Sean Knibb and Michael Hsu-Designed LINE Hotel “Keeps Austin Weird”
For all its bars, day spas, and barbecue joints, Los Angeles’s Koreatown lacked panache. All that changed with the Sydell Group’s flagship LINE LA hotel, which gave Sean Knibb, until then a landscape designer, entry into the hospitality world. For the brand’s third property, LINE Austin (following LINE DC), Knibb, collaborating with local architect Michael Hsu, had a different mandate entirely. No sense of place was needed. “Austin has a lot of venues and restaurants intrinsic to the city,” Knibb begins. “They’re very contextual.” Instead, he laughs, his main concern was “to keep Austin weird. That’s a phrase the folks like to use.”
The 12-floor site had been a well-known fixture in the Austin skyline: a mid-century, modernist concrete building that opened in 1965 as the 428-room Crest Inn. Knibb and Hsu kept the key count and made minimal alterations to the façade. Nothing weird about that. Inside is where change is abundantly evident. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of three food and beverage settings and the renovation of all rooms and suites, as well as indoor-outdoor event spaces. Throughout, furnishings are pretty much custom, and art, as integral to LINE’s modus operandi, is key.
How many designers envision torn canvas as a ceiling covering? It starts in the lobby, with its blush plaster walls and trio of fireplaces paying homage to Carlo Scarpa, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rudolph Schindler, and extends to the bar of the signature restaurant Arlo Grey. Though its finish resembles the charred Japanese treatment shou sugi ban, the bar by local artist Michael Wilson is actually stained ash. No matter, its inky black is a mysterious draw. The restaurant proper lightens up with pale pink walls and booth seating overlooked by cerulean glass pendants.
While Arlo Grey is quietly elegant, Dean’s One Trick Pony is a riff on a dive bar, the beloved kind populating Austin’s landscape. Chain link, wood-beaded curtains, a hand-painted mural by Austin local Drew Liverman, and a distinct Africa vibe make the point. Upstairs, on the roof of the six-level parking podium, P6 is an indoor-outdoor wraparound terrace conceived as “a super chic hangout, a make-out place,” says Knibb. Standouts are overhead treatments of pink paper flags and fabric draped over wire, wrought iron, and rattan furniture, and deep sectional seating.
Guest quarters, meanwhile, have wall panels of sandblasted plywood behind the beds’ backlit Formica headboards. About the panels, Knibb explains that he took a simple material and made it feel different, even a bit fancy. Subconsciously, they hint at “a motif of time and erosion.” All guest rooms have original art with commissioned pieces from as many as 10 artists represented. The public realm boasts works by such central Texas artists as Xochi Solis, Alyson Fox, Manik Raj Nakra, and Alexandra Valenti. Can’t make it to any of the three current LINE cities? How about Atlanta or San Francisco? They’re next.