austin, Anthony was living in the cutest little bungalow in Bouldin Creek. It was a magical place, where we hung out on the front porch and back deck, sharing good times with neighbors. We walked to Butler Park, biked to Barton Springs and enjoyed walks around the lake. At the time I was living in Las Vegas. Anthony and I dated via Southwest Airlines for about a year and a half. I fell in love with him and sleepy little Austin. I officially moved here in 2006. That was one of the best decisions of my life.
We were married. Later our son, McIntosh (Tosh), was born, and we realized that our cozy cottage was not enough space to start a family. I had turned our guest room into a fashion studio, leaving no space for guests, much less babies.
The 78704 zip code is our habitat. Following a stint in Travis Heights, we moved to Garden Villa, off South 1st Street. This is a diverse community of people, with nearby vintage stores, folk art, great food, music and entertainment. We love the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe it strives to maintain, while growing every day with new restaurants and people. It is a historic neighborhood whose ethnic roots are visible everywhere. The neighborhood includes long-time African American and Mexican American families, churches and cemeteries that predate the southward march of condos and food trucks.
We fell in love with our Garden Villa neighborhood because of its location, distinct character and the privacy it offers.
Although we live right off South 1st, you’d never know it once you turn onto our street. Quite honestly, we are in-town people who like quiet neighborhood living. Our house is in town, but tucked away just enough to make us feel like we are in our own little world. It’s one of Austin’s best-kept secrets. We’re minutes away from the Capitol, where Anthony works as a public affairs consultant. We are a bus hop or bike ride away from downtown.
Our neighborhood blends into Bouldin, South Congress, Travis Heights and South Lamar, and we take pride in having the convenience of hanging out in any of these ’hoods whenever we want. St. Edward’s University is a bike ride away, and we have quick access to Ben White, 360, Mopac and 35.
Our favorite part of our neighborhood is the outside beauty. We have a 100+-year-old oak tree in our front yard. Our back deck is luscious and green, and we have a clear view of the stars and moon. We are so lucky and blessed to be living and raising our family in Austin’s wonderful Garden Villa neighborhood.
My-Cherie is a professional model, actress, artist, stylist and creator of shimmerandbliss.com and dapformen.com. Anthony is a lobster (aka lobbyist) and founder of HRWK. Tosh is a music enthusiast who loves to play his guitar and drums, visit constructions sites, run in the park and eat animal crackers.
by Hobson Brown
In 2009, we came to Austin with a plan—start a business, make some babies and find a home. Our entire life was in start-up mode. With cranes in the sky and restaurants popping up on a weekly basis, Austin quickly proved to be a welcoming place for this kind of “go-for-it!” enthusiasm.
The first baby arrived sooner than the house. A colicky baby in a loft has a way of adding incentive to finding the right house quickly. So, after looking at a few other “projects,” we found the perfect bungalow. Though it was moldy and ensconced in a wall-to-wall carpet that seemed to have a life of its own, you could see charm in its bones, which were built in 1937.
With the help of my oldest friend, business partner and talented designer Billy Nachman, we built a home that we absolutely love. Billy understood the needs of our growing family and designed a house that makes the most of every square foot in an aesthetically pleasing and functional way. It’s now got less mold and more exposed hardwoods, but is still in keeping with the historic bungalow feel of our neighborhood.
So, that brings me to Travis Heights. Having moved from Berkeley, California, where our favorite parks, restaurants, bars, and shops were practically on our doorstep, we sought a neighborhood that was also walkable and diverse. We immediately targeted Travis Heights for its live oaks, its great mix of people, and its walkability. We have found that walking to South Congress or down to the Whip In with the boys is not only good physical exercise and culturally satisfying, but is also a good exercise in parental negotiation.
“Hugh, do you want a milk shake at Hop-Doddy? Then stay in the stroller and stop hitting your brother, please.” We spend weekends and late afternoons exploring Stacy Park. We especially like the moontower, the Buddha and the hidden sand pit. We spend even more time bonding with other tired moms and dads in Little Stacy Park.
And we really love our block. Evenings are spent in the front yard watching the boys watch their older next-door neighbors play kickball or chase each other in a massive Nerf war (not Blake’s favorite). Seriously, we could not have asked for a nicer group of people to be around, and that makes all the difference.
Truth be told, I’m actually not that much of a planner, but so far so good in Austin.
Hobson is the co-founder of Criquet Shirts. In Blake’s previous life, she was the pastry chef at Camino in Oakland, California. Hugh (3) and Hayward (10 months) both have serious potential in crisis negotiations.
by Joanna Steblay
As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.
For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.more
The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...more
by James Ruiz
Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.more
Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.
Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?
From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...more
by James Ruiz
As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.
Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...more