Five mid-century American motels that have been given a new lease of life

From California to Texas, neglected 1950s motels have been given a new lease of life as contemporary hotels. Here, we bring you the top five properties worth checking into on any road trip.

The Surfrider Motel, Malibu, USA
(Image credit: TBC)

The Surfrider

Built in 1953, the low-slung bones of the Surfrider Motel were perfectly preserved upon acquisition by architect Matthew Goodwin, who, with wife Emma Crowther and business partner and entrepreneur Alessandro Zampedri, saw a chance to reimagine the iconic Californian beach house. The 20-room redux is a calm oasis of pastel hues, Belgian linen, rough-hewn timber surfaces, teak beds, woven grass rugs, and pitched ceilings, that has been crisply dressed with Hans Wegner chairs and Picasso prints. With the Surfrider beach metres away, in-house diversions are confined to a library, a rooftop bar and a restaurant whose menu channels Californian sensibilities.

23033 Pacific Coast Highway; tel: 1.310 526 6158;; rates: from $325

Anvil Hotel

Transformed from a 1950s motel a block north of Jackson’s Town Square is Anvil Hotel, a slick version of a classic Western lodge. Studio Tack has blotted out all traces of the former motel in favour of a stylish but decidedly masculine palette. The lobby evokes the idea of a provisional store, complete with a wood burning stove and smart modern pieces. Each of the Anvil’s 49-rooms is furnished in what the hotel describes as Alpine Modern, which translates into warm two-toned painted walls of white and navy, parquet floors, Woolrich blankets, and sconces by Allied Maker.

215 North Cache Street; tel: 1.800 234 4507;; rates: from $195

The lobby at Anvil Hotel, Jackson, USA

(Image credit:;)

Austin Motel

Originally opened in 1938, the mid-century Austin Motel received an interior overhaul by Bunkhouse, thus re-opening in 2017. The landmark blends sly retro touches with a millennial bent – Burgundy laminated desks and tufted beds sheathed in Sfera sheets are paired with push-button phones and vintage silkscreened music posters, while a bar has been added to the kidney-shaped pool flanked by red and white umbrellas. And just to up the nostalgia quotient, in-house activities include punk rock water ballet and synchronised swimming lessons.

1200 South Congress Avenue; tel: 1.512 441 1157;; rates: from $125

Guestroom at Austin Motel hotel, Austin, USA

(Image credit: Nick Simonite)

Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa
Napa Valley

Whilst Napa Valley’s attraction largely revolves around its glorified vineyards and fine restaurants, the 50-room Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa is a fine alternative for those after less alcoholic pursuits. Pastel hues of blues, yellows and greens accompanying a glass-blocked lounge, reproduction vintage coolers by the pool and bedrooms dressed with camper van bench seats and graphic tiles, evoke iconography from the great American road trip, a canny move given the building’s past as the Sunburst Motel. An outdoor mud spa featuring DIY mud-bakes and the detoxifying allure of the mint-green claw-foot tub infused with medicinal salts are especially enticing.

1880 Lincoln Avenue; tel: 1.707 942 0991;; rates: from $195

Bathroom at Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa

(Image credit: Aubrie Pick)

The Drifter Hotel
New Orleans

Set along a straight drive out on Tulane Avenue towards Mid-City, the 20-room Drifter Hotel offers a quieter, escapist alternative to New Orleans’ touristy French Quarter. Concordia Architecture and Nicole Cota Studio preserved the silhouette and retro-vibe of the low-slung 1956 motel, while layering on nostalgic American-highway period references by way of white geometric lattices, mid-century furniture, concrete walls, palm-leaf wallpaper, floral-patterned breeze bricks and Oaxacan tile-work. Bedrooms are dressed in Frette and Aesop bath products, but the more entertaining diversions are found pool-side with frozen cocktails and sakes, while on-site food trucks dish up Mexican, Cuban and Trinidadian standards.

3522 Tulane Avenue; tel: 1.504 605 4644;; rates: from $175

Coffee bar at The Drifter Hotel, New Orleans, USA

(Image credit: Nicole Franzen)

Melina Keays is the entertaining director of Wallpaper*. She has been part of the brand since the magazine’s launch in 1996, and is responsible for entertaining content across the print and digital platforms, and for Wallpaper’s creative agency Bespoke. A native Londoner, Melina takes inspiration from the whole spectrum of art and design – including film, literature, and fashion. Her work for the brand involves curating content, writing, and creative direction – conceiving luxury interior landscapes with a focus on food, drinks, and entertaining in all its forms