It was while studying international development in Uganda that Sarah Contrucci Smith “realized design could be an innovative way to address poverty and the lack of market access for artisans,” she says. A few years later, after meeting local weavers during a 2014 backpacking trip through Central America, she founded global textile shop Ara Collective. The Austin-based company offers beautiful handwoven pillows, throws, table linens, baskets and rugs from artisans in Guatemala, Peru, Mexico and Mozambique and has a forthcoming housewares collection from Southeast Asia. Smith, an avid world traveler who spent her youth in Indonesia and New Guinea, knows a thing or two about finding the best sources in a city — including Austin, as detailed below.
9 a.m. Start the day at Cafe No Se, where coastal California meets Austin with fresh croissants and my favorite avocado toast in town. Swing through the adjoining South Congress Hotel for some interior inspiration.
10 a.m. Browse quintessential Austin shops Uncommon Objects for eclectic antiques, ByGeorge for minimalist home goods, and Cove for travel-inspired fashion. Then grab a cup of Jo’s Coffee and get your picture by the shop’s Instagram-worthy “I love you so much” exterior mural.
12 p.m. Now for a big decision: Sit alfresco at Josephine House (try the Josephine Bowl), or grab a couple of The Independent tacos–an Austin obsession–at the Torchy’s Tacos food truck. You won’t regret either.
1 p.m. Austinites joke that we have to be active so we can keep eating all the good food the city has to offer, so take your pick of activity on land or water: Walk the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail, or hop on a paddleboard or kayak to enjoy the city’s best asset, Lady Bird Lake (locally known as Town Lake), which runs through downtown.
2 p.m. Browse wallpapers and textiles by local designers at the James and Supply showrooms and at Annie Downing Interiors. The city is a
melting pot of creatives from coast to coast, and I love seeing what these design boutiques bring to Texas.
4 p.m. Stop in Ara Collective‘s studio to see and touch our handcrafted home goods in person. We’re open by appointment Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5 p.m. Walk to Mattie‘s for happy hour. Sit under the giant live oak tree alongside the 19th-century Green Pastures Estate, and sip on a glass of rose while watching peacocks stroll the lush grounds.
8 p.m. Catch an evening concert at The Continental Club, or head back to your hotel–hopefully it’s the bold and beautiful Hotel Saint Cecilia–and make plans to stay one more day to enjoy the Hill Country’s wineries, breweries and vodka distilleries, just outside downtown Austin.