Updated: Apr 16


It’s no doubt that Austin, Texas is full of incredible small business, boutiques, and design studios. When it’s time to freshen our style, or our outlook, we turn to local Austin friends and collaborators for their expert perspective. In this blog series, along with our own inspiration for refreshed jewels, we highlight two longtime friends and Austin-based business-owners: Elizabeth Cates, of Sparrow Interiors and Gifts, and Kristen Ernst, of Grove Hill ATX Boutique.



We turn to Elizabeth and Kristen to learn the quintessential markers of a uniquely-Austin design style and fashion sensibility, and how to update our homes and wardrobes when it’s time for a change. We love Sparrow and Grove Hill for their mutual dedication to creating beautiful, bespoke, and unique collections, combined with unmatched personal service, and decades of expertise.


Elizabeth Cates, founder and principal interior designer at Sparrow Interiors and Gifts, first made her way to Austin in 1983. After spending many years in Memphis, TN, family ties and life changes brought her back to ATX, where she founded Sparrow in 2017. The shop, part-design-office, part-boutique, is where you’ll find Elizabeth — when she’s not traversing the world for textiles and treasures to bring back with her, that is. As you’ll see, hand-sourced Moroccan textiles, antique English hand-painted dinnerware, decorative objects, and a gallery chalk-full of local artists await behind the doors of Sparrow Interiors.


Grove Hill dressed us for spring, we adorned the ensembles with jewels, and Elizabeth graciously opened the doors of her boutique to serve as our backdrop. Keep reading to learn more about one of Austin’s best interior design businesses and home decor stores, inspiration to refresh your home this season, and ways to reflect the spirit of Austin within your own walls.



RH: Where did your journey with interior design begin?


Elizabeth: I went to the University of Texas here in Austin and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design, 1988. UT was one of the first FIDER accredited programs in the country (Foundation for Interior Design Education). My first position after school was in the hotel design industry, then transformed into office, and residential interior design. I have since worked on ranch and farm houses and even restaurant design.


RH: What types of clients do you typically aim to serve?


Elizabeth: I serve clients who want to make their homes feel warm, comfortable, and upscale. We are a boutique, custom, high-end interior design firm and retail shop. We love to focus on our clients personal styles and desires. No two jobs look the same!


RH: What’s the history of why and how you got started in Austin?


Elizabeth: I grew up in Dallas, TX and went to the University of Texas in Austin. I moved away for many years to Memphis, TN, but life changes brought me back to Austin, where I have family. My brother has been a musician here for over 30 years and both my children are Longhorns. Opening a business was the best way to continue what I had already been doing.



RH: How does Sparrow uniquely serve Austinites? Or, in other words, what can they find at your shop and with your service that they can’t find elsewhere in Austin?


Elizabeth: I travel the world and always bring items back to sell in the shop. Plus, I have honed a skill for “dressy casual”. No matter your personal interiors style, whether it be modern, transitional, boho, or traditional, my goal is to provide sophisticated comfort. I am lucky to have a diverse group of people in my life from musicians and cowboys to artisans and socialites; they provide me with a true knowledge of how various lifestyles live and what’s important to them. My life experiences have exposed me to fabulous interiors for families, elegant and casual entertaining spaces, privacy, practicality, and durability. Hopefully, our shop reflects this!



RH: We’d love to know what you think makes Austin unique in terms of design styles and interior decorating.


Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the US right now, gaining about 34,000 new residents annually (The most significant metro area net contributors to Austin growth are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and New York.)


How would you describe Austin’s design focus as compared to other major cities like New York City or Los Angeles? How is Austin’s style different from Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio? What elements are unique to the Austin vibe?


Elizabeth: Austin is a combination of old and new. The new is quite modern and the old has tremendous charm that we work with and update. While Austin is becoming more modern, it remains true to its roots and has a quirky vibe. There has always been a strong sense of individuality here. We do not focus on one style; we focus on the client’s personal taste and their objects of interest.


No matter the style of architecture, interesting and fresh lighting, new furniture shapes, bold prints, and great textures are what you will find in current Austin interiors.



RH: Thinking about the quintessential “Austin Woman” — If someone who just moved here were to come to you and say, “I want my home to reflect my personal style, but also capture the unique vibe of Austin.” What pieces or design elements would you recommend? What signature elements typically show up in the home of an Austinite?


Elizabeth: Our first responsibility is understanding what the client likes and what makes them proud to invite guests into their space. Modern lighting, leather and great art are recurring elements in Austinites homes. Additionally, we have the ability to have year-round outdoor spaces. So, we strongly believe the outdoor space should feel like an inside room. It does not have to be barren. In Austin, we live outdoors as much as we do indoors.


