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How sublime design and live music combine at 3TEN ACL Live

On creating a space that looks as good as it sounds

All photos by Ryann Ford

When 3TEN ACL Live opened its doors almost a year ago, the club’s focus was making sure the sound was stellar—the space, is, after all, a showcase for intimate “house” shows by both well-known and up-and-coming musicians, a listening room with a 350-person capacity meant to capture talented artists in all their glory.

Thing is, while it most certainly that—a project of the vaunted ACL Live at Moody Theater and a callback to the original Austin City Limits television show taping studio 6A at the University of Texas—the interior (and exterior) design is equal, and even essential, to the sound quality.

"Above all, the design of 3Ten centers around the listening room—the acoustics of the room and audience’s relationship to the stage, and vice versa,” explains Christopher Sanders, Sanders Architecture principal and architect on the project. “While all of the surrounding program spaces are important, if we didn’t succeed in creating a high quality listening room, then we failed."

That goal also required working closely with the club’s designer, Heather Plimmer, a Principal, Heston Design Studio. Plimmer’s rich, sophisticated design features dark hardwoods, lush velvet, and brass trimmings, and the venue’s large sliding glass front doors open up the breadth of the façade to the 3TEN patio on Willie Nelson Boulevard, where fans can easily see the stage from the patio.

“It was especially important to have an architectural team on board that understood, respected, could respond to, and even elevate the owner’s vision for the space,” says Plimmer. “When it came to designing the furniture and selecting fabrics and finishes, we were sure to run everything by Christopher and his team for their review and approval. Fortunately, they were as trusting in our vision and expertise as we were in theirs, so we never had any issues agreeing on the direction of the project.

That feat was accomplished only through close collaboration, explains Plimmer. Fortunately, she and Sanders had been working together on design projects for more than nine years, as the project had only an eight-month window to go from concept to completion.

Together, Plimmer and Sanders created a graceful juxtaposition of the sleek, contemporary architectural bones and sumptuous interior finishes and furnishings—all of which let the music shine.

Since timing on the project was so tight, the group was only recently able to schedule getting proper photographs made. Curbed Austin is pleased to be the first local outlet to publish them, so take a gander.