Thanks to its retro “motel” sign, this unassuming low-rise at first appears as a forgotten 1950s anachronism. But look past the period-piece signage, and reveals itself as an exercise in modernised nostalgia, both in terms of design and concept.

With a name inspired by the iconoclastic Beat Generation of post-war America, the property is a playful respite from New Orleans’ expected offerings. Shining a light on a newly hip side of the city, the hotel acts as a melting pot for the local and global “drifters” who end up there.

Designed by , The Drifter is housed in a reworked modernist structure that references the Googie style—a strand of futurist architecture that became prominent in the 1950s and borrowed influence from Space Race imagery and car culture through elements such as its asymmetric awning and the neon “motel” sign. Landscape architects Vida Design Studio took the concrete parking lot—a defining feature of a motel—and converted it into a tropical courtyard that plays host to winding paths that take guests to out-of-the-way niches.

Retro yet refreshingly original, the interiors, designed by , come alive with pastel colours that contrast brick and concrete walls. Mid-century modernism dominates with custom-made furnishings, vintage pieces, retro light fixtures, and Oaxacan tiles in the bedrooms. Other highlights include a cantilevered disco ball and a Barragan-inspired wall. Artworks range from local creations to a statement Ralph Lauren wall display.

The 20 rooms and suites offer pool views, bathrooms with showers, and working desks, while some come with private terraces.

In addition to a café serving up specialty coffee from La Colombe, the hotel’s culinary program sees a rotation of chic food trucks and on-property pop ups that offer a host of ever-changing tastes, from Mexico City to Haiti, Colombia, and beyond.


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