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Designer Mark Ashby revitalizes the luxurious spirit of Jeffrey’s, Austin’s storied restaurant and a fave of visiting film stars.

Designer Mark Ashby

If anything prepared designer Mark Ashby for the daunting task of redesigning Jeffrey’s, Austin’s beloved, 39-year-old fine dining institution that has hosted politicians and movie stars—the likes of George W. Bush, Owen and Luke Wilson, Dennis Quaid and Johnny Depp—it was the award-winning remodel of the nearby Pease Mansion. The pre-Civil War Greek Revival landmark was owned by former Texas Gov. Elisha M. Pease, and the land where Jeffrey’s sits was also part of the original Pease tract.With the mansion in mind, Ashby imbued Jeffrey’s with a stylish residential feel, “a sort of hip homage to the country-club atmosphere of the Old South,” he says.

With input from Paul Clayton and Emily Little of Clayton & Little Architects, the team created a private, intensely personal atmosphere inside the circa 1900 building, where details such as flower arrangements, lighting and a roving martini cart share center stage with classic Franco-American dishes. With blue velvet banquettes, wood blinds, sycamore paneling and slimmed-down Windsor chairs by George Nakashima at each table, the interiors are a chic throwback to the ’70s. “I especially wanted great lighting,” says Ashby, who modeled table lamps and sconces after Dallas’ Mansion on Turtle Creek. The interiors acknowledge nostalgia, but the menu of Franco-American classics remains progressive—to the relief of the restaurant’s loyal patrons. Attention to detail has paid off: Bon Appétit recently bestowed it as one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country, lauding the return of fine dining in laid-back Austin.

Robert Longo’s photos, minimalist conceptual-based sculptor Fred Sandback’s string installations, the Mercer Hotel, Christian Liaigre furniture, the movie Bury My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, Parisian florist Christian Tortue’s fragrance Foret, Jean-Michel Frank furniture

Airports, gladiolas, bad manners, Hollywood Regency decor (“Isn’t it over yet?”), bad lighting