Howard Johnson’s retro-hip redo: Don’t worry, orange and turquoise still rule


Back in the day, Howard Johnson’s orange roofs were as recognizable as McDonald’s golden arches. The first “motor lodge” opened in 1954 as an addition to the wildly popular roadside restaurant chain.

Though the restaurants are gone, there are still more than 200 HoJos in the U.S. and Canada, including 23 in California.


The brand, now owned by Wyndham Hotels & Resort, is refreshing rooms coast to coast with a $40-million retro-hip makeover that preserves the classic turquoise and orange decor. Each varies depending on location.

Southern California properties include hotels in Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Orange, Pasadena, Pico Rivera, Reseda, Torrance and three in the San Diego area.

“Through this major design refresh, our largest in more than 25 years, we wanted to reflect and pay tribute to our rich heritage while introducing elements that encourage a new generation of travelers to make quintessential HoJo memories,” Clem Bence, the company’s vice president and brand leader, wrote in an email Monday.

New contemporary touches designed to reflect the brand’s midcentury past include:

▶ rounded mirrors inspired by George Nelson’s marshmallow sofa from 1956;

▶ desk chairs that echo the Eames wire chair of 1951;

▶ a side table inspired by Eero Saarinen‘s pedestal table, circa 1956; and

▶ patterned headboards reminiscent of Florence Knoll’s pintuck sofa from 1954.

The chain started in 1925 as an ice-cream shop outside Boston by Howard Deering Johnson, who became such a skilled franchiser that at one point a new HoJo restaurant opened every nine days. The last restaurant closed in 2017.