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Last Straw in Austin, TX is A Vibrant Escape into Color

by Erin Austen Abbott

Last Straw Bar on Design*Sponge

It’s the middle of winter and a bit grey and drab outside, (unless you live someplace warm and sunny). We’re starting to reach that part of the season where we’re looking forward to spring and jumping at the few and far-between sunny days that might cross our paths. In Austin, TX, however, there’s always a bright and colorful place to escape to — Last Straw. This Texas bar is like a colorful sunset year-round.

From the aqua floor to the ombré walls, it’s like stepping into an 1990s hypercolor t-shirt, but in real life. The hues in the bar appear to transform their colors right before your eyes — when you think you are looking at yellow, it blends into a slight pink. There’s no magic here, though, just the brainchild of two visual artists, Will Bryant and Cody Haltom. Their concept for Last Straw is full of charm and unexpected design, which transports you to the imagined world of a modern day Willie Wonka meets Saved By The Bell. “Conceptually, the line ‘Vacation by the Hour’ was an overall guide,” Will explains. “Maybe you can’t go to the beach for a week, but you can escape life for two hours on a Tuesday. It’s a fake escape. Our own colorful version of Chotchkie’s from Office Space.”

Both artists have had extensive creative careers on their own, but working together on a project was something that they didn’t have the opportunity to do until now. Will is an artist and designer who makes positive, fun, and slightly humorous work. In his sculptural installations, abstract patterns, and illustrations, there is always a sense of exuberance at play with a colorful palette. Cody is an art director and designer. His studio collaborates with clients on a range of projects, including identity, print, installation, illustration and interactive. “We were approached to be the creative arm for a new bar concept,” Will begins. “We’d been wanting a chance to work on a larger project together and combine our sensibilities and approaches. We designed the layout, picked furniture, designed and painted murals, selected artwork, worked on graphics, signage, menus, and [ran] social media as a two-man team. We used Tiki as the point of departure, but only in the sense that it’s escapist. We tried to avoid traditional Tiki elements and create our own vibrant form of escapism. The most challenging part of the project was the timeline. We designed all components in a span of six weeks. Working together was also a challenge at times; we both have our own ways of working, schedules and sensibilities, so that was difficult. It was really our first truly collaborative project, and the scale and scope was outside of what we normally do (first time handling interior design).”

Forget the winter blues and jump below into Last Straw. Enjoy! —Erin

Photography by Casey Dunn@caseycdunn

Image above: “Overview of [the] main bar area with a mixture of high and low seating, and [a] great look at our custom painted floor sponsored by SeaDoo (it wasn’t, that’s a joke),” Cody shares.

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“We kept the exterior fairly clean, letting the focus be on plants and a large neon sign,” Will shares.

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“A large mural covers the west wall of the space, with a wraparound banquette, custom terrazzo tables and Amigo Modern snack chairs,” Cody shares.

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“Detail of the corner. The large gradient wall (on the right) we use to project video content on during the evenings,” Will notes.

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“Sunlit lounge features vintage ‘Boyz 2 LaCroix’ chairs, mid-century inspired West Elm sofa from Craigslist, and green hammertone Octahedron coffee table by Amigo Modern,” Will says.

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“One of our favorite moments in the space is where the tropical colored cabinets meet the ‘Blue Bleuth (booth). One of Andrew Neyer’s YoYo lights hangs near a photo of John Candy in Summer Rental,” Cody shares.

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“The bar area has great natural light due to the skylight. The space was originally designed by Baldridge Architects for a previous project, which made for an amazing foundation. Green hammertone stools by Amigo modern, a custom concrete top and a green tile bar back complete the look,” Will says.

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“Shadow play on the plaster wall and back ceramic tile from just a few of the fake plants that fill the bar,” Will says.

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Cody shares, “The entryway is a mixture of plants, a hand-painted gradient wall, and a photo of ET wearing a Hawaiian shirt (actually Will’s shirt).”

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