Interior designers, dealers, and the general public from all over the country converge on one tiny rural town of less than 100 permanent residents twice yearly for three weeks in the spring and fall for the renowned Round Top Antiques Weekend. Located between Houston and Austin in the heart of bluebonnet country, the fair attracts more than 2,000 vendors who set up tents of countless antiques and collectibles gathered from around the world. Make no mistake, this has to be one of the biggest antique fairs in the country, covering a whopping 25 miles.
If it’s fine, authentic European antiques of 18th and 19th century origins you’re looking for, then Continental Barn at Arbor International Antiques, Big Red Barn, Marburger Farm, and Blue Hills are the go-to places. For collectibles, early American furniture, ironwork, linens, architectural and industrial salvage, crafts, bric-a-brac, silver, porcelain, art, garden implements, planters, statuary, etc., can be found just about everywhere. You may even find a robot or two.
Julie Dodson of Houston-based Dodson Interiors was our host. A frequent buyer at Round Top, she was more than helpful in explaining the dos and don’ts. Together with designers Ike Isenhour and Christian Walker we toured the best of the best. Julie insisted we be first in line at Marburger Farm, where, within the first five minutes, she found a pair of beautifully carved Fauteuils and snapped them up for her clients. Arbor Antiques’ Continental Tent delivered again when she scored several fabulous pieces including a gorgeous 18th-century Italian console and an Italian water gilt urn that was to die for.
Ike Isenhour, considered a reductionist among his peers and fluent in international design, sought out a splendid midcentury table in unfinished, raw mahogany that was perfectly proportioned and could double as a desk. He then spent the remainder of the day searching for complementary chairs while providing us a professional’s eye on good deals! Christian Walker was drawn to a number of outdoor pieces and was particularly enamored over a painted willow chaise with lovely lines, an authentic parasol, an abundance of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage, and a number of large planters he fell madly in love with.
There were red dots everywhere indicating brisk sales. Still, with so much to see and a lot of ground to cover, there was no time to linger. There was something for everyone at every price point, and bargaining with the dealers is all part of the fun.
At the end of each day, we all collapsed at Prost Wine Bar for their cheese plate and a few glasses of wine, beer, or champagne, but not before making sure shipping arrangements were made for all of the day's fab finds. Nothing was more satisfying than sitting around a fire pit discussing the finds of the day.
Finding a good place to dine at the end of the day is limited. There are no Michelin-rated restaurants at Round Top—not within 100 miles! Expect to dine on the go with food from any number of inside or outside vendors during the day. The best you’ll get is street food. In the evening head for Los Patrones for typical TexMex or book a table at Royer’s on the Square, but don’t leave Round Top without eating pie at Royer’s Pie Haven. You will not be disappointed. Oh, and do request your pie hot with ice cream—delicious.
More difficult to find are accommodations. These are really small towns that offer bed-and-breakfast options with limited capacity, so you will need to book well in advance. Alternately, bring your own RV and book a site at any one of several RV parks. If you are flying in, Round Top is equal distance from Houston and Austin, so you will need to rent a car for the hour and a half drive. Most of the sites have parking, and if it's small items you’re buying you can load up as you go.
Without a doubt, Round Top should be on every interior designer’s radar. The juxtaposition of fine antiques and vintage finds in the midst of Longhorn Country is worth the trip (and of course the bargain prices!). And don’t forget to dress the part—cowboy boots and Stetsons are Texas chic!
See the links below to learn more about the different venues.