a motel to a hotel and the human web

there were quite a few specific minutes in the past several years where matt and i were realizing, even without knowing it at the time of the minute, that we would create some something together.
thank God it manifested as imogene+willie.
but what we keep on seeing every day into this.... all of those crazy life changing minutes of realization were instances of influences from others that inspired us and pushed us to today. simple list that covers the "others": family, old and new friends, business partners, our team, and some strangers.

i want to tell you about one specific set of minutes that moved us. wish i could just TELLL you the story, but i will try to type it out. quickly and not too long... and knowing that you might not care about the details that mean so much to me, but there is a point to sharing with you.

one of matt's best friends lives in austin, texas.
we went to austin in summer of 2008 to celebrate his wedding.
he encouraged us to stay at hotel san jose.

i never will forget arriving at the hotel.
the smell from the parking lot, through a green outdoor path, into the little bitty lobby.
the guy behind the counter.
the girl checking in at the same time as us in a pair of slim jeans that she had worn for sure every day from rigid to museum piece. i couldn't quit staring at her... pants!
the old letterpress concert poster above the bench.
and then the room. so meager but so perfectly appointed.
then i remember the sun coming in the window the next morning. couldn't wait to get outside to see what we couldn't see in the dark the night before.
the calm and simple breakfast. the wood tables and benches made by someone, and i had to know who. the white butterfly chairs by the pool. the bamboo and all the plants that i love that couldn't grow in kentucky.
greens, greys, blue, wood. touch of red. white. off white. music.

friends were arriving from other parts of the country that day. none of us could afford to stay 5 days in single rooms. so we had booked a suite for 6 of us to crash in.
checked out of our room and into another space that made us so..... content.
whatever. matt and i both are to a fault and not so balanced, almost completely visual learners and thinkers and doers. seeing things and making things for others to see just makes us feel really happy. i know it is just STUFF or JUNK, but how stuff compliments stuff just makes me feel good.
there are 4 more days of visual details that i will leave out.
and then...reading and learning about the proprietor. how she slowly and respectfully bought the hotel, once infested with crack addicts and prostitution.
all i knew: this place was a true inspiration to us. this place was telling us that, someday, we would have the opportunity to re-define our own trade.

fast forward 2 years.
several months ago, two beautiful, super rad women walked in to imogene+willie. the one with the short spiky hair asked insistently, "where is your bathroom?" she really had to go bad.
she came back from the bathroom and confidently announced something like this:
"you don't have to tell me the story. i have read everything i can get my hands on about this place and i am so happy to finally be here".
we thanked her so much.
she and the other beauty dove into the store...letting us, at this point, tell them the stories about all of the pieces that we sell.
she kept on throwing kind sentiments at us about the store. thanked her so much again and again.
and then i asked, "where are you from?"
she said, "austin."
i said.......... "ohhhhh. a place in austin is where we realized our dream about imogene+willie. there is a place there that inspired us so much and pushed us into this."
she said, "where was it?"
i said, "it's on south congress. a place called hotel san jose."
she said, "honey, i am liz. that place is mine!"

laughs and tears and new found friendship and better understanding of her continued mission, then friends in common that we never realized, and (we hope a collaboration someday?!)
but now:
want you to read a great piece on liz that was in the new york times magazine 2 weeks ago.

and then next week:

the other beautiful woman that was there that day: amy cook. cannot even believe it, but she is taking a pit stop in nashville next tuesday june 8, to do a special set in our back yard. check out her music NOW and then get to the backyard next tuesday at 6pm.

6 degrees of separation. the human web. i don't know what it is or what it all means, exactly. i just know that we are so grateful to all of the people that mentor us and encourage us to learn and think and grow and evolve every day.
viva hotel san jose!



  1. what an inspiring and great story!

  2. Liz and Amy are amazing people. I feel honored to call them friends.

  3. Carrie! I had a similar experience walking into the San Jose about 5 years ago and purchased a key chain to remind me of that magical place. Glad you love it as much as I do and not surprised...all the same. Two amazing places both are an inspiration for me! -Robin

  4. crazy- i read about liz and her hotels through links on alabama chanin's blog, i think. reading about this hotel reminded me of hers. i am totally visual also and your place along with all of hers look amazing! - inspired in london