Located near Hardin-Simmons University, the Lasso Lounge is a short-term rental that pays tribute to the HSU cowboys and the pioneer legacy of Abilene. But until recently, the one-bedroom apartment was a garage filled with trash.
“It was basically a hoarder house,” said Brett Stewart, the owner of the property.
Brett and his wife, Andie, bought the house in north Abilene in February 2021, seeing its potential but knowing it would take a lot of work to transform. The main house and detached garage were filled with garbage. And when it was removed, it totaled 14 portable dumpsters!
Built in 1928, the main house might have belonged to a wealthy Abilenian at one time. The Stewarts don’t know its full history, but the large size and a ceramic cowboy boot embedded in the concrete sidewalk near the house give some clues. They had made other property investments in the past, so they knew they could do it, despite the huge task.
“Sometimes you just need to give yourself an opportunity to use your creative genius,” Brett said. “It might fail, but we’re going to try it anyway.”
After renovating the main house and turning it into a long-term rental, Brett and Andie set out to turn the apartment above the garage into a short-term rental.
“I grew up watching HGTV and I finally got to use it for something,” Andie said.
Since opening in August, the Lasso Lounge has been at 98% capacity and hosted guests like traveling nurses, medical staff, HSU family and friends, rodeo guests, and people traveling for business.
The Main Floor
The original garage had a small apartment upstairs with a dilapidated staircase on the outside. When they first purchased the place, Brett and Andie said the door couldn’t even open because the garage was so full of stuff. Once the junk was removed, they could see posts and wood rafters holding up the second floor. They kept the rafters, and went for a single supportive beam to keep the structure intact. For stairs, they considered a funky spiral staircase, but decided that wouldn’t be practical for long-term renters.
They re-did the electrical and put in a kitchen and bathroom. The open space feels so big, you wouldn’t even think it was once a garage. The kitchen has a fridge, sink, stove, and even a spice rack to make it easy to cook in the space. The living room has a futon in case an extra guest needs to stay the night. Low backed chairs from Ross keep the room feeling open.
The bathroom provides the most luxury for a small space. The skylight in the shower made one guest comment in a review that it made him feel like a “wealthy businessman.” The modern bathroom is offset with rustic elements of a wooden towel rack and mason jars for lights. Brett said the small vanity is actually not as wide as a standard vanity, so it was able to fit in the small space better. Every aspect of the main floor was made for comfort, style and usability in a small space.
Upstairs, a queen size bed is perfect for a single person or couple. There’s plenty of room for a small sitting area, night stands, a dresser, and even a small closet. Those who come for longer stays have plenty of space to store their clothes and items. From the top of the stairs, guests can look back behind them to see a lasso hanging on the wall. A loft-like feel and high ceiling adds depth and character to the simple space. Hanging on the opposite wall across from the top of the stairs is the painting that formed the inspiration for the rest of the space.
Brett and Andie had seen the painting at a friend’s house, and it just didn’t look right with his décor. But in this cowboy themed rental, it was the perfect combination of rustic-chic they were looking for. The rust, navy, and brown tones from the painting can be subtly seen all over the rental.
After replacing the garage doors with wall panels, Andie wanted to decorate the blank space with a mural. Brett met painter David Reynaud and asked him to do the mural. They didn’t have an exact picture in mind, but told him to stick to the lasso and cowboy theme. They worked closely with him as it came to life with the colors and subtle theme they were looking for. The painter said the man in the mural was inspired by Willie Nelson’s “Red-headed Stranger.” It’s the perfect way to tie the whole theme together and give guests a taste of the art and culture of Abilene.
By Haley Laurence
Photos By LakeOver Photography