True to its surfer-cool, 1950’s-motel roots, The new Postcard Inn, in St. Pete Beach, Florida, is hip, affordable, and resolutely casual. Built in 1957 as the Colonial Gateway Inn, a 204-room, two-story, U-shaped motel with a large pool and a grove of mature royal palms at its core, it became a Travelodge in 1999. Now, in its latest incarnation, the property joins a new wave of stylish, affordable beach hotels, including the Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, and the Canary Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. The Postcard Inn story begins in 2005, when Barry Sternlicht, the high-profile chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, led his company to acquire the Travelodge, with plans to raze the motel and build a condo-hotel. But the neighbors banded together and objected to the proposed development, and the plan languished until the economy finally undermined the viability of Sternlicht’s project. So he came up with an alternative: renovate the Travelodge to transform what was a down-at-the-heels motel into a chic inn. For that he turned to his friend and business partner Stephen Hanson, founder of B.R. Guest Restaurants, co-owned by Starwood Capital Group.
Though no two are exactly alike, the rooms all have vintage table lamps on new pickled and stained birch desks, flat-screen TV’s, Wi-Fi, and, flanking the beds, classic black-metal drafting lamps with articulated arms. The objective was to jettison the dark, dated, oppressive feel of the Travelodge guest rooms, so out went the musty wall-to-wall deep-pile carpeting, ink-blue patterned bedspreads, matching curtains and valances, and heavy, ornate wooden headboards. To lighten and brighten the rooms, they opted for white wood venetian blinds for the windows and a sand-colored, sisal-like flooring that is actually woven vinyl. Down-filled duvets with crisp white covers have replaced the bedspreads. Further reminding guests that they are not in just another generic motel, on the wall behind the beds is either a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall photo mural of a lone surfer on a longboard in the curl of a tsunami-scale wave, a photographic collage of all things surfing-oriented, or a colorful, typographically lively series of quotes from legendary surfers as well as Thoreau, the Beach Boys, Warhol, Jay-Z, and others.