Central West End Historic Preservation Mid-Century Modern

Cool, Fun Hotel Indigo

by Michael R. Allen

Last week, brothers Michael and Steven Roberts cut the ribbon at the Hotel Indigo, formerly the Bel Air Motel at 4630 Lindell Boulevard. I have written about the importance of this project’s demonstration of how a mid-century motel can be preserved while being creatively renovated. I will not repeat that message here (see “Realizing the Potential of a Mid-Century Motel”, June 9). However, until last week, I had not seen the interior or courtyards since renovation was completed.

Architect Michael Killeen did a great job restoring the streamline beauty of the old Bel Air. The fresh white of the piers, coping and windows makes the motel sing out from its perch above the Lindell sidewalk. In the sunlight, the motel shines and beckons with a tempting jet-set modern facade. The white imparts a lightness appropriate to the American spirit of travel and vacation — a spirit fresh and novel when the Bel Air was built in 1958. The courtyard echoes the design program of the front section, with private balconies on its north side. The opaque dividers are a neat solution to the need for privacy between rooms. (One complaint here: why gaudy iron furniture in the courtyard of a modernist motor hotel? Ah, well. That’s a small problem.)

The lobby and coffee shop are open, bright spaces exposed by the large windows facing Lindell. Here, the architect makes use of the curve to direct gently those who arrive through the front door.

The rooms are fine, and a few have architectural details like etched brick. All have magnificently large windows and great, urbane views.

The narrow hallways are as utilitarian as one can expect, but Killeen and crew cut against the boring factor by using a splashy lime green for the walls and blue carpeting. Even the stairwells are done in that green. Yowza! All in all, the Hotel Indigo is cool.

Apparently, the Central West End could stand another project like this one. At the ribbon cutting, Convention and Visitors Commission President Kitty Ratcliffe stated that she often cuts ribbons in area where the hotel markets are over-served, but that she could definitely not say that about the Hotel Indigo and the Central West End.