The SpaceThe Gem represents a stylish and sophisticated new take on the Marfa rental home. An ideal retreat for discerning couples and solo travelers--the kind seeking a unique, more cultured experience--this modern-style "casita" exudes understated elegance and a highly refined minimal sensibility. Tastefully-appointed accommodations feature brand new designer lighting and amenities--including sleek, state-of-the-art home media stations and a professional Bertazzoni stove--custom-built furnishings and fixtures and a carefully cultivated selection of contemporary artworks, fine literature and film, Old World European antiques and other more worldly imports. Restored crystal sconces from Dresden (a treasured family heirloom) and tufted salon-style sofas from Restoration Hardware lend a Haute Bohemian layer to the pared-back modern/industrial foundation. Outdoor terraces and gardens provide serene areas for sunbathing, stargazing, communing with local hummingbirds (or the occasional lizard or roadrunner) or taking in one of those sublime West Texas sunsets. Overall, a luxe little sanctuary for elevated and artful living.
Set on the grounds of a converted corner Texaco station, the Gem is part of a larger residential compound. Hosts occupy the large art studio/residence out front, which shares the backyard garden, but guests may have full privacy if required. Accessed via a discreet side entrance, the actual casita is completely hidden--and sheltered--from San Antonio Hwy, which lends an idyllic, secret-garden-hideway vibe.
A contemporary take on the traditional "casita" guesthouse, the Gem resembles a modern-industrial cabin or bungalow-style lodging. It's a long, linear (one-story) building constructed from unadorned metal panels, wood trimming and other fairly modest, locally-sourced materials. This understated exterior, though, belies the home's chic, minimal design and luxurious sense of space, readily apparent once you step inside. There's an open-plan, pied a terre-style layout--comparable to an oversize suite at a luxe boutique hotel and best-suited for couples or solo travelers. Though the structure is large enough to accommodate additional travelers/sleeping areas (and probably exceeds that found within a number of multi-bedroom rentals in Marfa), the owner maintained the original open-concept format to enhance the building's long, sweeping sight lines and clean, minimal look.
Stylish sleeping quarters with a Queen-sized bed (featuring a bespoke handcrafted frame and side tables) comprise one distinct side of the space, along with a living room/front sitting parlour, complete with state-of-the-art digital media stations and an elegant (ten-foot-long) Restoration Hardware sofa. Two rows of books, including a number of first-editions and out-of-print titles, lead out from the bed area, providing a seamlessly smooth segue into the media room. Separated by a narrow porcelain-tiled hallway, the other side offers a bright, airy kitchen/dining area, appointed with a mix of French Regency antiques and cutting-edge, designer-chic appliances.
Since opening in late 2014, the Gem has quietly acquired a reputation for its sophisticated, highly refined interior design. NYC artist/owner Michael Boisson ((URL HIDDEN) oversaw--and actually completed-- every aspect of the casita's renovation, applying a painterly level of attention to such details as light, color, the type and texture of materials used, overall compositional balance and harmony, etc. With an emphasis on long, clean sight lines--enhanced by the building's open-plan layout and surprising, almost luxurious sense of length--and inviting, uncluttered living spaces, the overarching character connects with the region's minimal, pared-back sensibility. Yet individual details and touches provide a more interesting and highly personal take on "New Marfa Modernism." The final result offers up the same subtle---yet compelling--beauty and layered complexity characteristic of Boisson's own abstract canvases (many of which are hanging throughout the casita).
Sustainable Design Philosophy
Sustainable building materials and practices--including greywater reclamation and state-of-the-art LED track lighting--were incorporated at every stage of the renovation. Unlike other high-design Marfa homes, there was no massive overhaul of the building's original structure and framework, no expensive shipment of outside materials and labor. Rather, the owner chose to keep the casita's simple (relatively modest and unpolished) industrial-metal format, finishing out the interior with locally-sourced aluminum and Baltic Birch lumber, concrete, reclaimed timber (abandoned at the site of a local construction site) and other salvaged/repurposed materials. In other words, he valued an economy of means as well as style, in the true minimalist tradition.
