The motel is singularly American – a symbol of progress and postwar optimism. Beginning in the mid 1940s and continuing into the ‘60s, virtually every middle-class family could afford a car. Newly constructed interstate highways made vacationing as easy as loading up the Plymouth Fury, tossing in the kids, and pointing the chrome grille down the blacktop. Motels provided simple, clean rooms, convenient car parks, and reasonable rates. But as franchising took hold, places like the Wigwam, Aztec, and Route 66 Motel were quickly outnumbered by the likes of Days Inn, Best Western, and Motel 6. Glorious neon signs and wonderfully gaudy individuality gave way to typical corporate blandness. Classic motels have now been absorbed into the same ranks as drive-in theaters and soda fountains – the few, far between, and fading relics of our cultural consciousness.
At least that’s what I thought until I visited the Tangerine Hotel. What was until recently the noble but decaying Holiday Lodge, built in 1962 in the classic California style, now represents a gleaming rebirth of the motel model. While the essential bones of the Holiday Lodge have been preserved, it has otherwise been completely renovated to serve contemporary needs without sacrificing aesthetic sensibility. The Tangerine Hotel is no less a knockout than any of its classic brethren – rich orange trim accentuates natural wood paneling, the pool shimmers behind a stylish glass partition; even the parking lot, composed of interlocking rows of stone, catches the eye. And although it’s located on a chic and bustling stretch of Riverside, the Tangerine is quiet and insulated; the architecture, colors, and amenities creating an atmosphere of serenity and relaxation.
An operation of this kind can only be accomplished with slavish attention to detail. The credit belongs to attorney Amitesh Damudar, who decided to revitalize his family’s business, with customer service being of their utmost priority. Dedicated to his vision of creating a new kind of motel, he assembled a team of first rate artists, technicians, and designers. The result is an establishment that blends elegance and practicality.
The rooms are designed in accordance with Japanese-influenced minimalism — uncluttered, spacious, and perfectly clean. However, each boasts a unique mural of vibrant photographic art, stretching from floor to ceiling in a poetry of sweeping swirls, magnified water droplets, and flowing geometric patterns. The original tables have been refinished, their tops now matching each room’s respective palette. Further artistic touches include Caesarstone counters, Grohe fixtures, and tissue box holders made of compressed sunflower seeds. Customers have a choice between polished concrete or carpeted floors, and the towels and linens are of the highest quality.
Damudar explains, “When you step into [each] room you get a different feel. We want to make things as comfortable as possible for our guests, but also visually appealing.” Indeed, Damudar’s work is an encouraging sign – that a new generation of Americans are breaking away from homogeneity, dusting out the corners of our collective history, and bringing love and personality back to our landscape.