Hotel Magdalena brings design inspired by 1970s lakeside culture to Austin

Austin always beckons the weary traveler if you’re looking for laid-back culture and off-the-grid, funky vibes. Hotel San Jose on South Congress has always been the ethereal Austin fix for an adventure that soothes the soul.

Freshly unveiled Hotel Magdalena invites Houstonians to pay a visit to its new South Congress neighborhood in Austin. Hotel Magdalena is the new creative brainchild of Bunkhouse Group hotels in collaboration with renowned architecture firm Lake| Flato, and it’s made a grand debut in October on Austin’s Music Lane.

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“The story of the hotel is the story of Austin–of live music, the outdoors, and relishing the hot summers in our beloved rivers and creeks,” Bunkhouse’s Vice President of Design and Development Tenaya Hills told Chron. “That naturally acted as a springboard for the design elements of the hotel–the pool being our own swimming hole, the buildings around it inspired by Austin’s lake houses in the 1950s, which then informed the materials you see and furniture system we designed for the guest rooms.”

Named after the biblical figure Mary Magdalene, the boutique hotel boasts 89 guest rooms, a dedicated event space and a 900-square-foot sunken swimming pool reminiscent of Barton Springs.

What’s important about Hotel Magdalena is that it sits upon a treasured site for Austin. It was originally home to the Terrace Motor Hotel, a popular destination that opened in 1951 featuring 366 rooms and a convention center.

The Terrace Motor Hotel was later purchased in the ’70s by legendary Texas artist Willie Nelson, who renamed the The Austin Opry House and converted part of it into a music venue. The Austin Opry House became a popular tour stop for such American music icons as Muddy Waters, Ike & Tina Turner, Tom Waits and, of course, Willie himself.

Now the Magdelana is a must-stop for Texas foodies. The hotel boasts Summer House on Music Lane, a full-service restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Jeffrey Hundelt (previously the culinary director of Austin’s Launderette). Summer House on Music Lane’s cuisine will embrace Texas roots and will open to the public in November.

“The menu features straightforward cooking taking cues from old school hospitality and slow food mentality, but with an Austin sensibility,” Bunkhouse hospitality noted.

From a design perspective, Hotel Magdalena takes inspiration from the lush green space of central Texas and specifically, the lakeside culture in the 1970s era.

“Lake culture was an inspiration because it’s what we do here in the summer – hang out with friends on the water, grill, swim,” Hills said. “It’s fun, casual and relaxed, like this hotel is. 70s era Austin specifically is interesting just because of the richness of the music scene and the lore of the time – a sleepy, fun-loving college town. It was the era that created the Austin we know today.”

So, what makes this hotel so unique in Austin?

“We want this to feel like an escape to nature but in the middle of a city,” Hills said. “I love the indoor/outdoor connection; it really makes the experience at this hotel original and a true escape. And with the nature as core to the hotel concept, our team was focused on very special landscaping, and we were lucky enough to work with Ten Eyck landscaping to make it happen. “

The other true draw to Hotel Magdalena is that it lures the traveler who wants things to go at a slower pace with a natural vibe.

“We want people to walk into a clean, uncluttered room that’s instantly calming,” Hills said. “We want them to put their feet up, put some music on, and slow down. The traveler we had in mind loves Austin, loves what those hot summer nights feel like, and, of course, great food, good music and the art of relaxing.”