This Design Motel Is Why You're Going to the Berkshires

Tourists joins a line-up of design and art attractions putting North Adams, Mass. on the map.

Updated 11/11/19

Nicole Franzen 

You've probably already seen Tourists on Instagram, its stark white oak siding instantly iconic and widely shared by NYC editors (Christene Barberich, Eva Chen), elite lifestyle photographers (Nicole Franzen, John Dolan) and the influencer set. It's a destination designed to encourage encounters with strangers and the outdoors and, undeniably, to market itself through its picture-perfect vibe.

In fact, every space and moment at Tourists is ready for a close-up, from the roadside motel's serene saline swimming pool to its plywood-laden guest rooms lined with picture windows, all purposefully facing away from shopping-center-lined State Road 2 and towards the Hoosic River, backed by the wilderness of the Berkshires.

the exterior of Tourists
Nicole Franzen 

"That’s sort of the big eye-catching moment when you walk into the room—the views," said interior designer Julie Pearson, who was tapped by the creators of Tourists to develop the motel's rooms and common spaces. "We kept everything else sort of a blank canvas for that to be what draws you into the space and to go outside and explore."

a room at Tourists
 Nicole Franzen

That’s sort of the big eye-catching moment when you walk into the room—the views.

a daybed at Tourists
 Nicole Franzen

The rooms at Tourists are intentionally minimal, featuring only basic materials like plywood, concrete, rocks and bricks, embellished with found vintage textiles and plenty of Japanese boro. "It’s just sort of a utilitarian symbol—we wanted the materials to feel familiar but then used in a creative way," said Pearson. "All the colors are colors that you would see outside, so the greens and the blues and that field tan color." Televisions are hidden by custom-made canvas covers and bathrooms are stocked with Ursa Major amenities. Soap wedges from Mater are presented on cheese-board-like platter.

It’s just sort of a utilitarian symbol—we wanted the materials to feel familiar but then used in a creative way.

amenities at Tourists
 Nicole Franzen

Not much remains of the Redwood Motel, the original lodging that sat on the Tourists property along the old Mohawk Trail—a popular 20th-century driving route for family road trips and honeymoons—spanning from North Adams, where Tourists sits today, to the Connecticut River some 60 miles east. But Tourists owes its entire name and identity to that history.

"When this was the heydey of the Mohawk Trail... each little rooming house or lodging put out a sign that said 'tourists' or 'tourists welcome' to let people know that they could stop and stay there," said landscape architect Jeremy Martin of Reed Hilderbrand, the firm responsible for the motel's seamless integration into its Berkshires environment, which includes a crossing by the famed Appalachian Trail.

the swimming pool at Tourists
 Peter Crosby

The grounds around Tourists are almost as well-documented on social media as the motel is, and for good reason. Every vignette and vista has been planned in painstaking detail. A swimming pool sits in a sunken space meant to take it away from the highway and towards the river. A sewage treatment tank is obscured by a riverside platform built as the perfect destination for the portable Kermit camping chairs supplied in each room. And a brand new suspension bridge provides access to what the Tourists team refers to as "the Beyond", over 50 acres of forest studded by trails, a "Chime Chapel" musical sculpture that's been played by Wilco (bassist John Stirrat is a partner in Tourists), a yoga platform that doubles as the perfect place for a party and a crumbling old mill and tannery soon to be converted into an event space.

the Beyond at Tourists
 Nicole Franzen

But where Tourists has developed its charm is not in its minimalist guest room interiors or even in is embrace of the outdoors. It's the property's camaraderie-encouraging common spaces that have become the best reason to book a room. "I loved the idea of a fire pit and how in that circle around it, people can always pull up and add in," Pearson said. "Everything sort of has that circle that can grow in its number of chairs and it can be as small or as big as it needs to—or wants to—be."

the deck at tourists
 Nicole Franzen

It was important to have a space that could transform easily at any time depending on what sort of sweet moments arose.

the slab coffee table at Tourists
 Nicole Franzen

Tourists' lodge is perhaps its most photographed space, with its signature exposed rafters, cinder block mantle, pendant lamps and vintage '70s Mario Bellini sofa. "Everything is really sort of a modular set-up so that the room can be transformed into if there’s an impromptu music show," said Pearson. "It was important to have a space that could transform easily at any time depending on what sort of sweet moments arose."

The room centers around an impressive slab coffee table made from local sugar maple, mirroring the trees planted just outside across the deck and lawn. Elsewhere on the grounds, a restored farmhouse (dubbed the Airport Rooms based on its history as an accommodation serving the airport across the street) offers private dining rooms for groups and a lounge and bar.

the Airport Rooms
Nicole Franzen 

Programming at Tourists doesn't take a back seat to design. The motel is host to Wilco's annual Solid Sound music festival, and regularly encourages touring musicians to pop in and participate in their "Sing for Your Slumber" policy, in which bands can play an impromptu gig at the motel in exchange for a free stay.

Tourists may bring to mind a certain brand of Insta-fame that defines some of the world's most photo-worthy destinations, but it's not overhyped. In ways both literal and figurative, Tourists is a concert where every attendee buys the band tee-shirt (or, in this case, trucker hat, or bandana) and immediately pulls it on over their existing outfit. Once the photos are filtered and posted, everybody's just happy to be a fan.

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