If you’re a traveler, you know that a hotel is simply a place to rest your head during a journey. For others, it’s a reason to travel in and of itself, and great design, such as a Mid Century Modern touch, can be a huge motivating factor.
You can blame it on Mad Men, but few design movements have more fans than mid-century modernism.
Originally popular in California and the Southwest, there are now hotels from coast to coast that embrace this aesthetic. From contemporary newcomers that take design cues from the 1960s to historic properties that have preserved their signature looks over the decades, these fifteen mid-century modern hotels will make you feel like you’ve slipped into a more glamorous era.
By Laura Itzkowitz
THE WATERGATE HOTEL
Closed since 2007, the Watergate Hotel is poised to re-emerge this fall after a $125 million renovation. Rather than shying away from its scandalous past, the property is fully embracing the glamor of the Nixon era with a makeover that emphasizes its mid-century roots. Considered avant-garde when it was built in 1961, the architecture features gracious curves, marble floors, and neutral tones. It will have not one, but two presidential suites, a swanky whiskey bar, and a rooftop with panoramic views of the Potomac River, the Washington Monument, and the capital city. Capping off the period vibe, Janie Bryant, costume designer for Mad Men, has created ‘60s-style uniforms for the staff.
HOTEL VALLEY HO
Located in downtown Scottsdale, Hotel Valley Ho was built in 1956 in a style that combined mid-century modern and southwestern design. It quickly became a haven for celebrities like Bing Crosby, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Tony Curtis, who wanted a bit of R&R without being bothered by the paparazzi. Most famously, Natalie Wood married Robert Wagner in the hotel’s ballroom in 1957. Hotel Valley Ho went through a period of decline after the original owner Robert Foehl died in 1973 but was restored and reopened in 2005. Today you’ll find mid-century modern design combined with modern amenities.
HYATT REGENCY MINNEAPOLIS
In the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the Hyatt Regency offers business and leisure travelers a stylish place to stay. Tastefully decorated rooms—many of which have views of the city skyline—take their cues from Scandinavian design. The sleek Prairie Kitchen and Bar channels 1960s glam, with mid-century chairs and leather banquettes overlooking the lobby’s two-story stone fireplace. Guests can expect understated luxury throughout.
L’HORIZON RESORT & SPA
Palm Springs, California
Designed in 1952 by William F. Cody, the ultra-luxe L’Horizon Resort & Spa beckoned movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, in addition to many U.S. presidents. Composed of 25 bungalows, the property is one of the finest examples of mid-century modern architecture in California. It just reopened after designer Steve Hermann’s multi-million dollar renovation, which includes upgrades like Frette linens, Le Labo bath products, and Dean & Deluca goodies in the minibar, not to mention a new restaurant by Michelin-starred chef and elBulli alum Giacomo Pettinari. With sleek white cabanas and palm trees surrounding the pool, L’Horizon is a desert oasis that has joined the ranks of the Leading Hotels of the World.
Desert Hot Springs, California
Named for the architect who built it, Hotel Lautner is the result of a three-and-a-half year restoration. John Lautner was originally hired by movie director Lucien Hubbard in 1947 to design a master planned community of more than 100 houses, stores, and pools in Desert Springs. The project came to a halt after only four of the buildings were completed, but they reflect Lautner’s iconic style as it appears in movies like The Big Lebowski and A Single Man. A stay in one of the suites will make you feel like a movie star in the desert, thanks to the design featuring redwood paneling, leather sofas and Bertoia chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows, and cactus gardens.
SMYTH, A THOMPSON HOTEL
New York, New York
Last fall, Thompson Hotels relaunched the Smyth in TriBeCa with a new look inspired by mid-century modern Scandinavian design. Though the architecture is contemporary, the interior resembles a home—the lobby, for instance, was envisioned as TriBeCa’s living room. The hotel’s acclaimed restaurant Little Park, by Michelin-starred chef Andrew Carmellini, also pays homage to mid-century Scandinavian design, with lots of blond wood, a marble bar, and streamlined pendant lamps. Christine and John Gachot, the couple behind the redesign, brought the Smyth into the present with artwork by contemporary artists likes KAWS.
THE STANDARD SPA, MIAMI BEACH
Andre Balazs’ luxurious Standard Spa on Belle Isle just off South Beach borrows design elements from the property’s previous incarnation as the Lido Spa Hotel. Since its very first incarnation as the Monterey Motel, it has been the only hotel on the tranquil, residential island that serves as a respite from the never-ending party on South Beach. Though the Lido—designed in the 1960s—had grown old and tired, Balazs energized it by amplifying the mid-century modern design with Hans Wegner chairs set against a stained glass wall with a beach ball motif, not to mention the alfresco Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill.
AVALON HOTEL BEVERLY HILLS
Beverly Hills, California
In the Avalon Hotel’s heyday in the 1950s, it was a playground for stars like Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz. Alvin Lustig (famed for the Lustig chair) designed the hotel in 1948, and when Kelly Wearstler refreshed it in 1999, she pored over old photographs for inspiration. The result is a chic hotel with a dreamy, robin’s egg blue-and-white color scheme, streamlined furniture, period art, and an hourglass pool tucked away in the ultra-chic neighborhood of Beverly Hills.
MODERN HOTEL AND BAR
Owner Elizabeth Tullis opened this retro motor lodge in homage to her grandmother’s Depression-era Travelodge that catered to Basque immigrants, sheepherders, businessmen, and musicians. The original was so-called because it had modern (for the time) amenities like steam heat. At the new Modern Hotel, you’ll find all of today’s modern amenities (air conditioning, Wi-Fi, iPod docks), plus a happening bar scene where local artists and musicians mingle with travelers passing through.
DEL MARCOS HOTEL
Palm Springs, California
Architect William F. Cody won a design award from the Southern California chapter of the American Institute of Architects for the Del Marcos Hotel, said to be inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona desert architecture. Built in 1947, the design features native stone and redwood, floor-to-ceiling glass, and a U-shaped plan with a courtyard and pool in the center, meant to encourage socializing among guests. The landmarked hotel carries the mid-century modern aesthetic inside as well, with furnishings by Eames, Bertoia, and Saarinen in the spacious suites.
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