Nestled in the brewery district of downtown Reno, sits The Jesse Hotel + Bar – a getaway with a “farm-to-taco” cantina and seasonal cocktails in a stylishly renovated 1907 brick building. Rich architectural details and original art sit alongside warm tones and potted palms, all lending itself to an approachable atmosphere. Inspired by her many solo backpacking trips, owner Piper Stremmel, aimed to create a space with the same warmth found in the hostels she stayed in throughout her travels.
From the abundance of natural light to handcrafted textiles, floor-to-ceiling exposed brick walls, and hardwood floors, each design element is carefully considered. The result is a space that feels polished yet unpretentious. With six suites, an outdoor patio, and an on-site agave bar (scroll to the end for a perfect summery cocktail recipe!), the Jesse balances the comforts of a high-end hotel with the intimate environment of shared, sociable lodging. We caught up with Piper to learn about her initial inspiration, brand vision, and the challenges of renovating a century-old building.
How did the Jesse Hotel + Bar come about?
Passionate for all things hosting, travel, and design, Piper's inspiration for the Jesse and Estella began while traveling alone in her early 20s. Her appreciation for creating authentic and intimate lodging experiences developed during these travels. For the last decade, Piper has been building her career in the hospitality industry around the world. Her experiences and vision brought her to create her own boutique lodging property in her hometown.
After spending many mornings at her former neighborhood café, Sightglass on 20th, Piper enlisted Studio BBA to be her remote concept-driven architecture & design team and Studio Rushton-Smith for the brand design. The opportunity to transform the building, originally built as the 14-room Royal Hotel & Bar catering to transients and divorcees, inspired the program for the Jesse. The gut-and-redo renovation resulted in a shining independent hotel and bar focused on comfort, approachability, design, and the authentic Nevada experience.
What kind of experience do you hope visitors have? Could you walk us through the space?
The Jesse Hotel & Bar is situated on the corner of E. 4th Street (formerly Highway 40) in downtown Reno. This area is considered the growing Reno Brewery District - featuring many new local small businesses, bars, and restaurants staged in historical buildings. The Jesse is a stylish design-centric space catering to locals and travelers alike - offering comfortable guest rooms, deliciously crafted beverages, and an on-site taco shop with chef-made fare and an agave focused bar. The ground-level lounge is warm, inviting, and comfortable and offers seasonal craft cocktails, beer, and wine, and coffee or espresso in the mornings.
On the second and third floors of the building, six historic guest rooms boast industrial detailing throughout, with floor-to-ceiling exposed brick walls, hardwood floors, and city views. These thoughtfully designed rooms are ideal for travelers looking to immerse themselves in the urban enclave of downtown Reno and caters to those traveling with their fur companions.
Outside, the patio is our little oasis with a Wisteria vine-covered trellis, perfect for events and outdoor lounging and dining at Estella Tacos Y Mezcal.
How did the concept come about?
The Jesse brings unconventional culture to a historic building by celebrating both the property’s history and neighborhood, while looking to the future of a bustling and vibrant downtown. Studio BBA envisioned a plan that reoriented the site. The central courtyard now serves as the main hub of the complex. Guests enter through a new main gate into the brick-paved patio with furnishings inspired by the colors of Reno’s changing seasons. An existing trellis overgrown with lush vines greets bar-goers, hotel guests, and restaurant diners alike. The striking geometry of the building against the desert sky inferred the extension of architectural forms, reminiscent of Josef Albers’ colorwork in “Homage to the Square.”
The ground floor bar is a refined and playful oasis – directly contrasting the vibrant and weathered surrounding neighborhood. The colorful terrazzo bar, sunny ceramic tile backsplash, and subtle beadboard wainscot reinforce our color story and serve as the glowing backdrop to the furnishings, selected by BBA to honor Nevada-local craft. Custom plywood beds anchor each unique guest room, accented by mod furnishings and inventive, American-made lighting by Schoolhouse. Every guest room is also an art gallery, featuring beautiful works from the Stremmel Gallery.
What was one of the challenges of working with an existing building?
Transforming a building of this age will always have surprises. The biggest challenge was to adaptively reuse the existing framework while providing a modern experience that pays homage to the building's layered history. Studio BBA intimately collaborated with McElhaney Structural Engineers and Group West Construction, treating the building as an art object, and addressed each concern with a nimble touch.
We were particularly challenged by the Fire Department to create a rated fire separation between the public ground floor bar and the private hotel rooms above. By specifying surface-mounted lighting (Schoolhouse’s Alabax and Regent Pendant) instead of traditional recessed fixtures, we were able to simplify our ceiling construction to benefit our budget and schedule.
We looked for every opportunity to pay homage to the surrounding high desert, the history of the building, and its location.
Finally, could you tell us more about the ethos behind the brand?
The ethos of the brand is based on thoughtful design. We looked for every opportunity to pay homage to the surrounding high desert, the history of the building, and its location, with simple sophistication.
“From the stylized rooms, craft cocktails, furniture, interior design, and signage, the design all feels high-end yet approachable to everyone, as it is only one piece of the broad picture, nodding to the past and looking towards the future Reno.” - @studio_rushtonsmith
“Every insertion, including entirely new lighting, was deeply considered to ensure that modernity doesn’t exclude legacy. We are particularly inspired by Schoolhouse’s approach to ‘create the next generation of heirlooms.’ We share this ethos, that hospitality design should stand the test of time and provide a grounding sense of history in balance with an aspirational view forward.” - Anand Sheth, @studio_BBA
To end, Jesse's bar manager shares a refreshing recipe to try at home. "A fruity, floral, and fresh seasonal cocktail perfect for warm, summer days." - @thejessereno
Raspberry Fields Forever
1.5 oz of blanco tequila
0.5 oz elderflower liqueur
.75 oz agave
.75 oz lemon juice
A handful of muddled raspberries
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
Add all ingredients and shake until well combined.
Strain into a glass with ice.
Garnish with raspberries and mint or sage.
Photography and recipe courtesy of The Jesse Hotel + Bar