Culture / Travel

Texas’ Most Unique Hotel?

An Exclusive Private Retreat With a Mystical Rep Opens Its Doors to the Public

BY // 03.20.16
photography Knoxy Knox

For 10 years, Rancho Pillow was a private retreat for Austin-based Sheila Youngblood, her oil-and-gas executive husband, Ryan, and their two children. Located seven miles outside Round Top — where Youngblood began shopping the antiques fairs in high school — the property also became a sought-after hideout and recording studio for musicians across the globe seeking inspiration from the Hill Country’s rolling topography and the ranch’s unique creative energy. (Youngblood is a trained classical singer, and her husband is a songwriter on the side.)

The 20-acre compound — then known as Rancho Milagro — is an assortment of eccentric buildings, including a restored 1896 house filled with art and vintage finds and an 18th-century barn relocated from upstate New York.

View of the Tower House and TeePee

Over the decade, the ranch achieved an almost mystical underground status in the area — much heard about, but seldom seen. Youngblood occasionally hosted film-making camps for her children’s friends, and weddings and birthday celebrations for friends, but the public rarely caught a glimpse down the gravel drive.

Now, newly rebranded as Rancho Pillow — after a 1940s neon motel sign Youngblood found years ago at Round Top — the compound’s buildings are available to rent for the first time during the antiques fair, starting this spring. (Guests can also reserve the full property year-round.)“I had so many requests over the years from people to stop by or stay,” Youngblood says. “The reinvention of the Rancho invites a larger world to experience the soul of the place.”

Things kick off on Monday, March 28, with a chef-prepared Dinner on the Porch (tickets are  limited; click here for details), followed by a tour of the property and dwellings the next day.

Sheila Youngblood on the property

With a chef’s kitchen and retail space set to open this spring, Rancho Pillow aims to become as much a destination as a place to lay your head. Still, a good night’s sleep is never overrated.

Of the ranch’s four main lodgings, one of the most intriguing is the aforementioned 18th-century Dutch barn, with its two downstairs bedrooms and a queen bedroom in the crow’s nest. Framed in massive hand-hewn hemlock timbers, the three-story barn is also the ranch’s gathering spot and mess hall, with a modern kitchen stocked with top-of-the-line appliances.

For the more adventurous, there’s also an air-conditioned teepee, furnished with a king-size bed and velvet seating, with hand-painted imagery of the Four Elements on its sheet-rocked walls. The ranch sleeps 28 inside its various buildings, but events for hundreds can be accommodated, with luxury tents lining the pasture, including Bedouin-style camel- and goat-hair tents, Moroccan red and gold velvet and Indian orange silk-embroidered tents.

“I’ve been obsessed with creating spaces forever,” Youngblood says. From $450 per night during the antiques fairs.

Home, chic home.

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