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11 Things to Know Before Visiting Round Top — Treasure Hunting Tips, Tricks and Strategies From a Top Texas Designer

Lauren Rottet Falls for the Lone Star State's Antiques Mecca

BY // 01.04.22

Oh, yes. . . the treasure hunting will soon begin again in the Texas countryside of Round Top. Yet, for the antiquing novice, The Round Top Antiques Fair (which returns with the Winter Show January 20th through the 23rd) can be a daunting, mind-boggling labyrinth of 20-plus miles of vintage store tent pop-ups situated on fields of cow pasture.

Tucked between Houston and Austin, this massive antique fair was christened in 1968 as a little flea market, and it’s taken off exponentially since then.The Round Top Antique Fair is now comprised of more than 2,000 antique vendors spread across the fields close to where Longhorn cattle still roam.

Fear not if you’re a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the event. There’s always a Houston design pro who can help you navigate these rather turbulent, murky waters for shopping when you’re looking for the most distinctive hidden treasures.

Renowned as the designer who reimagined Houston’s boutique hotel La Colombe D’Or, Lauren Rottet wants to introduce would be treasure hunters to a distinctive way of approaching Round Top that’s tailored to any scale. She believes it will set you on your way to finding those design pieces that you just can’t live without. Rottet made her first trip to Round Top this year, and her maiden voyage was a bit of an eye-opening scavenger hunt for the uninitiated.

“Since it was my first time, I was just doing a reconnaissance,” Rottet tells PaperCity. “So I went very fast in the beginning. I was taking pictures, and I was going fast, with the intent of going back. But that was the problem, I couldn’t get back because the traffic was bad.

“So that’s why I will spend the night next time, and then go there the next morning to pick up what I like.”

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Rottet Studio's Anja Majkic and Taylor Mock enjoyed their day at Round Top
Rottet Studio’s Anja Majkic and Taylor Mock enjoyed their day at Round Top

In a stroke of serendipitous genius, Rottet invited her entire office to come along on her first trip to Round Top, as something of a bonding experience. Not all would brave a dizzying maze of thousands of shops stretched across a cow pasture for an office bonding adventure.

“We didn’t do the end-of-summer swimming party, so I proposed this,” Rottet says. “My team told me that the Round Top Trip was the best bonding trip. We all carpooled together. . . had lunch together, drinks together. When you travel together, you bond like you never bond in any other way.”

Take notes, antique aficionados. The Winter Show in Round Top is coming right up. Here are Lauren Rottet’s 11 tips for making the most of it.

1) Come Prepared

Know what you’re looking for and ask which venues are best to find it. “Map it out ahead of time, talk to people, and know what you’re looking for,” Rottet says. She sleuthed her shopping route ahead of time, by connecting with others who navigated the path before her.

“We reached out to those in the office who had been to the Round Top Fair before, as well as a client of ours who goes often,” Rottet says. “They gave us suggestions on where to go for sure and how to plan our day.  As advised, we planned to start at the far end of the Fair and work our way back toward home, in order to avoid traffic coming back.”

Some of the top spots that held promise for antiquing treasures included Excess I and II, The Compound, Marburger, The Halles, The Arbors, Market Hill and Blue Hills.

2) Adopt an Eagle Eye

Learn how to weed out all except what you are looking for, but allow just enough peripheral vision to spot the good stuff, no matter what, Rottet advises.

“I want to get something unique,” Rottet says. “It’s an intuitive sense and of course, it’s price point. When I shop for the hotels, I look for something that is handmade and unique, not something that everyone is going to have. Although for myself, it’s more distinctive and completely one-off and nobody has these.”

If you’re diligent at unearthing treasure for your client or yourself, there’s rich reward.

“If it’s unique and something your client can talk about — like an 18th century mirror or an early 19th century duck decoy, it gives them a chance to brag about their treasures,” Rottet says.

Lauren Rottet filling in "Color by Number" at The Halles Unmatched in Round Top
Lauren Rottet filling in “Color by Number” at The Halles Unmatched in Round Top

3) Snap It Up If You Love It

Rottet shares the strategy behind how she buys. It’s a bit like a marksman hunter that strikes immediately and then gets haunted by what she didn’t quite snare in the trap.

“If I fall in love immediately and the price is right, I buy it instantly,” she says. “If I’m not sure and/or the price is a bit high, I take a picture of the object and also of the vendor — and I move on to the next exhibitor.

The one thing that Rottet might do if she’s on the fence about something that catches her eye is ask vendors for right of first refusal.

“If I think I might want to buy it later, I ask if I may have first right of refusal and I give them my cell if I will be there a few days,” Rottet says. “I go back to my room and think about what I remember most and what haunts me. I’ll call the shops and say, ‘Can you deliver!’ ”

4) Bring a Portable Battery Charger

Make sure you have a portable battery charger on-hand, Rottet emphasizes. There are a plenty of venues and a lot of pictures to take.

