Trend Alert: Roadside Motels Turned Hip Boutique Hotels

Retro vibes meets modern design with tons of cool history.

Updated 10/03/18
Product Disclosure

Courtesy of Brandon Lopez

Motor lodges were the darlings of old-school Americana, but over the years the majority fell into disrepair. Now, a new generation is reviving these discarded gems; transforming them from passée motels into hip boutique hotels. From Salida to Santa Barbara, these design-savvy digs serve up retro style with a side of contemporary cool.

01 of 06

Brentwood | Saratoga Springs, NY

Courtesy of Read McKendree

Situated steps from the iconic Saratoga Race Course, Brentwood is the ultimate elevated equestrian escape. A timeless palette of black and white is enhanced with oak accents, brass detailing, gilded mirrors, and oil paintings. Even folks who aren’t fans of the ponies can find plenty of enjoyable pursuits. Might we suggest starting the day with a cup of complimentary coffee, followed by a leisurely bike ride into town? When the sun goes down, the lobby bar beckons with its craft cocktails. And who could pass up the chance to roasting s'mores over the fire?

02 of 06

The Surfrider | Malibu, CA

Courtesy of M. K. Sadler

In 2017, The Surfrider completed a complete architectural and design renovation, transforming it into a ultra-chic boutique hotel that we would liken to staying at your friend’s beach house. If said pal’s pad was swathed in airy neutrals and flooded with natural light. Streamlined furnishings and sisal rugs look straight out of a magazine. The roofdeck is complete with cozy couches and firepits. If splendid panoramas of the sand and sea aren’t enough to make you fully embrace vacation mode, the mellow atmosphere sure will. With all this to offer, is there any wonder it landed on our list of where to honeymoon 2018?

03 of 06

Amigo Motor Lodge | Salida, CO

Courtesy of Anthony Barlich

First built in the 1950s and revamped by Texas natives Philip and Kaitlyn Sterling in 2016, Amigo Motor Lodge offer a unique blend of comfort and cool factor offset by the majesty of the mountains. (Fun fact: The couple actually discussed the idea of opening an inn on their first date and turned their dream into reality two years later.) Each of the 16 rooms, along with the four refurbished Airstreams, are individually decorated in a minimal style. Think: white linens, concrete countertops, and birch bed frames. While graphic pillows, skulls, and antiques rev up the Southwestern flair.

04 of 06

Hotel Carmel | Carmel, CA

Courtesy of Hotel Carmel

Located just a few blocks from the main drag, Hotel Carmel is a love letter to California. The 27-key retreat draws inspiration from the stunning landscape, storybook cottages, and skilled artisans of the central coast. The result is a community-oriented outpost that recalls simpler times (e.g., splashing in the surf, climbing trees, cozying up with a good book). The nostalgia extends from check-in to Brophy’s Tavern, which is decked with vintage beer cans and novelty collectibles. But the most seductive spot has got to be the intimate outdoor courtyard with a fire pit and jacuzzi.

05 of 06

Skyview Los Alamos | Los Alamos, CA

Courtesy of Skyview Los Alamos

Fans of vino and vintage vibes will flip for Skyview Los Alamos. This hilltop haven, set just off Highway 101, pays homage to its roots as a roadside motel. Character comes courtesy of classic elements such as the original pool. Hardwood floors and leather club chairs are in the mix too. The culinary program is equally authentic. Slide into a corner booth at Norman for a hearty helping of farm-fresh California cuisine. The house wine (pinot noir) is even grown and vinified on-site. And with rates starting at $179 for a cozy room, it’s a stellar value.

06 of 06

The Drifter | New Orleans, LA

Courtesy of Nicole Franzen for Design Hotels

When you think of New Orleans, the French Quarter (namely raucous Bourbon Street) comes to mind. But The Drifter is about to change all that. Tucked away on an overlooked stretch of Tulane Avenue, this revived 1950s motel is as hip as it gets. Let’s call it an individualistic interpretation of midcentury modernism; eclectic with playful touches and nods to the Beat Generation. The tropical courtyard plays host to pool parties, art shows, and live music. Envision trendsetters sipping frozen cocktails and dancing under the cantilevered disco ball.

Related Stories