There’s a basic roadside motel down the road from The Modern Hotel that has a cool sign that’s been there since the middle of the last century, advertising that rooms come with a color TV. At The Modern in Boise you get a little of that retro vibe, but this converted motel has jumped fully into the digital age. They even have their own custom TV channel in the rooms that shows a loop of independent film shorts.
As with the RSVP Motel Bozeman that we reviewed last year, this makeover shows the potential of taking an aging and tired property and turning it into something fabulous. The bones are relatively unchanged, but the room amenities, decor, and public areas have been radically transformed. Now this is a fun and artistic place to stay that’s not far from the center of Boise.
It’s a flat and leisurely walk from here to the most bustling parts of Boise, or you might not make it that far if you stop off at the excellent Barbarian Brewing outlet on the way, just a few blocks away. There’s also a Hops and Bottles taproom around the corner, a gourmet grocery store a block away, and The Linen Building arts center across the street. Idaho’s largest record store is in walking distance too.
The layout of The Modern is fairly straightforward, with two floors of guest rooms. Some face the courtyard, while others can be reached from an interior hallway, but with an outdoor entrance as well from the old motel days. The front of the rooms building has been softened with vines climbing up metal trellises, while around the back there are murals on what was a blank slate before.
The lobby area is inviting, with a few places to sit, and you have to check out the public bathrooms: they have a record player with a selection of 45 rpm songs you can put on while you take care of business.
The other interior space is the drinks and dining social hub, with a long bar to sit at and a variety of tables for dining. During this era of social distancing they have been doing outdoor seating for the restaurant, but normally it’s all indoors.
The bartenders are courteous and will mix up a mean cocktail, while there’s also a selection of Idaho beers and a few wines by the glass. The menu at the Txikiteo restaurant is not very extensive, but it hits all the right buttons for the modern age: James Beard nominee chef, locally sourced ingredients, and small plates that look good on Instagram.
The outdoor area is a sitting area in the warm months and when it gets cool, they have gas fire pits to turn on. With the hanging string lights on, it’s a fun space for having a drink and enjoying an urban version of the outdoors.
The 39 rooms are not huge–this was a Travelodge motel after all–but they’re ample and well-equipped. You get a TV with a hundred channels, good included WiFi, comfy pillowtop mattresses, padded headboards, coffee makers, and plenty of outlets for charging your gadgets. There’s a good amount of storage space for your belongings and an attention to detail that certainly won’t make you feel like you are in a chain hotel.
The large tiled walk-in showers are big enough for two and have both a rain shower head and a wall-mounted hand-held one. Quality toiletries are in refillable containers to keep the waste down. The bathroom floors are heated, which is a real treat in winter.
If you want to splash out a bit, the suites are double the size and have a full living room. The top choice is the King Balcony Suite, which has a balcony of course, plus a kitchenette, a soaking tub, and some cool mid-century modern furniture and lamps.
The owner’s grandmother, who started as a sheepherder, opened a boarding house in Nampa, Idaho during the Great Depression. Catering to Basque immigrants, it had the aspirational name of The Modern Hotel, so this one is an homage to the ancestors.
Much like most of the Boise residents I met, staffers at The Modern are helpful, friendly, and not too pretentious. They also offer complimentary bikes for rent and can tell you how to access the Bogus Basin ski shuttle in the winter. Parking is free for guests.
Editor Tim Leffel was hosted at The Modern Hotel while researching articles on Idaho ski resorts for other publications as a guest of Ski Idaho.