Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Designer I Love: San Francisco Interior Designer Nicole Hollis

An eye for precision and delight:  Presenting Nicole Hollis with her new vision of superbly crafted modernism.

In her two-decade career Hollis has attracted a devoted following—while keeping somewhat under-the-radar for her privacy-loving clients.

“We believe that great interiors start with harmonious architecture and maintain a respectful relationship to the landscape,” says Nicole Hollis, who founded her firm, NICOLEHOLLIS, in 2002.

“Our interiors, commercial or residential, aim to enhance the setting and the architecture,” said the designer. “Our goal is to enhance their lifestyle in a beautiful, well-appointed space.”

“My philosophy is not to decorate for decoration’s sake, and that less is more when it comes to furnishings,” said Hollis. “I admire simplicity. I like a bit of empty space in a room. Art or vintage pieces can be added later. I do not feel rooms need to be crammed full of furniture. Everything there should have a purpose or meaning to the client. The result is harmony, a sense of ease, a feeling of possibilities.”

Nicole’s design process and first meetings with clients involve closely listening and observing, to create the perfect fit.

“Clients ask for “modern” and we spend a large amount of time asking questions and defining and clarifying what “modern” means to them,” she said recently, at her sun-filled South of Market studio.

This in-depth research and discussion and listening create the road map for the follow-up outlines, proposed designs, and work.

“Our first meeting informs our design decisions throughout the entire creative process, from start to completion,” said Hollis. “The process of our design is one of discovery and ideas in close collaboration with our clients.”

And the high-concept projects she is working on now around the US are informed by design innovation and relationships over the last two decades.

Originally from Florida, Hollis attended the Interior Design Program at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC. On graduation she worked at an architecture firm that focused on retail and fashion showrooms to gain real-life training in the field.

“In 1998 I moved to San Francisco to work as a design coordinator for the W Design Group, launching the new line of W hotels,” said Hollis.

In 2000 she joined Howard Backen at Backen, Gillam & Kroeger. She worked with the lauded team of architects and designers on private wineries, California resorts, retail stores, and large-scale residences.

“In 2002, my husband and business partner, Lewis Heathcote, encouraged me to found my own firm, NICOLEHOLLIS, to focus on high-end residential design, said the designer,” said Hollis. She expanded the studio into hospitality in 2013 design. 

Nicole Hollis said goal is always to create an environment that supports and lifts the human spirit. She finds ideas in many fields of creativity.

A House in Tiburon, Overlooking San Francisco Bay

“Fashion has always been an inspiration to me, for it silhouettes and textiles and exciting color combinations,” said Hollis. “The late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was a great influence. He created modern clothes that had a sense of drama and decorum and tradition as well. He dreamed up designs based on historical precedents, and loved to work with high-concept old-world techniques to create fashions of startling modernity. His approach was sometimes to startle, and always to design what I call beauty with an edge. That balance of modern and traditional is something I always keep as a goal.”

A Retreat in Kona, Hawaii

Designer Nicole Hollis loves a challenge. She and her ultra-talented forty-member firm work on diverse commissions such as an ultra-modern all-white house in Pacific Heights, a chic wine boutique in Healdsburg, an elegant hotel in South Beach, Florida, a new mountain resort, or a large-scale city residence, and now a retreat in Kona, Hawaii.

And she’s not boxed in about style—adopting ideas and concepts that are customized for each commission.

Additionally, the admired Napa Valley architect Howard Backen has served as inspiration and mentor.

“Working on interiors at an architecture firm gave me a real focus on the finer points of interior architecture, and how important it is to get the details of architecture right before proceeding with decoration,” she said.” I must get the space perfectly proportioned and practical before orchestrating the furniture and beautiful objects.”

As her career develops, Hollis has attracted some of the leading vintners in the Napa Valley.

“I’ve been connected with the Napa Valley since I moved to California over twenty years ago,” said the designer. “ I have forged relationships with wine-makers that have evolved into great collaborations including Ovid, Hall Wines and Brasswood. Vintners appreciate our holistic approach.

Hollis is known for her powerful use of natural light and for commissioning custom designs created by craftsmen and artists.

A Residence in Pacific Heights, San Francisco

“I love design in which craft and design meet.” Hollis said. “I use natural materials like wood, stone and marble, and warm metals like brass and bronze. They add a layer of warmth to a modern space and bring luxury, nuance and emotion. It’s a way to add a sense of drama without being theatrical. ‘

As her firm grows, Hollis counts her blessings.

“I enjoy working with some of the most talented people in the industry and I appreciate our collaborations with clients, architects, landscape architects, builders, artisans and fabricators,” said Hollis. “As we move forward, it is a huge undertaking and there are so many people involved. Design today is a stressful, high-stakes job and I cannot image doing anything else. I love it.”

A House in Larkspur, Marin County, San Francisco

About Nicole Hollis

Nicole Hollis is a designer and creative director whose mission is to create timeless interiors that elevate the human spirit. As founder of NICOLEHOLLIS she leads an award-winning, San Francisco-based collective of more than 40 interior designers, interior architects and furniture designers to orchestrate her holistic approach to the art of living through residential, hospitality and product design.

With more than 20 years of experience in both residential and hospitality design, Nicole’s portfolio of clients ranges from global leaders and notable innovators who appreciate her ability to create a home that supports and enhances today’s modern lifestyles.

Nicole attended the Interior Design program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and later in Paris at the Université de Paris. In 1997 Nicole joined Starwood Hotels as a founding member of design team that launched the company’s flagship W hotels. Later, she joined architects Backen, Gillam & Kroeger, where she was tapped to head their interiors department. She founded NICOLEHOLLIS in 2002 with her husband and business partner Lewis Heathcote, who is currently CEO.

Upcoming Projects

Nicole’s residential projects in progress include Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Francisco Bay Area, Hawaii, Monterey Peninsula, Aspen and other locations.

Hospitality projects are located around the country. Some of these projects include:

• The Candler Hotel in Atlanta (Curio Hilton) – This is a landmarked building and Atlanta’s first skyscraper – a Beaux Arts building that was built in 1906 and if the former headquarters for Coca Cola. It will entail 265 guest rooms.

• Angler’s Restaurant and Hotel in Miami Beach (Kimpton) – This is a historic South Beach property and new tower with 132 rooms. Hemmingway stayed here in on trips to Miami.

• Yotel in San Francisco – This is the historic Grant building on Market Street

Where to find Nicole Hollis:



Photography courtesy Nicole Hollis, with express permission.