Marfa, Texas Is Portland Before It Became Cool

The Design-Lover's Guide To Marfa, TX Hearst Owned

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Marfa probably isn't the first city you think of when Texas comes to mind. But the small desert town of roughly 2,000 residents has amassed a cult fascination in recent years – thanks, in part, to the social media frenzy around the Prada Marfa, the 2005 replica of a Prada store created by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.

Celebrities such as Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Jake Gyllenhaal have also flocked to the Texas town. And considering the fact that the largest city with an airport – El Paso – is three hours away, that's quite a feat.

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Where To Play:

Now, Marfa is known for its quirky haunts. Think: A shop where you can order handmade cowboy boots, and a restaurant in a woman's home where burritos are the only item on the menu.

Marfa Myths music festival, which hosted its third event this year, attracts creative types to town, too. In other words? Marfa is Portland before Portland became cool.

What To See:

Marfa garnered a reputation for modular, minimalist design in the 1970s, after sculptor Donald Judd decamped from New York to the desert town. Judd's own work, which consists of 100 untitled geometric sculptures in mill aluminum, is best viewed at the Chinati Foundation. His attention to linear forms has indubitably permeated into the town's architecture, which combine sleek, minimalist design with the adobe-style homes typical of Texas' agricultural landscape.

Where To Stay:

When James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor filmed Giant in 1956, they stayed at the Hotel Paisano. It's since been completely renovated – with WiFi and a pool – and named a historic landmark.

The historic Hotel Saint George, too, has been renovated – this time, to hyper-modern effect, featuring angular, industrial interiors and a farmer's market on Saturdays. The Marfa Book Company - a space that's equally parts bookstore, performance space, and concept store – can be found in the hotel's lobby.

When To Go:

The short answer is now. Get inspired for your trip with Helen Thompson's Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert, which celebrates the town's interiors and architecture.

While many of the homes predate Judd's arrival, Thompson argues that they exemplify a present-day modernism, where proportions and an attention to geometry underline the natural light and shadows. According to Thompson, homeowners and designers often consulted local artisans and used local materials when constructing the homes.

Take a look at some of the most striking images from the book below:

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