Colton House Hotel Designer Patrice Rios Blends Old Texas with Modern Austin
Rios, who’s worked in Shanghai and Los Angeles, brings expertise to her hometown
By Laurel Miller
Photographs by Jeremy Sexton and Ayuma Photography
If Patrice Rios had to name one thing that symbolizes the time, thought and labor that went into designing the interior of the Colton House Hotel on South Congress, it would be: tassels.
The Austin-based designer and owner of Patrice Rios Interiors loves the interplay of fabric textures, patterns and colors, and relishes small details — like tassels — that catch the eye and reference a specific time and place. In this instance, the fringe calls to mind the saloons that populated late 19th century Austin, but it was no easy task to procure them.
“The tassels were designed and ordered to accessorize the bottom of these mauve velvet chairs in the lobby,” says Rios. “They were custom colored and got lost in the mail and had to be remade. But I fought for them because the little things are important to me.”
While Colton House, which opened January 6, is Rio’s first domestic hospitality property, her resume includes working with an international design group in Los Angeles and designing luxury hotels in Shanghai. The designer has also been featured on HGTV’s Container Homes and Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers, and is co-founder of Troo Design, her eponymous design studio and Sige and Honey (the latter converts shipping containers into affordable homes).
Colton House is owned by the Chicago-based Inherit Hotel Group and has 80 rooms on three stories. Each features residential amenities like fully equipped kitchenettes and full kitchens and living rooms suitable for extended stays as well as families, business and individual travelers. The property is named for a town once located seven miles from Austin, which was established by the prominent McKenzie family in 1866.
For Rios, a native Austinite, the project was an opportunity to delve into the history of her hometown as well as scour the Hill Country for vintage art and décor. The resulting interior design feels like a cross-section of Austin history with Victorian, mid-century and contemporary elements.
“It wasn’t about a specific theme, like music,” says Rios, “but rather pulling elements from Austin and nearby towns that reflected aspects of Old Texas as well as the energy of modern Austin, which is bright and art-centric.” There’s also a nod to Chicago, courtesy of the Edison bulb-lined overhang above the valet area.
The initial inspiration for the interior came from the client’s Guesthouse Hotel in Chicago, says Rios. “It’s travel-inspired, with old trunks, crystal chandeliers and worn leather. I wanted to bring that vibe here, but also make guests feel like they’re at home on their journey, with comfy sofas and a well-stocked library.” The spacious, airy rooms are more minimalist, with leather and brass accents and simple palettes.
Rios’s favorite Hill Country finds include the lobby restroom’s 1940s crystal and brass light fixture found in La Grange and the lobby barn doors, which came from Round Top. Vintage mirrors were found at estate sales and uphold Rio’s ethos of keeping hotel design varied and eclectic.
“Each elevator lobby has a different jewel-tone and look, because it provides guests with surprises everywhere they go,” she says. “Not everyone like a sterile environment.” Case in point: those elevator lobbies and various nooks around the hotel have a distinct Victorian brothel vibe — an observation that delights Rios. “I definitely love to push boundaries as well as play with scale in a way that might strike people as funky,” she adds.
Colton House took four years to complete. “There were so many delays and changes in engineers, and then, a fire broke out behind Simona’s [the hotel’s upscale coffee shop/bar, named for hotel co-owner Simona Krug],” says Rios. “We had to get really creative with budget, because it kept getting cut.”
There was also the matter custom designing “every single rug, runner and piece of furniture,” a collaborative effort between Rios and Krug. Rios also drew pictures of all the furnishings, which were custom made for the hotel.
Despite the many setbacks, Rios says she looks forward to designing more hotel properties in Austin. “Hospitality projects are my favorite, because so many people get to experience the interior, even me,” she says. “It’s always amazing to see an Instagram post made by a guest that focuses on some aspect of the design.”