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Holbrooke showcases local talent

Since 1852, the iconic Holbrooke Hotel has embraced so much life. The stories echoing in its bones hold the strength of its character.

For several recent months, with undying honor and respect, designers, contractors, craftsmen and artists have worked heartily to restore and revive the Holbrooke for a truly grand reopening.

Anne L’Esperance is lead designer. A Minnesota native, she lived in Portland for 15 years where she worked with the founder of the Lightning Bar Collective, John Janulis.



“I worked at and opened their first two bars with them,” she said.

“And it’s exciting how beautiful it is. They used a lot of local talent and the Holbrooke is shining brightly. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m proud to be part of that achievement.”— Sarah ColemanLocal artist

While living in Portland, L’Esperance graduated with a degree in architecture from Portland State University “And I began my path into the design/build world,” she said.



When she and Janulis were working on the Villa Royale in Palm Springs they met Brian Kelly of Eastern Real Estate who had just bought the Holbrooke and the National. “Over the course of that next year we slowly became involved and I eventually came on as design team lead and project manager of our contractor crew,” she said.

The design team included L’Esperance, Janulis, Doug Washington of August Design Studios and Bri Ingram of Grass Valley. “Miss Moth Design and Cru Dorsey both brought in their personal touches creating hand painted signage at the Holbrooke,” she said.

Another local artist commissioned to paint a mural on the second floor vestibule is Sarah Coleman.

Many may know her from her murals at Onyx Theater and Kitkitdizzi in Nevada City, as well as the Cake Bakery in Grass Valley and the River Valley Banks in Grass Valley and Auburn.

Coleman painted the mural at the Holbrooke along with local artist Brianna French.

The Holbrooke designers’ vision for the mural was a pastoral countryside.

“They came to me asking if I could emulate some wallpaper they were considering,” Coleman said. “So we kept the same feeling and palette but shifted the imagery to highlight our local landscape including pine, oak and madrone trees.”

The designers wanted it light and airy in the stairwell and elevator lobby as they plan to have a lot of wedding photos taken there. “It feels very serene and elegant up there. It’s possible that the hotel has never looked better in its long history,” Coleman said. “And it’s exciting how beautiful it is. They used a lot of local talent and the Holbrooke is shining brightly. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m proud to be part of that achievement.”

“Art is an extremely important aspect of every project we work on,” L’Esperance said. “Equally as important is the community in which you build and work in. We always try to source from the local pool of artists, contractors and workers as much as possible. There is a certain sense of pride that one takes when working on something within their own community and it is an opportunity to let people shine and be a part of something that will hopefully be around for the rest of their lives. Sarah’s mural in the hotel really brings an organic feeling of what the area offers as far as trees, plants, scenery and art goes. It lines up with the horizon facing out a large window and it adds so much to the space. We are thrilled with how it turned out.”

Lightening Bar Collective had originally contracted just for the bar. “But as things moved forward, it became a more all-encompassing role,” L’Esperance said. “It was a team effort on most levels. While our design team had specified areas of focus, much of it became collaborative.”

L’Esperance said there are too many sources to list all furniture and fixtures but much of what you will see was saved from the property and restored by local craftsmen. “We have a thoughtful mix of vintage and modern pieces that were curated to tell the hotels’ ongoing stories,” she said.

When asked if she had to bookend the Holbrooke from how it was when they started to the finished design, she called one end “A bold character deferred of upkeep and in need of well-deserved love and care.” And the other, “A refined representation of graceful aging.”


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