Austin interior designer Allison Crawford is on a mission to change how people travel. With her boutique travel brand, Hotelette, Crawford is merging Airbnbs with boutique hotels, creating sophisticated, meticulously crafted spaces that feel more like home than away.
The inspiration for Hotelette came to Crawford about a year ago during a stay in a rather drab Los Angeles rental property. In California for work, Crawford bounced between Airbnbs and found that while she liked being in a space with a kitchen, she found herself missing the five-star accommodations of a hotel. "Sometimes, it felt like it was just someone else’s space," said Crawford.
Surely, thought the designer, there must be a way to create a luxurious, amenity-filled rental property that is also cozy and conducive to group gatherings. In spring 2017, Crawford decided to test her theory. She purchased a 1930s Craftsman cottage in East Nashville, a hip, historic neighborhood known for its good restaurants and eclectic culture.
Crawford relocated from Texas to Tennessee for three months to gut and renovate the property. In order to outfit the spot in her signature style, the designer combed local antique shops and design stores, and in the process gathered the kind of intel usually reserved for locals. She took that experience and created a city guide filled with her tips on where to eat, where to shop, and where to go, which she packaged and leaves for guests.
The East Nashville property opened in July 2017, and with her dream realized, Crawford returned home to Austin — but the itch remained. She snagged another house, this one in Bouldin, just behind the Austin Motel, and set to work creating Hotelette's second spot.
Though sisters, the two houses are different, inspired by their surroundings rather than simple copies of Crawford's style. "They all have their own design personality. Each house has their own vibe," said Crawford. "Building a space is about building it around something you love, and so I do it around things I love and I can’t stop thinking about."
For her third spot, Crawford is heading north to Dallas' trendy Arts District neighborhood, where she recently closed on another property. With renovations set to begin any day, the Dallas Hotelette should be ready for guests in July.
Crawford sees Hotelette not only as a showcase for her interior design talents, but an opportunity to fill a void in the travel market. As the rapid rise of home rental property sites have shown, many of us want to experience a city like a local, and relish both the comforts of home and the luxury of a boutique hotel. Being an avid traveler — she's been to all seven continents and once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro seemingly on a whim — Crawford understands this nuance, and as a result, is able to anticipate guests' needs and desires.
Her aim in adding thoughtful touches like a homemade city guide, says Crawford, is to create a brand where guests know what they're going to get. "I like to go places that feel familiar," she explained. "I really like Bunkhouse because when I go to a Bunkhouse [hotel], I know what I’m going to get. When people to go to Nashville, [I want them] to know what they’re going to expect."
Among the things her guests can expect is a fully stocked kitchen (think pre-stocked fridge, Le Creuset in the cupboards, etc.), luxury hotel quality linens, and curated items such as robes. (Fun fact: It actually took Crawford a full year of research to decide on the signature Hotelette robe.)
Ultimately, says Crawford, the brand is an opportunity to combine her three great loves: real estate, interior design, and traveling. "I want Hotelette to be a refection of me, but I want people to feel relaxed and inspired, too," she said. "I want to provide spaces where people can be themselves, and groups of people can go and be together."