A neighboring architect supplied several rough-hewn doorways while the sconces and other antique furnishings and fixtures are restored family heirlooms, many originally belonging to the owner's grandfather, a sea captain for Lloyd's of London. Bathroom walls--and hallway siding trim--were refinished with recycled ceramic tile (another leftover from a local building job) and the hand-cast concrete sink rests on top of a beautifully corrugated, repurposed old metal shop desk.
Almost all the new appliances and amenities (including the LG refrigerator, Bosch dishwasher, Samsung washer and toilet and LED lighting) received industry accolades for energy-efficiency. Even the hallways' warmer "wood-grain-style" porcelain floor tile was the recipient of a Green Choice design award. Along every step of the way, we strove for a balance between aesthetic refinement and principled conservation. We believe the property's overall vibe and aesthetic reflects this elevated approach both to design and to life, in general.
Special Amenities and Features
The Gem strives to offer some of the high-style cachet, sleek modernist design and luxe little touches one might find at a posh boutique hotel (while carefully avoiding the formulaic slickness and sterile sense of anonymity occasionally characterizing such places). Special amenities and features include:
-sophisticated, cutting-edge LED track lighting installed throughout space
-designer kitchen (and bathroom) appliances including a showpiece Italian stove, a highly-sought-after Bosch dishwasher and a trim LG refrigerator
-high-speed Internet along with state-of-the-art "smart" home cinema station with quality selection of DVDs/Blu-ray disks and even novelty Blu-ray goggles
-iPod docking station/digital home stereo system with M-Audio speakers and Apple remote. Special guest iPod offers a few curated sample playlists
-selection of contemporary paintings and other artworks, all Boisson originals
-mix of contemporary handcrafted furnishings and elegant, Old World antiques, including restored set of sconces rescued from Dresden during WWII by owner's sea captain grandfather
-exceptional collection of books and reading material--including a number of first-editions and more arcane/esoteric titles--all taken from owner's personal library (which he developed over the course of many decades)
-stylishly pared-back Restoration Hardware sofas. Deconstructed, neutral fabric and exposed nails offer an inspired, modern take on Victorian and Empire-style salon models
-energy-efficient, top-rated Samsung washing machine with outdoor drying line
-smattering of tranquil, private gardens and outdoor terraces with lounging and dining areas plus professional Petanque set
-Espresso and flat whites available upon request. Guest AccessGuests given full (and almost exclusive) reign over the backyard gardens and terraces. Tranquil areas for lounging about with a book, communing with local hummingbirds and butterflies or taking in a spectacular West Texas sunset (best position for that probably on daybed). We would also love it if some guests availed themselves of the professional Petanque set in the yard, perhaps while sipping on some garden-fresh cocktail.
Studio Tours & Visits: We also offer (informal) tours of the artist's studio and main residence for those interested. Feel free to swing by at any time or shoot us a message letting us know when you would like to do so. We're more than happy to show you around, answer questions about our own Marfa experience, make lattes and flat whites with our Breville espresso maker. Visiting musicians are also encouraged to come check out our (ever-growing) collection of guitars, amps and recording equipment. Interaction with GuestsWe like to think of ourselves as offering an invisible concierge service of sorts.
After check-in, we try to keep a very low profile during your visit and generally stick to the front studio area, giving guests (near) exclusive use of the gardens, terraces and other outdoor areas.
However, we're always happy to answer any questions (any whatsoever) you might have about either the property, Marfa or the larger West Texas region; offer recommendations and other local-savvy; help map-out trip itineraries and driving routs, etc.
And any fellow espresso fiends may stop by the main house for a morning macchiato or flat-white. The NeighborhoodThe Gem is located on the western side of downtown Marfa on the grounds of a former corner Texaco station (specifically the corner of San Antonio Hwy and Ranch 2810, aka. Pinto Canyon Road). We're a short walk away from all the galleries, restaurants and other attractions of downtown central but slightly removed from the occasional hustle and bustle.
Today the roadside station building houses the owner's painting studio and main residence and is something of a local landmark, known by many a longtime local as the old Alex's Texaco. The guest casita is located behind this front building amidst the property's idyllic backyard gardens. It's completely sheltered from the highway and feels much more peaceful and residential. A perfect basecamp for travelers seeking convenience and easy access as well as a sense of escape.
