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Calistoga Motor Lodge

Alia Akkam • December 4, 2017

Photos: Calistoga Motor Lodge

Eager families piling into cars and making their way across the States one diner and national park at a time is an image steeped in Americana. Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa in California, a redo of the circa-1940s former Sunburst Roadside motel at the head of the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, revives this nostalgia through the lens of an enchanting West Coast adventure from the 1960s or ’70s, conjured by New York-based AvroKO with graphics courtesy of its Brand Bureau division.

Vacations of yore experienced by the AvroKO team helped shape the property’s vision. “There were more than enough trips in our childhoods to create fodder for this project,” explains partner William Harris. “The thing about them is they were so often family driven, and as is so universal with many families, there is always fun mixed with, let’s be honest, a lot of tension, or at least some heavy eye-rolling. It’s that universal contrast—mature versus young, order versus chaos, properness versus play—that we tapped into.”

Consider the 50 midcentury modern guestrooms, filled with natural light and a palette of mustard yellow, dusty pink, and shades of blue and green. This casual sophistication is accentuated by comforting, sentimental touches like bean bag chairs, hula hoops, and bench-style seating surrounding a dining table reminiscent of the iconic camper van that converts into a double bed. During bygone journeys, the vending machine frequently symbolized salvation for hungry, restless kids keen to spend their pocket change. That’s why the lounge with its rich green velvet sofas and vintage cooler feels as akin to a general store as it does a living room.

Splashing around in the pool was another highlight for little ones liberated from the shackles of a car, and it’s no different here with a pooldeck amplified by blue and white umbrellas. A Jacuzzi, firepit, bocce court, cabana beds, and hammocks provide further alfresco relaxation. “We looked at the municipal pool model and layered on a bit of an elevated touch, channeling some of the resort towns found around California that would’ve been on any respectable road trip,” says partner Adam Farmerie.

MoonAcre Spa, which calls to mind a contemporary yet quirky apothecary with mint green clawfoot bathtubs and jolts of pink against a soothing white backdrop in the cozy waiting area, creates another element of unfussy pampering. Cheeky graphics are on full display here, including a wall hawking the likes of snake oil cures and evening primrose in striking all-capital letters, as well as illustrations leading the way to salt soaks and mud bakes. “Our biggest source of inspiration here was signage from classic locales one would see on a road trip—truck stops, gas stations, and motels where there was less polish, but more sincerity. Retro, family-owned enterprises spoke to us more than overtly commercial ones, and those became our muse,” explains partner Kristina O’Neal.

Imagery and verbiage are integral to the design scheme throughout: a large, navy graphic behind the stark white reception desk greets guests, while in the guestrooms, mountain peaks dress walls and phrases such as “the armadillo does not spit” are scrawled to the side of the stuffed animal mounted over the bed. “There’s a slight layman feeling to it; homemade and honest and just a little off, but in a good way,” says partner Greg Bradshaw. “We tried to recapture some of that lost innocence that we all miss sometimes.”

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