If you’re looking for a taste of “real Austin,” a genuine feel for what the community was like before 150 new people a day started moving here (including me two years ago), head way South to “SoChaca” — the new nickname for a well-established neighborhood around Manchaca south of Stassney Lane, also known as Way South Awesome. And awesome it most certainly is, as I found out a few weeks ago when I visited for the open house of new design studio and retail shop Love Ding.
Tucked into a generic row of warehouse spaces just south of Slaughter Lane (and popular, sprawling patio bar destinations Indian Roller and Moontower Saloon) sits this unassuming bright spot of domestic dreaminess: a definitively Austin mix of midcentury vintage, vintage-inspired, and curated handmade modern furniture, decor, and home accessories. Denise Roberts, the doyenne and namesake Ding — a childhood nickname from her dad — decided to open a shop honestly, as so many passionate purveyors do, by amassing a beloved personal collection of thrifted and refurbished finds that became too unwieldy to keep all to herself, so in October 2014 she decided to offer it up to the public, lovingly rehoming each item to lucky new adopters — hence the Love in Love Ding.
How dreamy are these midcentury clementine velvet chairs? The textured fleur de lis pattern made me fall completely in love, though sadly they would seriously clash with my living room.
These glazed ceramic burros and tiny, festive buntings are seriously making me want to throw an epic backyard bash. You bring the pinata, I’ll make the spicy watermelon margaritas. (I’m totally serious.)
When I can afford four of them, our fire pit is getting a serious upgrade with these Marfa-inspired outdoor chairs. Now, to just use my gold bar coin bank to save up some dough…and I will definitely need help picking the color.
There’s just something so homey and comforting about a vintage needlepoint, and this delicately textured bird design is well made and classic enough to not look kitschy.
If you’re lucky enough to spend a morning, afternoon or evening in the studio with Denise, you’ll truly feel the love, and will walk away with at least a few cherished new items — more often than not for less than you would pay in the pricier downtown Austin shopping districts. My $30 haul included this gold bar coin bank, a handmade acacia wood spoon for my salt pig, an inspiring Rifle Paper Co. card, and a framed vintage thunderbird sand art piece for my office.
And if you’re truly lucky, you’ll make it down to Love Ding during one of the design workshops Denise hosts with fellow SoChaca/South Awesome tastemakers, like one of the succulent workshops with Keri Anderson, owner of Slavonk & Hortus terrarium bar & botanical gift boutique, just around the corner, that I was lucky enough to attend with a regular cabal of creative Austin women a few weeks ago.
Denise and Keri are hosting another one on June 30th (6 to 8 pm, 10516 Manchaca Road Suite 210, Austin 78748), so double the bang for your back and grab limited tickets to that upcoming Terraria Workshop on Eventbrite ($40 per person, includes supplies, cocktails by Sailor Jerry, sweet treats by Churro Co. and savory snacks by The Original Tex Mex Queso) to get the full Love Ding experience, with a maker session and some serious design scores in one — including one made by YOU. (Keri told me my DIY terrarium, below, looked like a space wasteland, and I’m taking that as a huge compliment. It now graces the midcentury credenza in my bedroom.)
Not in Austin, or can’t make it on the 30th? Stay tuned next week as I revive my popular Maker Moment series with an interview and DIY terrarium tutorial with Keri from Slavonk & Hortus so you can make one at home!
Have you been to Love Ding, Slavonk & Hortus, or elsewhere in SoChaca // South Awesome? Where should we check out next? Love to hear from you!
All photos Copyright 2015, Shoestring LLC: Taken by Chelsea Laine Francis & Melissa Massello