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Originally published in the May 2010 issue of The Advocate.
Liz Lambert might be the patron saint of hotel renovations. During the past 15 years, the criminal prosecutor?turned?hotelier has revamped several Texas properties ranging from an old motor court in Marfa to a Victorian manor 480 miles to the east, in Austin.
Lambert?s latest venture, El Cosmico (ElCosmico.com), is part hippie campground, part vintage trailer park in the wide-open spaces of Marfa.
Lambert worked with architecture firm Lake/Flato to create a distinctive communal outpost on 18 acres in the Texas desert that can accommodate up to 200 people. Guests have numerous rental options, including a 22-foot teepee ($75 per night), four yurts with bamboo floors and lantern lighting ($60 per night), and 24 bring-your-own-tent campsites ($20 per night).
But the jewels in the El Cosmico tiara are the five restored trailers from the 1940s and ?50s, each with a kitchen, bed, and bath. The largest is 325 square feet, and all are designed in rich colors, each a lesson in simplicity. Wide windows and birch-wood interiors with yacht varnish ?make it feel like you?re inside a little vessel, a ship?s cabin,? Lambert says. Rates range between $90 and $125 per night. Shared perks available to all guests include an elm grove strung with hammocks, outdoor showers, a kitchen, and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs.
Lambert created El Cosmico to blend with the texture of Marfa, a town of about 2,000 residents that became an art mecca after 1971, when minimalist artist Donald Judd sparked a migration of the creative-minded by leaving New York City for the west Texas outpost. Marfa?s also served as the location of several Oscar-winning films, including 1956 James Dean?Rock Hudson epic Giant and more recently There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.
Building on Marfa?s sense of creativity and community, El Cosmico?s ever-evolving workshops and retreats include cooking, sewing, and writing classes. Lambert?s also making room for a silk-screen shop, pottery studio, darkroom, and swimming pool and is planning film and music festivals among other cultural events.
?There are hotels you can stay in that you have no idea where you are once you?re inside. You could be in Phoenix or New York, and you?d have no idea,? she says. ?I?m much more drawn to hotels that are about the place, about the neighborhood, and you definitely getthat at El Cosmico.?