Four Chic New Southern Hotels

An inside look at a 1950s motel turned modern-day oasis in New Orleans. Plus, three more boutique stunners opening up around the South.


The exterior of the Drifter Motel and Swim Club in New Orleans.

Instead of paving paradise for a parking lot, Jayson Seidman did just the opposite at the Drifter Motel and Swim Club, New Orleans’ newest boutique hotel. Landscaping was high on the punch list when the Austin, Texas, native bought the twenty-room motor court on Tulane Avenue. And with the help of friend and landscape architect Matthew Flynn, Seidman cut through the concrete in the central lot to install a maze of massive French drains that support an urban oasis of royal palms, banana trees, and more lush greenery between the guest rooms and the pool. There’s still plenty of parking tucked out of sight behind the hotel; it’s just no longer front-and-center.


The pool at The Drifter Motel and Swim Club. See More Photos

Seidman and his partners Zach Kupperman and Alex Ramirez had to ditch the original pool’s diving board when they put in a bar (drinking and diving don’t mix), but with regular live music, a rotating roster of deck-side food pop-up (think: Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican street food), and a bar program that includes off-beat Japanese beers, elevated frozen drinks, and pretty much anything else the bartenders can dream up, we doubt you’ll miss the cannon balling opportunities come summer. Locals can buy an annual pool pass, too, so expect a mix of travelers and natives—although Seidman doesn’t see much difference. “So many people in New Orleans are drifters—hence, the motel’s name,” he says. “If you ask someone how they ended up here, they probably won’t say work. People just love the energy.” The city’s funky spirit pervades the hotel—from the installation of faux climbing roses made from Ralph Lauren dress shirts in the revamped lobby lounge to the whimsical works of Alabama artist Butch Anthony that hang in each guest room. –E.H.

Three More Boutique Hotels with Southern Style to Spare—New and Forthcoming


Unscripted in Durham.

Durham, North Carolina

Earlier this year, this long-empty 1960s motel got a mindful makeover, dressing its sleek bones with period-appropriate midcentury style. The Studio lounge is a throwback to home rec rooms, and the third-level pool deck is splashed with retro vibes. But the iPad check-in stations are completely contemporary.


Penthouse at the Fairlane Hotel.

Fairlane Hotel
Nashville, Tennessee

Opening in early 2018 and set in a former bank, the Fairlane has a buttoned-up vibe until 5:00 p.m. Then, staff uniform changes—from business to party—signal that the good times are ready to roll. Its playful but posh 1970s-inspired aesthetic is on fullest display in the 4,000-square-foot penthouse.


Hotel Clermont is due to reopen next year.

Hotel Clermont
Atlanta, Georgia
Hotel Clermont welcomes guests in March after an extensive renovation that merges the building’s classic 1920s features with punk-rock style. In addition to a restaurant and a rooftop bar, the property’s infamous Clermont Lounge remains and, though it got a freshen-up too, retains its gritty glory—and its black-duct-taped bar. —J.K.