This Colorful Weed Got Centerpiece Status at an Outdoor Dinner in Round Top, Texas
What better way to end a day of antiquing?
Updated Apr 25, 2023 2:28 PM
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Magic is a word that comes up a lot when you talk to people about Rancho Pillow, a creative guesthouse compound just outside Round Top, Texas. The 20-acre property features a variety of eclectic lodging options, including a private teepee lined with hand-painted murals, a storage shed–turned–casita called the Love Shack, and an 18th-century barn that was relocated from upstate New York.
But what really adds to the funky vibes and kaleidoscopic style is the fact that several of the pieces, from the bedroom furniture to the artwork to the name (which was scrawled on a 1940s neon sign), come from the Round Top antiques fair, a twice-yearly extravaganza that turns a 17-mile stretch of Texas Highway 237 into a vintage lover’s dream. Rancho Pillow is the work of Sheila Youngblood, a wildly colorful soul who is the walking embodiment of the property: “What I wear, what my spaces look and feel like—these are expressions of my own heart,” she says.
The compound, which was formerly Youngblood’s family’s second home (they’re based in Austin, just over an hour’s drive west), has hosted dozens of events in high style over the years—300-person weddings, grand birthday parties, and raucous high school reunions—but family-style dinners held outside in the ﬁelds have become a signature of sorts.
A ticketed feast is open to the public during each Round Top season, and Youngblood also throws intimate gatherings for friends in town—such as Austin-based designer Claire Zinnecker, a Rancho regular who brought a few new recruits during her last trip.
Youngblood and Zinnecker decided to welcome them with a “Rancho Pillow–style shindig” featuring an Indian-inspired menu by chef Rachel Lomas, who created the Daphne, a supper club in Austin. (“She is my best friend in the world,” says Youngblood of Lomas. “We have really different design sensibilities, but we unite on two things: We never, ever wear pants, and we believe in the importance of color.”)
With ﬂorals prepared by another friend, Virginia Lyons, and a tablescape curated from Youngblood’s vast collection of Round Top pieces, the special evening was a natural marriage of Zinnecker’s bright, bohemian aesthetic and Youngblood’s unique brand of whimsical maximalism. “People might often look at a Pinterest image and think they have to have that exact thing, but it’s not about that,” says Zinnecker. “It’s about self-expression and having fun with it.”
- Belgian endive with turmeric sheep’s milk feta mousse and pickled radish
- Chilled saffron corn soup with Ume plum vinegar, beet, and chili oil emulsion
- Local yellow tomato and pickled vegetable salad
- Yellow chana dal
- Lamb with Kerala curry sauce
- Indian-spiced rose pots de crème with corn cookies
Every item used for dinners at Rancho Pillow comes from Round Top. Since meals are held outside, florals are often foraged shortly beforehand. For this gathering, strands of coral vine, a fast-growing Texas weed with bright pink blooms, acted as a table runner.
If you have rich colors in the food, don’t fight it. “You don’t want your plates or flowers to compete with that,” notes Zinnecker. “We built this meal with everything in shades of deep pink and yellow—from the radishes to the chilled corn soup,” says Youngblood. Zinnecker balances the more-is-more look by paring down as the table comes to life. “You throw all those things in, then take a step back and say, ‘Oh, this color is competing too much’ or ‘That glassware feels too heavy.’ Edit at the end with fresh eyes,” she says.