New Orleans’ The Drifter Hotel

by Garrett Fleming

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

We’ve all heard stories and songs written about Route 66, but what about Route 61? Infused with enough history to rival its more popular brethren, “The Blues Highway” not only used to be the gateway to New Orleans, but musical greats such as Muddy Waters and B. B. King took the famed route north to fame and notoriety. If that weren’t enough, the highway even ends not too far from Bob Dylan’s hometown of Duluth, MN and served as the inspiration for one of his albums.

Motels peppered stretches of Route 61 during its heyday, each one offering drivers respite from the road’s dusty bends and turns. Sadly, few of these historical motels remain. One recently renovated spot in particular still stands, though, and serves as a fabulous reminder of a bygone era when lazily making your way served to inspire.

Aptly named The Drifter, the oasis offers the modern-day wanderer everything they need to both unwind and create in a space that’s welcoming and beautiful. A coffee bar, tropical artwork and playful design accents wave a welcoming “Hello!” to travelers in the lobby, and the guest room’s nostalgic bunk beds beg to be cozied into after a long day. Overall, it’s an inclusive getaway that I can’t wait to check into on my next trip to New Orleans, LA. Scroll down to take a peek, and enjoy! —Garrett

Design by Nicole Cota Studio | Photography by Nicole Franzen

Image above: In the 1970s, a couple bought the mid-century lounge and turned it into a four-bedroom apartment. When the hotel bought the property a few years ago, the family’s lackluster renovation had to be reversed in order to accommodate The Drifter’s crowning jewel: its lobby. The breezy space opens up to the pool and features a tropical mural, both of which immediately set the mood for a relaxing vacation come check-in.

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

The lobby bar serves both the pool and lounge. The mural is by artist Alexandra Kilburn.

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
"Since the property is historic, sourcing items that fit the era of the building was one of the design team's top priorities," says The Drifter Hotel's Jayson Seidman
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

In order to instill custom, international flair without breaking the bank, Nicole Cota Studio cleverly sourced easy-to-repair, American-made items for the guest rooms and bar. By doing so, they freed themselves up to invest in heartier, global furniture elsewhere.

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

The lounge’s “Wall of Roses” is made of old Ralph Lauren dress shirts. Artist: Carlton Scott Sturgill.

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

Custom furniture by Guadalajara’s Mexa Design decorates the lobby lounge.

New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
A retro-style spot for working in the lounge.
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
In order to create a tropical oasis in the middle of the city, The Drifter's crew converted the parking lot into a cabana-filled, green sanctuary. The original pool was salvaged.
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
The lush trek to the guest rooms.
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
The team at The Drifter describes the hotel as a "nostalgic, playful sanctuary." And bunk beds cleverly imbue the guest rooms with this vibe.
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge
The guest room walls are covered in Struco-Lite® plaster. It's oftentimes used on the exterior of buildings, but rarely used in the South. That being said, finding it in stock in New Orleans as well as contractors in town who knew how to apply it by hand posed a unique challenge.
New Orleans' The Drifter Hotel, Design*Sponge

The guest room artwork is by Butch Anthony.

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  • This is SO cool, no, warm….. no! HOT – love all that wood, the natural materials, the style and the innovative use of less than exclusive materials and stuff. A beautiful transformation. Only one thing I don’t understand. I only know one person who came from Duluth and all I remember was the constant claim of How terribly cold it was in winter. Yet I see a swimming pool… I’m intruiged :)

    • This hotel is in New Orleans. The article mentions that
      the highway it sits on goes north all the way to Duluth, so maybe that’s what caught your eye.