Vintage vibes abound at The Billy Motel in Davis.
Joy Malinowski remembers how the women on her street, friends of her mother, would dress up their homes interiors. Jewel tones in greens and blues. Brass and gold. Deeply colored, intricately patterned rugs. It was a reflection of the decorating style sweeping living rooms in her Ohio suburb in the 1960s: “oriental.”
Malinowski uses the outdated word with caution, but it’s the best way she’s found to explain the classic Asian design elements that have inspired the look and feel of the lobby and bar of her newest endeavour, The Billy Motel.
Situated along the edge of West Virginia Route 32, The Billy Motel is the final establishment to greet passersby heading northwest out of Davis, Tucker County, on their way to Thomas. Malinowski bought the mid-century building in 2015 and spent about a year working to return it to its original form, opening the small, 10-room motel in July 2016.
Serving as a bookend to a long row of rooms lined in carnival lights, The Billy’s lobby, which also serves as a bar, has become the center of this little motel’s life. Malinowski designed the space to look just like a cozy, dimly lit living rooms from her childhood with plenty of comfy, leather-backed wooden chairs and a cushy velvet sofa of mid-century modern design. The concrete floor has been painted to look like an old oriental rug. In one corner, there’s a bright red–orange mid-century stove with an angular, squat mouth. A print of “Chinese Girl”—Vladimir Tretchikoff’s 1952 painting of a young Chinese woman with bright red lips and a blue–green face—hangs on the wall.
Each night, the bartender piloting this tiny time capsule is there to greet guests and check them into their rooms while also whipping up cocktails. The Billy has become known among locals and tourists alike for its large offering of specialty cocktails—a rare luxury in a small town like Davis, which has only a handful of restaurants and a population of fewer than 700 people.
It’s easy to feel like you just entered the set of Mad Men, sitting in a slick leather-backed chair and sipping a Leonard’s Red Needle—tequila, cranberry juice, muddled lemon, and a splash of St-Germain—or a Justini, made with Tito’s Vodka, dry vermouth, and olive juice. “There’s just something nice and a bit old-fashioned about the bar at the motel,” Malinowski says. “I just love that convenience.”
Beyond the bar, The Billy offers weekenders a hip place to stay. With minimal furnishings, the rooms are designed for folks who are planning to be out and about throughout the day, taking a hike in Dolly Sods or visiting Blackwater Falls or strolling down Front Street in Thomas. There are no dressers or refrigerators or writing desks—just comfy chairs and big, soft beds to land in after a long day of exploring.
Instead of a fridge, The Billy provides a little cooler to keep guests’ drinks cold. Beds are made up with cotton linens and down comforters. And instead of offering a full lineup of cable channels, each room features a smart TV connected to streaming services like Netflix.
And one of the favorite ammenities in each room? The two drink tokens awaiting guests. There is no better way to celebrate your arrival than with a round on the house. 1080 William Avenue, 304.851.6125, thebillymotel.com @thebillymotel on Facebook
written by Anna Patrick
photographed by Nikki Bowman