design, International, Renovations, Spaces, Travel

A retro renovation brings a classic Texas motel right up to date

Nick Simonite


Austin, Texas, might be a fairly small city by American (not to mention Texan) standards, but it punches way above its weight. Not only is the city home to the state legislature, which meets at the remarkable Capitol building, but it’s also where the prestigious University of Texas at Austin is situated, and it plays host to the famous annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Austin is well known for its wealth of live-music venues (there are said to be more than 200 of these) and its informal slogan, ‘Keep Austin Weird’. It might be in the middle of conservative Texas, but this is a city in which creative people thrive.

No wonder, then, that its newest hotel offering is, hands down, the coolest we’ve seen all year. The Austin Motel has been around since 1938, and has recently been renovated and upgraded – in a style very much in keeping with its Mid-Century Modern origins. It has 41 rooms, a bar and a classic 1950s kidney-shaped swimming pool, all of which are set against a backdrop of classic Mid-Century roadside motel architecture.

The motel’s lobby is a hybrid of a general store and check-in area called Bodega, and features a refurbished Saltillo terracotta floor, coolers with beverages and snacks to take back to your room, and a retail store offering a curated collection of travel necessities, hotel memorabilia, pool accessories and Americana staples.

The lounge and pool area sport Mid-Century chairs, tables and loungers set under red and white umbrellas – and the new patio bar, named Fine Foods, serves up frozen drinks and punches referencing the motel’s storied past, as well as buckets of canned rosé (we’ll have one of the latter as soon as possible, thanks).

Playful and colourful, the rooms range in size from doubles to suites, and boast custom-designed vinyl tufted beds, long wall-mounted desks with burgundy laminate and more '50s-inspired seating. Bold wallpapers, classic push-button phones and vintage silkscreened music posters complete the fabulously retro look.

The Austin Motel’s original signage has led to it being nicknamed ‘The Phallus Palace’ by witty longtime staff members, and the renovation has taken care both to preserve the iconic sign and extend its vintage appeal. This is done using clever touches such as the Wall Willy robe hooks (designed by Californian Eric Trine) in the rooms, and via the myriad cool takes on the signage that are available in the motel’s store. Anyone else fancy getting their hands on an Austin Motel inner tube?

Situated just across the famous ‘bat bridge’ from downtown Austin, in the heart of South Congress Avenue’s famed strip of restaurants, clubs and shops, the Austin Motel is nothing less than the perfect place to stay if you’re heading to SXSW in 2018. See you at the pool…

For more information and to book a stay, visit austinmotel.com.