An Artisanal Mezcal Maker Opens an Intoxicatingly Muted Hotel in Oaxaca

An Artisanal Mezcal Maker Opens an Intoxicatingly Muted Hotel in Oaxaca

By Alia Akkam
Converted from a 17th-century residence, Hotel Sin Nombre eschews branding and embellishments for a down-to-earth experience.

In Oaxaca, even the most contemporary settings are imbued with an intoxicating, old-world spirit. Boasting a rich arts and crafts scene and preserved colonial architecture, the vibrant capital of the eponymous Mexican state is particularly adept at melding past and present. One intriguing example is the 22-room newcomer Hotel Sin Nombre, conveniently situated close to the shady Zócalo, the main square, and the commanding Neoclassical cathedral. 

Hotel Sin Nombre’s historic 17th-century facade hints at the minimalist interiors beyond. 

Taking the place of a rehabbed 17th-century dwelling, Hotel Sin Nombre—which translates to "Hotel With No Name"—is a collaboration between local artist and California transplant Elliott Coon and Portuguese architect João Boto Caeiro. Although the boutique address opened its doors in early March, just as COVID-19 was beginning to wreak havoc, Coon didn’t feel thwarted. 

A piano and chandelier glamorously offset an abundance of local wood.

A glass roof, columns, and 20th-century ironwork help create a subtly dramatic backdrop for the central, stone-floored courtyard below.

"If you name me, you negate me," a quote from Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, underscores the brand-free experience of Hotel Sin Nombre.

"I am a big believer in challenges being the greatest catalysts. They force us to innovate and unify," she says. After shutting down for a few months during the pandemic, Hotel Sin Nombre, with strict hygiene protocols in place, began to welcome guests again in July. Temperatures are checked, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer gels are generously dispensed, and citrus-based disinfectant is sprayed onto belongings. Biodegradable and natural products are used to frequently—and rigorously—clean all public spaces and guest rooms.

An overhead view of the courtyard reveals an artful mix of textures.

Staircase lighting creates the illusion that the steps are strewn with lanterns.

One of the limestone staircases, framed by an arch that helps conjure a Moroccan feel.

As co-founder of Gem&Bolt Mezcal, the agave spirit that is indigenous to Oaxaca, Coon considers the hotel a natural evolution. "One thing I find overarchingly true about the hospitality industry is that it’s all about creating and sharing beautiful experiences. Whether this be a dinner party or an art installation or a spirited concoction of herbs, at the end of the day, they are all platforms built to gather and celebrate," she explains. Hotel Sin Nombre, then, is the physical manifestation of that social engine, and Coon sees it "as a big stage." 

The central staircase highlights custom textile work by Rey David.

There is certainly a sense of theatricality, albeit understated, that pervades Hotel Sin Nombre. Boto Caeiro wanted to "honor traditional and vernacular architecture" with minimal design interventions, and so the facade was painstakingly revived. "Our intention was also to respect the original layout of rooms and public areas," he adds. "As such, the room sizes and plan design are not necessarily what we would create if we had begun from scratch, but through maintaining original floor plans, one is also able to experience the holistic essence of the building." 

Vaulted ceilings and walls embrace charcoal, limestone, earth, and clay.

A thin, blue neon light installation by Sabino Guisu adds an electric element to a sculptural staircase.

To showcase the mansion’s beautiful bones, Boto Caeiro turned to limewash and earth-based paints as well as local limestone, called cantera, for the flooring and columns, a material that is found in houses throughout the region. Wherever possible, elements were refurbished instead of replaced, like those original stone columns. Over the decades they’d been covered in layers of paint, but Boto Caeiro removed them to reveal their true forms. The columns that couldn’t be salvaged were exchanged for new limestone iterations carved to the same dimensions. 

Cacti, placed in a guest room corridor, help strengthen the connection between the indoors and outdoors.

Nopo, Pino, and Pucte, woods that are indigenous to southern Mexico, were also incorporated into the design scheme. "We chose a white and pale color palette to further emphasize the architectural play with light and shadow," points out Boto Caeiro. 

Black-and-white photography by Alberto Ibanez grace all the rooms and public areas like this corridor that invites relaxation.

That one could easily hole up all day in the subdued guest rooms, with their wooden platform beds and photography by Mexican artist Alberto Ibanez—in an era where privacy and solitude is of the utmost importance—is a boon. But when it’s time to venture out, there are a number of different spaces to spread out in, including the petite library, the vegan Oaxacan restaurant serving the likes of kombucha paletas, and the rooftop pool, brightened by a neon installation from Mexican artist Sabino Guisu. 

Guest rooms are elegant yet spare, mixing native Mexican woods with antiques.

Colorful hand-embroidered throws contrast with the crisp white bedding.

The showstopper is the sun-soaked central courtyard. Crowned with a glass cupola, it’s dressed with arches, low tables, and cushions that give it a chilled-out Moroccan air, but the smattering of cacti and pillows and rugs stitched by craftsmen that conjure Oaxaca’s rich textile legacy are decidedly Mexican.

Contemporary bathrooms feature unbranded toiletries and geometric compositions.

It’s a communal space, says Coon, that fosters dialogue between strangers—even if conversations must be socially distant for the time being. "I would like people to take away a renewed sense of connectivity from their visit," says Coon. "In a time where we are all feeling increasingly estranged and disconnected, this feels of utmost value." 

Throughout, textures and patterns enliven the hotel’s neutral palette.

The restrained palette echoes the hotel’s aim to be a blank slate for guests’ experiences.

Once plotting trips becomes the norm again, Coon thinks the notion of luxury will continue to recede: "The primary motivation behind travel will be to engage a new place and the intricate fiber of its culture and history instead of the old concept of ‘vacation’ to disconnect and disengage." Earthy Hotel Sin Nombre, packed with books, art, and mezcal, is just the place to start such an immersion.

Rooms at Hotel Sin Nombre start at $157 per night.

Related Reading:

Top Design Cities 2019: Oaxaca, Mexico

Watch: MINNA Teams Up With Oaxacan Artisans to Weave the Ethical Home Goods of Our Dreams

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: João Boto Caeiro, RootStudio / @_rootstudio_

Builder/General Contractor and Cabinetry Design/Installation: RootStudio

Structural Engineer: Ing. Nicolas Coello

Lighting Design: João Boto Caeiro

Interior and Furniture Design: João Boto Caeiro and Elliott Coon

Contributing Artists: Alberto Ibanez (black-and-white photography), Sabino Guisu (rooftop neon installation), Rufina de Atzompa (ceramics and dishware), Rey David Y Familia (textile weaving in main stairwell), Hermanos Gutierrez (patio floor textiles), and Elliott Coon (Bibliotekita/mini library)

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