10 Motels That Have Gone From Falling Down to Fabulously Hip

Not your average retreats, these nostalgic hideaways make for surprisingly stylish getaways.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Motels That Have Gone From Falling Down to Fabulously Hip

Hotel Zed Kelowna
Credit

(Courtesy of Hotel Zed Kelowna)

Check into revived hotels with plenty of panache and midcentury decor.

When you step inside these architectural gems from a time gone by, you would never know they once had peeling walls, unkempt pools and tattered lobbies. But thanks to impressive transformations, these design-centric boutique hotels have found new life as fun and funky respites for the modern traveler. Read on to discover old motels that have been revamped into chic hideaways.

Hotel Carmel
Credit

(Courtesy of Hotel Carmel)

Hotel Carmel

Carmel, California

In the fairy tale-like village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there are plentiful motels that once provided a seaside retreat to visitors. One property was the Dolphin Inn, which has new life as the Hotel Carmel, a sister property to La Playa Carmel. This bright and airy property offers a cozy spot to unwind with in-room fireplaces, an outdoor fire pit and a hot tub in the courtyard garden. Grab some pub food and brews at the property’s restaurant, Brophy’s Tavern. In the evening, enjoy a daily wine reception and browse the lobby’s cassette tape collection or play old-school games for a blast from the past.

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Check into revived hotels with plenty of panache and midcentury decor.

When you step inside these architectural gems from a time gone by, you would never know they once had peeling walls, unkempt pools and tattered lobbies. But thanks to impressive transformations, these design-centric boutique hotels have found new life as fun and funky respites for the modern traveler. Read on to discover old motels that have been revamped into chic hideaways.

Hotel Carmel

Carmel, California

In the fairy tale-like village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there are plentiful motels that once provided a seaside retreat to visitors. One property was the Dolphin Inn, which has new life as the Hotel Carmel, a sister property to La Playa Carmel. This bright and airy property offers a cozy spot to unwind with in-room fireplaces, an outdoor fire pit and a hot tub in the courtyard garden. Grab some pub food and brews at the property’s restaurant, Brophy’s Tavern. In the evening, enjoy a daily wine reception and browse the lobby’s cassette tape collection or play old-school games for a blast from the past.

The Verb Hotel

Boston

Located in Boston's Fenway Park neighborhood, the Verb has been home to many different motels over the years. Originally, it was the Fenway Motor Hotel, which opened in 1959; more recently, the property served as a Howard Johnson. The Verb is now a midcentury marvel with restored modernist architecture. Even the retro layout is intact, replicating the motel’s stained-glass windows. In this stylish outpost, Don Draper would feel right at home pouring a drink and lounging by the pool beneath a colorful umbrella.

The Saguaro

Palm Springs, California

Built in the 1970s as a classic California motor lodge, the Saguaro Palm Springs has held many names in the past. Today, this brightly colored retreat maintains its original footprint and rooms equipped with patios that surround a central pool. Plus, the Saguaro offers travelers an upscale desert retreat and is designed with a color palette that uses 14 indigenous flowers found in the nearby desert. Plus, the property's enviable location is also known for its vibrant events and home base for Palm Springs happenings, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The Drifter Hotel

New Orleans

With a name inspired by the Beat Generation and a location in an up-and-coming area of New Orleans, the Drifter Hotel may look like it’s still stuck in the 1950s, when it was first built. But look inside and you'll find an oasis of vintage midcentury modernism. The hotel’s interiors showcase pastel colors that offer a stark contrast to brick and concrete walls, with custom-made furniture, vintage pieces, retro light fixtures and guest rooms outfitted with Oaxacan tiles. What's more, the Drifter Hotel serves specialty coffee and hosts rotating food trucks and pop-ups.

The Kimpton Goodland

Goleta, California

This former Holiday Inn located just outside Santa Barbara in Goleta is now a Southern California paradise with a fun surfer-chic style. When Kimpton took over management of what is now the Kimpton Goodland in 2014, the brand completed a major redesign, incorporating retro accents, modern amenities and unique decor twists. At this hipster haven, you will find in-room turntables (take your pick of vinyl from the lobby record concierge), live DJ pool parties, game nights in the lobby, outdoor movies and even Cracker Jacks.

The Modern Hotel & Bar

Boise, Idaho

Situated in Boise’s hip Linen District, the Modern Hotel & Bar gives a nod to its past life. Originally a Travelodge that opened during the Great Depression, today the property boasts a reimagined mod '60s vibe. Close to downtown, Boise State University and the Boise River Greenbelt, the hotel is instantly recognizable with its guest rooms adorned with bright red doors. Grab a classic cocktail at the on-site restaurant, where the chef, Nate Whitley, is a James Beard Award nominee, and enjoy the surrounding scenery in the hotel courtyard.

Laguna Beach House

Laguna Beach, California

At the Laguna Beach House, which pays tribute to Southern California's local surf culture, visitors will find handmade surfboards in rooms and vintage memorabilia, including a poolside shower made from surfboards. Formerly the Laguna Cliffs Inn, the property is a stone's throw from the beach, shops and restaurants. What's more, the property offers quirky minibar items, including beach games, beer cookies and Turkish beach blankets, and guests can request milk and cookies before bed.

Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club

Waikiki, Hawaii

Prior to the renovation and relaunch as the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club in 2016, this property was known as Hokele Suites Waikiki, which provided motel-style accommodations just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach. Today, the property capitalizes on its small size and off-the-beaten path location, and offers a more authentic and less touristy retreat while still enjoying a prime location set in the center of world-famous Waikiki. Aloha chic would be an apt description of the current design with midcentury modern features awash in 1960s Hawaii beach-themed decor. Inside, guests will find unique details like handmade wallpaper, a living fern installation, handcrafted furniture and reed ceilings.

Austin Motel

Austin, Texas

Dating back to 1938, the Austin Motel has maintained its original architecture, classic motel sign and '50s-style kidney-shaped pool, which serves as the center of the property. Its 41 rooms now feature a playful, colorful design scheme, with reds, yellows and oranges and fun touches like lipstick wallpaper. Other new additions include a bar and deck surrounding the pool and a lobby shop. Located in Austin's South Congress neighborhood, just south of downtown and the Colorado River, the motel is conveniently situated near the city’s busy hike and bike trail.

Hotel Zed

British Columbia, Canada

With two locations in British Columbia – Victoria and Kelowna – Hotel Zed is brightening old midcentury motels and reshaping them into modern masterpieces with funky decor. Not only does the splashy design, which features pinks, purples and turquoise, stand out, but the hotels are filled with throwback activities. Guests can relax in a mini disco room or pingpong lounges and enjoy large waterslides, a classic VW van shuttle bus, rotary dial phones, classic board games and comic books.

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