I interview all of my clients and see what kind of feel they personally want to create in their home. Do they have color inspiration or existing furniture that is significant? What makes them feel comfortable and what type of mood do they want to achieve? We are designing personal spaces that are safe-havens for relaxation and reenergizing.



RH: What new design styles, people, or ideas (or anything else!) are you hoping increased growth brings to Austin? Or, what changes have you already seen?


Elizabeth: Vintage furniture is becoming more relevant due to inventory and supply-chain issues across the globe. Most antique shopping is out of town, plus we have high-end estate contacts in Nashville and Houston. I’ve worked for years to develop my sources and have relationships across the country. Those relationships and sources contribute to our ability to provide our clients with those really outstanding furniture and design elements that no one else will have. We’re not limited to what’s local. We also love many California furniture lines, they’re fresh, interesting, and some, surprisingly affordable. We focus on the client’s individuality and provide as much depth as possible. We provide unique, to-the-trade fabrics that are full of texture and life. We think locally and source globally.



RH: Thinking about the spring and summer months, specifically, what trends are you most excited for this season?


Elizabeth: Outdoor! We have always focused on sophisticated outdoor spaces. We enjoy helping our clients elevate their outdoor spaces so they feel like rooms, not patios.



When it comes to where and how to shop boutiques and home decor in Austin, Sparrow and Grove Hill should certainly be one of your first stops. Visit Sparrow Interiors and Gifts online to browse the portfolio and book a consultation, or stop by Elizabeth’s beautifully curated Austin boutique at 3404 Jefferson Street Austin, TX 78703. Stay tuned for conversations with Robin and Kristen Ernst to learn how they are refreshing their jewelery boxes and wardrobe this season!






Rich in history, dripping in story and charm, New Orleans is all heart and soul. It’s proximity to Austin, Texas makes it a short one-hour plane ride away. It’s the perfect weekend getaway for those looking for culinary divinity, European antiques, and a raucous good time balanced by old-school Southern refinement. Upon arrival, New Orleans bears an unmistakable air of the good times that lie ahead of you and a decidedly Old-World, European influence.


We have the jewelry and we’re ready to travel. In a city so full of antique stores, restaurants and well-crafted libations, where do you begin? We’ve curated a selection of bespoke and unique destinations for sipping cocktails, eating well, shopping antiques and staying in style in The Big Easy — with the jewelry inspiration to match. Laissez le bon temps rouler!


Where to Stay



The Soniat House Hotel

Built in the 1800s, the Soniat House has a story to tell. What was once the early 19th-century family residence of Joseph Soniat Dufossat is now a 30-room hotel celebrating New Orleans’ unique history and architecture. It is, wrote one reviewer, “the epitome of taste and refinement throughout.” Each room and suite feature exceptional designer fabrics, hand-selected fine linens, custom color palettes, and is furnished with French and English antiques and art. Expect the embodiment of understated luxury and historic preservation.


 


 


Hotel St.Vincent

The story of Hotel Saint Vincent begins in Ireland in 1813 with the birth of Margaret Haughery, née Gaffney. Margaret, an orphan, eventually made her way to New Orleans in 1835. There she became known locally as “Our Margaret” for her endless community giving and philanthropy. Now, the Hotel St.Vincent is a hip hotel nestled in the historic Lower Garden District of New Orleans. The surrounding neighborhood is rich in 19th century architecture, including Greek Revival and Italianate-style mansions, iconic side-hall double-galleried residences, open green spaces, as well as an active arts community.


Be sure to: Shop ByGeorge & have a drink at the guests-only Chapel Club.



Hotel Peter + Paul

Hotel Peter and Paul is a historic church, school house, rectory and convent, reborn as a breathtaking hotel. The former school house, rectory, church and convent have each been carefully restored and repurposed for new congregants. Each building has its own inspiration and narrative, with the resulting restoration ensuring that no two guest rooms are exactly alike. With each room possessing its own unique flair, you can select the space that feels exactly right for you.


Be sure to: Eat in a cathedral at The Elysian Bar, inside of the Rectory.


Shop Antiques



Mac Maison LTD

For a day of shopping on Magazine Street, make sure you make Mac Maison LTD. an essential stop. The couple who run the shop, Michael and Basi Carbine, make regular buying trips to Europe, bringing back amazing 18th and 19th century French and Italian treasures. You’ll be sure to find rare and architectural pieces here.


 


 


Royal Antiques

The antiques at Royal Antiques are as old as the family business itself. The business was founded in 1899 by Hermina Keil, who came to New Orleans from Alsace Lorraine, Germany. In her obituary, she was said to be “a veteran antique dealer who counted among her customers, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.” The family still runs the business, collecting pieces ranging in style from Mid-Century Modern to Chinese antiques.



