A retro revival in Boone


February 29, 2024

Rhode’s Motor Lodge exterior

Rhode’s Motor Lodge evokes nostalgia for the classic American road trip and offers a one-of-a-kind stay in Boone.

by Cathy Martin

Boone has plenty of college-town taverns, creative cafes, adventure outfitters and boutiques. It also has convenient access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, miles of hiking trails, and places to go tubing or skiing. 

But when it’s time to lay down your head, your best options — save for a smallish boutique hotel downtown — until now have been a Marriott Courtyard and a better-than-average Hampton Inn. 

That changed in October with the debut of Rhode’s Motor Lodge, a renovated and reimagined 54-room midcentury motor inn. 

Opened in 1957 then expanded in the 1960s, the former family-owned Greene’s Motel had fallen into disrepair. “If you looked beyond the years of wear, you could see the potential,” says Christine McDonald, creative director at Loden Hospitality, the Raleigh-based hotelier behind the renovation. McDonald would know: She and her colleagues had previously converted a former Travelodge motel in downtown Raleigh into the The Longleaf Hotel, earning praise from national press outlets for the transformation.  

The developers were drawn to the location, perched on a hill and set back from busy Blowing Rock Highway. “You could see when you looked up there was presence for the property,” McDonald says. The challenge was creating a modern guest experience while honoring the property’s history.

They landed on a design that combines the midcentury history of the property with Boone’s outdoorsy lifestyle, incorporating modern amenities. Named for the flowering rhododendrons in the North Carolina mountains, Rhode’s is also a phonetic reference to a “road” trip.

A covered front patio that can be seen from the road was designed to draw passersby and provide a gathering place for guests, with Adirondack-style rocking chairs and a cozy fire table. 

Inside the reconfigured lobby, a communal fireplace with a broken terra cotta tile hearth adds a nostalgic flair, and patches of the original floor — intentionally left exposed — peek through, a nod to the property’s past. The new owners did away with the previous restaurant, a cavelike Italian spot that had been closed for some time. A new restaurant, Canteen, serves as both a lobby bar and a full-service eatery serving dinner nightly and weekend brunch with an emphasis on Appalachian ingredients and plenty of shareables, sandwiches, salads and bowls.

“We wanted to make this a place locals want to come as well as travelers,” says Russ Jones, president of Loden Hospitality. 

A spacious interior courtyard provides another gathering space, with more fire pits and string lights overhead. There’s a pool table and a separate game room, a draw for families. QR codes throughout the lobby and porches make it easy to order food and drinks.

Rooms are spacious with a minimalist design and custom wall art. Custom wood storage units are designed for practicality — a writing desk, a place to hang your things. Natural accents like tree-trunk nightstands and leather headboard straps add warmth and contribute to the outdoorsy theme. Polished concrete floors and recycled plastic area rugs are designed for durability as guests plop down hiking and ski gear after a day on the slopes or trails. 

While the furnishings are simplistic, the beds were designed with comfort in mind, with 300-thread-count sheets and soft-and-cozy (and washable) wool blankets for keeping warm on chilly mountain nights.  SP

Rhode’s Motor Lodge is at 1377 Blowing Rock Rd. in Boone, about a 2-hour drive from Charlotte. rhodesmotorlodge.com

Photographs by Taylor McDonald Photography

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