“My phone battery died, and I was only on the second stop,” Rottet says. “Note to self — bring a portable battery (charger). Take pictures of everything. I would take pictures and not necessarily take a card. Buy those things you’re completely in love with. But for the other things in question, wait until the last day, that final Saturday.”

Lauren Rottet's Round Top Trip

5). Work Your Up From One End to The Other

Drive to the opposite end of where you need to be to return home, and work your way back with your car so you avoid traffic as you exit, Rottet advises.

“One piece of advice I got that was fantastic was to drive all the way to the end and work your way back, if you’re going back that night,” Rottet says. “The good news about that is that then you don’t have to keep going and fight traffic. So we started at The Compound, then drove our way from The Compound to Excess I and II. Then, we went to Marburger and The Halles.”

6). Time Your Visit Well

Rottet observes that it was all a matter of timing — when to seize the opportunity and when to barter and deal. The best strategy is to go the first day of the show if you are on a mission for a distinctive piece. But for all other items, go on the final day when you can get them at a good price.

“We went the very last weekend of the show on a Saturday. The show closed on a Sunday. In some way, that was fun because the shops were willing to deal,” Rottet says. “If you’re serious about finding something, then it would be great to go the first day.

She added she plans to stay overnight on her next trip, and Cinda and Armando Palacios’s new hotel might be where she seeks a cozy landing.

Rottet invited her entire office team to Round Top. "It turned out to be the best bonding experience. My favorite photo of the day!"
Rottet invited her entire office team to Round Top. “It turned out to be the best bonding experience. My favorite photo of the day!”

7. Make a Lunch Reservation

Scope out the food and drink venues where you want to gather, Rottet suggets. With tens of thousands of shoppers navigating their way through the fields, the restaurants will be solidly booked, so make reservations ahead if you can. There’s no shortage of spots to try, from The Restaurant at Market Hill to Methodist Men BBQ at Blue Hills.

“We liked the outdoor feel at The Compound, with fire pits and places to get food and drinks,” Rottet says.

8. Get a Few VIP Passes

It’s not a bad idea to snap up a few VIP passes and stop there first to get the goody bag and get a quick education on what to do and see.

“The VIP Experience at The Halles is a great place to gather, get caught up on what to see, have a drink and regroup,” Rottet says. “Muffins by morning and margaritas by evening.

9. Think Big SUV or Truck

If you don’t want to get slapped with an exorbitant shipping bill, it’s best to get a truck or SUV for your trek to Round Top.

“Not a bad idea to rent a big truck or SUV or go with a friend who has one of these,” Rottet says. “It might save you a good bit on shipping. And you get it immediately.”

Rottet loved this distinctive cow painting at the Compound. Now, she wants to track down the vendor. "Any help would be appreciated."
Rottet loved this distinctive cow painting at the Compound. Now, she wants to track down the vendor. “Any help would be appreciated.”

10. Be In The Know

It’s key to read everything about exhibitors ahead of time, Rottet says. It’s also crucial to study maps and understand what to see in order, so you’re not backtracking.

“I prepare a list mentally and physically of what I am looking for from art to objects for clients and myself,” Rottet notes.

Some of her most cherished haunts included The Compound, Excess I and II, Marburger, Blue Hills, The Market and The Arbor. The items Rottet couldn’t live without included an 18th century French mirror at Antiquaire de France and silver alloy trays from Manos de Sur.

Then, there was the one that got away — the piece de resistance, objet d’art that Rottet eyed but didn’t buy — and it still haunts her.

“I found a cow painting I now really want, but do not know the vendor,” Rottet says. “Any help would be appreciated. That’s the only problem when you don’t spend the night. I actually would have gone back to get the cow painting, but at that point, traffic was too bad.”

These are the venues that Rottet experienced first in her trek to Round Top:

Excess I and II

The Compound

Marburger

The Halles

The Arbors

Market Hill

Blue Hills

Rottet spotted this objet d'art: "Who can resist an 18th century French mirror with dueling mice!!"
Rottet spotted this objet d’art: “Who can resist an 18th century French mirror with dueling mice!!”

11. Take Friends Along

Drive a stretch along these country roads, and and you’ll see why Round Top is touted as a cool road trip as you gaze at the acres of hayfields transformed into upscale flea markets. It’s such a scenic and surreal experience that you might want to grab a few friends or office mates for the ride out. It could deepen the experience as well as the friendship.

“If you want to bond with some new friends, an office team or a girl’s group or a social group of some kind, it was a super fun thing to do together,” Rottet says. “It was 100 percent unanimous. We all wanted to go.

“It turned out to be the best bonding experience ever.”

Rottet ran into Austin artist Paul Meyer at Round Top. "We have used his work in past projects. So nice to meet at The Market in Round Top"
Rottet ran into Austin artist Paul Meyer at Round Top. “We have used his work in past projects. So nice to meet at The Market in Round Top”

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