Merchant House

Merchant House is a modern antiques shop where everything is sourced by New Orleans-based merchants — a good way to go if you prefer to support local business owners. With two stories of fun to explore, Merchant House has everything; you'll find vintage fringe-lined flapper dresses, oriental rugs, and perfect glassware, as well as antique furniture spanning decades and styles.


Where to Eat



N7

Founded by filmmaker Aaron Walker and chef Yuki Yamaguchi, N7 specializes in French cuisine infused with a Japanese touch. The secluded French garden restaurant and wine bar is tucked behind a large fence in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, making it easy to miss, but well worth the hunt. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a hidden treasure. N7’s name derives from Nationale 7 (N7), the highway that once ran from Paris to the border of Italy. Known as the “Route des Vacances”, vacationing Parisians would take the road on their way South. Make it a long dinner over their selection of natural, European wines and classic French vinyl.


 


 


Café Degas

Named after the 19th-century French Impressionist Edgar Degas, who once lived further down the same oak-lined avenue, Café Degas is known as one of the most intimately romantic places in the city. Offering classic French cuisine with a creative touch of Creole, and a regularly handpicked selection of the best wines. You might think such an establishment would be better suited for the starchy old buildings of the French Quarter, but think again, this is casual dining for families, friends, and lovers.



La Petite Grocery

Although it’s a relatively new Uptown jaunt, La Petite Grocery has been quickly put on the map by James Beard award-winning chef, Justin Devillier. It’s menu puts a creative spin on traditional New Orleans cuisine with much-loved dishes like Turtle Bolognese and Blue Crab Beignets. The interior feels classic and fresh at the same time. Make sure you order a French 75 in this renovated Creole-cottage.


Cocktails



Bar Marilou

Conde Nast describes Bar Marilou best, “Bar Marilou, tucked secretively along the side of the new Maison de la Luz hotel, is the most striking library you’ve ever seen, with scarlet bookshelves, orange ceilings, and tiger-striped carpets. It’s currently the only bar in the United States designed by the acclaimed Paris-based dreamweavers Quixotic Projects.” It’s equally lively and sultry, and one of our must-do stops on any trip to New Orleans.



Jewel of the South

Jewel of the South is unique in it’s subtle sophistication. The crown jewel? A spectacular bar with dazzling, expertly crafted cocktails. Sit indoors in the classic, wallpapered interior, or in their ultra-quaint courtyard. Either way, you'll be charmed.


 


 


The Columns Hotel Bar

Grand, yet intimate, The Columns is a historic 1880s Thomas Sully Mansion located in the Garden District on St Charles Avenue overlooking the beautiful live oaks and streetcar line. Feast your eyes on the bar’s maximalist design while you sip a sazerac. A perfect stop for snacks before dinner (we'll be wearing rubies).


Planning a trip? Tag us on Instagram at @rhfine_jewelry and show us where your jewelry takes you!




When you're ready to rest, recharge, and reset, look no further than the Texas Hill Country for a laid-back, yet curated, weekend getaway. Just a short drive outside of Austin, Texas these wineries are where we turn to for high-quality wine, natural, yet well-designed environments, and a little rest and relaxation. As always, we believe you shouldn't simply travel, but travel in style. That's why we've created a Texas Hill Country weekend getaway look, in collaboration with ByGeorge, to inspire your jewelry adventures.


William Chris Vineyards


William Chris is a 100% Texas-grown winery located on a historical homestead featuring an original 1905 farmhouse and scenic views. They’re dedicated to putting Texas on the map as a true wine region and place an emphasis on authenticity, as well as staying true to their Texas roots. Make a trip out to Hye for some well-deserved relaxation. Wear something reminiscent of Texas wildflowers and feel right at home in William Chris’ beautiful, natural surroundings.




Augusta Vin Estate Winery


Is there a Texas town more quaint and charming than Fredericksburg? Just over an hour outside of Austin, Fredericksburg is an easy, romantic weekend getaway. Book a BnB, take a day to shop, and stroll Main Street, where original 18th-century buildings still stand, then venture out a bit to Augusta Vin Estate Winery. The stunning architecture will make you feel like you’re sipping wine in a modern cathedral, and the beautiful scenery will keep you oo-ing and ahh-ing all day. Wear something bright and sophisticated, but not stuffy.




Signor Vineyards


Continue your Fredericksburg weekend with a stop at Signor Vineyards. Taste their award-winning wine, explore the French country gardens, and do some farmhouse shopping at Joanna’s Market. Reconnect with nature on their 200-acre, sprawling property — The Signor family has a deep-rooted history in Texas landscaping, with grandfather Teas touting notability as a nationally-prominent horticulturist and the founder of Teas Nursery. Bring the kids, your sweetheart, and your four-legged friends for a day full of charm in the hill country. Wear something layered, cool, and breezy.



Where are your favorite Texas winery getaways? Tag us on Instagram at @rhfine_jewelry and let us know where your jewelry takes you!

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