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The Willow House exterior at night

Photo: Kate Zimmerman Turpin



This West Texas Design Hotel Is the Ultimate Escape

Tucked away in the remote town of Terlingua, the new Willow House uses thoughtfully conceived architecture to underscore the area’s breathtaking natural beauty.


Lauren Jones

July 23, 2019


The alluring beauty of the Chisos Mountains is nearly indescribable—its rugged arcs giving way to miles of desert terrain. There’s a certain kind of freedom that exists in far West Texas amid the ombré boulders and ocotillo, one that placates a sense of wanderlust. Terlingua, a self-governing, unincorporated town of approximately 300 full-time residents, is like something out of a sci-fi novel or perhaps a spaghetti Western film, with its menagerie of art galleries, motels, and trailer parks amid rolling, bentonite clay–mottled roads. A few miles from Big Bend National Park, it borders the Rio Grande River, with the mountains acting as the only separation between the U.S. and Mexico, yet this old mining town is often seen as the last of the Wild West, a place to run, a place to disconnect, and a place to marvel at the endless landscape.

Late this spring, a new boutique hotel popped up in Terlingua: Willow House. Set on 287 acres at the basin of Big Bend National Park and opposite Willow Mountain, it consists of 12 casitas, all with unobstructed views, refined furnishings, and curated art. For its proprietor, Lauren Werner, the pull of the Chisos Mountains and love for the land is as fervent as her fiery red hair, something that is apparent in the care and effort she has put into every detail on the property.

The seating area in Casita #1

Photo: Jen Rose Smith


The Main House's side patio

Photo: Kate Zimmerman Turpin

The California native came to Texas five years ago by way of Dallas’s Southern Methodist University and quickly became inspired by the magic of Big Bend National Park. She fell in love and immediately began looking for land on which to build. “Terlingua is the closest access point to the national park, but there wasn’t anywhere cool to stay that took the landscape into account,” she recalls.

She ended up finding the perfect location, 200-plus acres of an old Terlinguan ranch with flat, buildable land with breathtaking views of the mountains. “I knew when I stepped on that ranch that I wanted every casita to have a view of the mountain range, and every bedroom and patio to perfectly frame that view,” she says, citing Georgia O'Keeffe as an influence when designing the property.


The Main House's side patio

Photo: Kate Zimmerman Turpin

She ended up finding the perfect location, 200-plus acres of an old Terlinguan ranch with flat, buildable land with breathtaking views. Inside, Werner payed homage to Terlingua’s natural beauty. (She even carried desert rocks around for a year in a backpack so she could reference their array of colors while buying many of the textiles, furniture, and accessories.) The main house, which stands at approximately 1,500 square feet, features a lush sunken pit, imported vintage rugs, an oversized communal dining table, and a painting, which Werner refers to as the matriarch, that she bought from artist Victor Delfin, based in Lima, Peru, on his 91st birthday.


Off the main house are the 12 casitas, which range from 250 square feet to 600 square feet. They are comfortable and full of personality, with handcrafted alpaca throw blankets, vintage pieces from the Rose Bowl Flea Market and Green Front Furniture, built-in concrete bookshelves, and even paintings from Werner's grandfather.


The fire pit as darkness falls on the 287-acre property

Photo: Lauren Werner

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Over the years, Terlingua has become quite the getaway, and more and more people are packing up and heading west for a change of pace. Now, Willow House is there to fuel the souls of those who are called by the mountains.

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