Hotelier and designer Liz Lambert talks taste
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My personal style signifier is my day-to-day uniform of T-shirts in indigo and black by Filth Mart and Velva Sheen, a pair of jeans, and custom-made “roper” boots by Ranch Road. They’re comfortable, sturdy and I love the backstory of the maker, Sarah Ford, a former Marine who did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before going to Harvard Business School and launching this very Texan brand. My friend Jenna Lyons has said to me that I dress equal parts west Texas rancher and Japanese man – that sums up my aesthetic perfectly.
The last thing I bought and loved was a sculpture by the Haas Brothers that’s made of carved marble and blown glass. It’s currently part of a show called Snails in Comparison at the Lora Reynolds Gallery here in Austin, and we’re waiting for the exhibition to come down so it can be delivered. I love the mix of materials and the vibrant colours. lorareynolds.com
The place that means a lot to me is west Texas – specifically, our family’s ranch, where the Davis Mountains meet the Chinati Mountains. It feels unlike anywhere else on earth: the openness of the land, the dark night sky and brilliant stars – you can see the Milky Way. I call west Texas a “thin place” because the heavens and the earth are so close.
The best souvenirs I’ve brought home are setlists from concerts. I have Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant and St Vincent. One I don’t have is Willie Nelson’s – I just went to see him at the Hollywood Bowl.
A place I’ve visited that has stayed with me is the Amalfi Coast, which is like Fellini meets the familiar and is just stunning. We stayed at Il San Pietro in Positano and rode the lift down through the cliff to the beach area below – spectacular!
The best book I’ve read in the past year is Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language. This was lovely to return to after so many years studying poetry and creative writing in college. Since I recently moved house, all of these wonderful books have cropped back up – Frank O’Hara, Charles Bukowski – and often in multiples, which I think means that I’m meant to give them as gifts to friends.
My style icon is Kris Kristofferson. It’s the whole ’70s cowboy meets musician meets actor vibe. His swagger, the flowing hair, and the conch belt are just pure sex symbol. Think back to A Star Is Born, Convoy or Semi-Tough.
An indulgence I would never forgo is room service. It could be at Claridge’s in London or Le Sirenuse on the Amalfi Coast or a hotel just about anywhere really. I can judge a hotel by its fruit plate.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a gold signet ring with an old mine-cut diamond, to my wife. When we got married we exchanged simple gold bands, but I knew that she wanted something with more pop. I found this ring at Duvenay while scrolling through Instagram.
And the best gift I’ve received is a Ducati Scrambler motorbike, next to the Christmas tree, complete with a big red bow. It was originally gold, but I had it painted blue with a white pinstripe and a small white dove on the gas tank. I’m usually more of a vintage bike person, but this one is spectacular.
The last music I downloaded was Robert Ellis’s “Yesterday’s News”. He’s an absolutely masterful guitar player from Fort Worth, Texas, with a beautiful voice that combines elements of folk and jazz – kind of like Chet Baker.
I have collections of rocks, fossils and seashells; tables made of slate, stone and agate with brass inlay; ceramics; rings. I could go on. I am a Virgo and I am very edited in most areas of my life, but collecting is a passion.
The podcasts I’m listening to include “99% Invisible”, which is about the architecture and design that surrounds us. I always learn something from “Death, Sex & Money”, an NPR production on subjects ranging from facing your fears to infidelity to celebrity interviews. “Articles of Interest” and “Hidden Brain” are two others that I find fascinating because they dip into so many random topics. I spend so much time travelling that I’m always listening to a podcast.
I’ve recently discovered 3D printing, from Icon, pioneers in new ways of construction, and by working with Bjarke Ingels Group on our El Cosmico project in Marfa. I’m learning about the technology and sustainability behind 3D printing and how this raw-earth building technique is so much more efficient.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my reading glasses by Caddis. I have all kinds of frames, from aviator styles to matte sunglasses. It’s the happiest brand. caddislife.com
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a black three-quarter-length calf-hair leather coat from Savas in Nashville. I went in to buy a leather jacket for a friend and came out with this coat as well. Local designer Savannah Yarborough trained at Central Saint Martins before starting her own leather clothing and boot business; she fits the bespoke jackets personally. ateliersavas.com
An object I would never part with is a bronze sculpture made by my brother, Lyndon, when he was in middle school. He died many years ago and recently my four-year-old son, also called Lyndon, pointed out that this figure is actually one of the supporting characters from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I’ve always loved it and it has such special meaning for me – and now for our son.
I never travel without the pre-packed Dopp Kit – with technical things such as cords, chargers, adapters, lip balm – by my brand Far West; and a Far West Crossbody bag in saddle leather. I also love my black Louis Vuitton roller [case] with grey accents and my double-L monogram on the side. Far West leather Technical Dopp Kit, $225, and Crossbody bag, $280
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Helen Frankenthaler and, specifically, her prints. I love Colour Field painting and abstract expressionism in general.
My favourite room in my house is the bedroom in our midcentury Austin home. The bedroom is cantilevered out over the landscape and the space has great natural light. We also have midcentury Italian Stilnovo sconces on the walls and a very pale green rug, all of which makes this room feel like a refuge.
My favourite location is the rock tank – an old water storage facility – on our ranch, which we now use as a swimming pool. It’s the simplest design, made of old rock and local pipe – materials that are of this place. When I’m here I feel completely serene.
My favourite app is Nix Toolkit, a colour-matching app that tells you what manufacturers produce that particular shade you’re looking for.
In another life, I would have been a Madam in some bar in the old west; I’d technically be running a “business” and I’d also get to drink whiskey. I tried poetry, I tried law and worked in the Manhattan DA’s office. But I think I’ve found my perfect job as a hotelier and designer.
The grooming staples I’m never without are lip balm – any kind will do – and hair paste, often by Oribe. Oribe Rough Luxury Soft Molding Paste, $39
The place that changed everything for me is Baja in Mexico. We built a little compound in El Pescadero and it’s surrounded by strawberry and poblano and basil farms. That smell of basil in the air! We live next to a beautiful surf break and it’s a great place for spotting whales – greys, humpbacks, blues. It’s now a gathering place for friends and extended family.
My grooming and wellbeing gurus are my wife, Erin Lee Smith, who is a make-up artist and the beauty director of ByGeorge in Austin. This comes in very handy. Then there is my awesome masseuse, Kara Dawson, whose details I’m afraid to share as she’s so busy already; and my trainer of 12 years, Andy Twellman, of Driven. We’ve been in one long conversation – even through Covid – three times a week, regardless of where I am in the world.
The best bits of advice I ever received include: “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather” – meaning all of life’s crazy fluctuations will pass. And from Hunter S Thompson, though not to me: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” It’s important to be all-in.