Of note also is Ranch Road 2810, the road intersecting with San Antonio Hwy. If you head south along this road (and it actually goes all the way to Mexico) about 30 miles in, roughly where the pavement turns to gravel, it turns into Pinto Canyon Road, largely regarded as one of the state's most scenic roads/backroads and one of the region's most popular backdrops for photo and film shoots. Also home to the famous Chinati Hot Springs, which you can visit for the afternoon if you call ahead to reserve. There's also a fantastic dirt walking path running alongside the train tracks on the road's northern end--really opens up as you head west toward the cemetery for that that just-me-and-the-wide-open-desert-expanse experience.
Area Highlights and Attractions:
Stripes--just a few doors down. Fulfills function of late-night corner bodega store (for the urbanite crowd) and is highly convenient if you need any last-minute snacks or other essentials.
Moonlight Gemstones: Located caddy-corner from the Gem. Authentic arrowheads, local Agate (and other geological treasures). Owner skilled in lapidary and silversmith arts.
The Capri: New lunchtime hotspot/town's de facto cafeteria located in the stylishly landscaped courtyard of the old Thunderbird Restaurant. Open everyday.
Bizarro Bikes: Town's only bike rental shop set beside Coffee Roasters
Food Shark: Recently relocated (during construction of new Highland Ave hotel) behind owner's after-hours spot, Grilled Cheese Parlour
Grilled Cheese Parlour: After-hours lounge/hipster clubhouse with "grown-up" grilled cheese
Boyz 2 Men: Popular breakfast taco truck with scruffy hipster appeal set in beaten-down dirt yard/"experimental social space" Airstreamland.
Cochineal: Discreet courtyard restaurant holds serious foodie cachet, largely regarded as best dining spot in town
Marfa Museum Thrift Store: Not quite Buffalo Exchange but they carry a wide range of used (and downright battered) goods, including books, vinyl records, housewares and furnishings,
Kaulfield Park: Pleasant community park just behind road, on other side of train tracks. Excellent view overlooking downtown from hilltop beside entranceway. Jackrabbit sightings here last summer.
Porters: Can never compete with Get Go (especially in produce dept) but there's a decent wine/craft beer section (some Napa Cabs) as well as larger selection of beauty/health aids than at Stripes. Also Vernor's ginger soda and large selection of Jarrito's plus delicious El Senor rice pudding. Getting AroundMarfa is quite small and most destinations are well within walking distance of the casita. Biking is also highly popular here and the Bizarro Bikes rental shop is super-close to the Gem, only a few blocks east on San Antonio (in auto shop beside the Coffee Roasters.)
But while you won't need a car for most destinations, a great way for first-time visitors to get a sense for the larger lay of the land/see the bigger picture here is by driving around and exploring the town's various neighborhoods and outskirts, where the residential streets open up into the desert expanse. Also best way to take in the wide array of architectural and housing styles found scattered throughout Marfa (Desert Minimal compounds, adobe ruins, old Victorian estate, Craftsmen bungalows, etc.) Other Things to Note*While Chinati Foundation now offers self-guided viewing (of the Judd works only), we recommend the docent-led tours for first-time visitors. Great way to better understand Judd's aesthetic (and living) philosophy plus it's the only way to see Dan Flavin's large-scale light installation--dubbed the last great artwork of the twentieth-century by NY Times art critic Michael Kimmelman.
*Check in with (URL HIDDEN) for info on live music, art openings or any other cultural happenings taking place during your stay. Food trucks post daily lunchtime specials here as well as any changes in their usual hours.
*On the same (digital) tip, many first-time visitors (and even a few locals) download the Marfa app, some primarily for the device's town map, which, unlike real-world Marfa, posts all the street names.
*Most of Marfa's food trucks and other daytime dining destinations wrap up shop by 3 PM--so don't wait for the crowds to disperse or you just might miss lunch altogether
*Those arriving in the evening hours should note that both Cochineal and Maiya's typically stop seating around 9 PM (Jett's Grill is 9 or 10). Also reservations strongly recommended on weekends.
*High desert nights are significantly cooler than high desert days and we recommend bringing an extra layer for the evening hours, even during the summertime
*Special perks and discounts offered for returning guests