hollis+morris Started on a Modern Pirate Ship

The Willow Sconce (shown here in oak) showcases the interplay of blown glass, metal and wood and the precision of their connections. Photos courtesy of hollis+morris


August 31, 2022

Mischa Couvrette and three friends, all recent college graduates, bought a battered sailboat one rainy day in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They had no in-depth experience with boats, sailing, or construction, but the premise of buying the boat (which was formerly a modern pirate ship), fixing it up, and sailing it was enticing. “It was like we didn’t have a choice,” Mischa says.

In many ways the process of repairing the boat felt like working in the dark. They replaced the engine, interior, booms, and sails, relying on the help of new friends in the boat world to guide them along the way. After several years of repairs and a triumphant sail to South America and back, Mischa and his friends all pivoted to design careers. Looking back, Mischa recalls how the project taught him to pull countless pieces together for one purpose. He learned to think like an industrial designer and entrepreneur, and it gave him the fuel to start a practice of his own—just at home rather than at sea.

Mischa began his furniture design career working out of his garage, making things that satisfied what he describes as an innate human desire to build. As his abilities and aspirations grew he founded hollis+morris, a Toronto-based design brand known for designing, refining, and constructing beautiful lighting and furniture in an all-in-one workshop and studio space. Mischa likes to go into the studio after hours, when the creative energy lingers and floods in the silence. “It’s easy to forget that five, six years ago I was just in a garage, smashing things together on my own, dreaming of where I’m at right now,” he says. “Now I have loftier ambitions, and I think I maybe always did, but it’s nice to see everything come to fruition.”

hollis+morris’ identity lies in designing beautiful lighting and furnishings made to last using locally sourced materials, primarily wood and metal, and perfected in the all-in-one workplace and studio. Mischa’s most recent design is the Scope collection of lighting—consisting of Apogee, Constellation, and Ellipse—designed like gibbous moons, strung up and dangling.

The goal was for the lights to be as minimal as possible, to create a simple silhouette made from only two materials: metal and frosted acrylic. “We looked at glass to diffuse the light, but it just didn’t feel right,” Mischa says. “The sandblasted acrylic stands out. I wouldn’t have thought that when we first went down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what would yield the nicest impact.”

The resulting fixtures resemble a necklace in many ways. “I’ve always seen the decorative realm of lighting as something so closely related to jewelry design,” Mischa says. At some point he even hopes to create miniatures of the light fixtures that can function as such.

But first Mischa is designing a collection of upholstered furniture: a dining chair, sofa, lounge chair, and bed. “I find the idea that one of the upholstered items cuts into the other one really exciting and interesting. The idea is that they’re all gonna have this feature, there will be very similar vernacular to them all.”

The wood shop at hollis+morris

The Old Town stool in production at the wood shop at hollis+morris