There’s an alliance of like-minded structures dotting the nation’s landscape. Their bonding elements: Most experienced their heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, but have since fallen by the wayside. But these roadside stalwarts have been newly revived as chic traveling destinations, with modern touches paired with glimpses of yesteryear — neon signs, kitschy décor, and the like. And now, as pandemic restrictions continue to lift, these revamped vintage motels are emerging as preferred refuges from everyday life as folks begin taking to their cars in record-breaking numbers, heading out for an escape.
“An exterior corridor and outdoor space have always been appreciated for aesthetic reasons, however, the pandemic has created a strong desire for a limited touch space,” says Tenaya Hills, vice president of design and development for Austin-based Bunkhouse, a hospitality company that assumed operation of the historic Austin Motel on South Congress Avenue in Texas back in 2017. “Given a motel’s layout of entering your room from the outside, this could be seen as one of the many positives to a chic motel. And with few historic motor court properties existing these days, revamping these spaces and preserving its spirit creates a special experience.”
Since taking over, Bunkhouse’s design team has worked to refresh the property in collaboration with several local vendors, including Mark Word Design (landscaping), Jack Sanders and Design Build Adventure (pool bar), and Enabler (custom woodwork). The goal was to retain the original design, with the updates more subtle than a full renovation. The result? Bunkhouse preserved the motel’s eclectic midcentury vibe (including the standout sign that’s been around since the beginning), and incorporated a signature design touch inspired by its history.