Confession: When Motel 6 won a design award from Travel + Leisure earlier this year, I was a bit skeptical. Really, how nice can a room that costs less than $50 a night really be? Besides which, Motel 6 has been my standard hotel design denigration metaphor for years -- I even used it recently in this description of Silversea's Silver Spirit.
I suppose I'll have to stop doing that, with all due apologies to Motel 6. The hotel started its "Phoenix" redesign program in 2008, which it's now rolling out across its more than 1,000 locations, including the very first Motel 6, which opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1962 and is still in business today. I recently stopped by that location to take a look at the new rooms, and I must say that I thought the whole thing was rather brilliant.
London design firm Priestmangoode went with a Scandinavian-style approach, and as any IKEA devotee knows, Scandinavian design stands up well to low, low budgets.
Accor, which owns Motel 6, describes the rooms this way:
The "Phoenix" design features wood-effect flooring, ambient lighting, settee area for two, and a 32-inch flat-screen TV. The entertainment unit which houses the TV conceals the door-less wardrobe behind it, combining two needs into one unit...the modern bathroom features double doors, black granite counter top with a vessel/raised sink, a walk-in shower and a large vanity area.
My take: getting rid of dubious carpeting in favor of "wood-effect" flooring was a good move. The linens were a notch above what I'd expect at a motel, which is to say, don't expect high thread count or Egyptian cotton, but you may be able to tolerate the feel of the sheets and towels. To me, the bathroom is usually the worst part of any budget hotel room, but it was not overlooked. I actually loved the cunning yellow towel cubby built in to the mirror.