Nicole Hollis knows luxury. After beginning her career in New York designing hospitality and retail spaces for brands like Valentino and Armani, the interior designer settled in San Francisco, founding her eponymous firm in 2001. She transferred her eye for quality materials and functional details in hospitality and retail to the homes of leaders in the tech industry. In the Bay Area there are often scenic views and local identities to incorporate, diverse families and lifestyles to reflect, and ample budgets to execute every one beautifully, allowing Nicole to create magnificent spaces.
Apart from pure expense Nicole recognizes that luxury interiors involve comfort, quality, and safety. “To me luxury is being able to afford strong, clean, safe materials and working with craftspeople we know are ethical and have a great approach to making,” Nicole says. Whether she’s designing a Napa guesthouse with fire-safe shou sugi ban walls or a Moroccan-inspired primary home with plaster details straight from the streets of Marrakesh, Nicole is always thinking about how the final home will be used and loved.
Quotes by Nicole Hollis unless otherwise noted.
“The finishes, materials, and the architectural details are usually what we tackle first because they affect construction. We usually have two tracks of meetings—one to make construction decisions and keep the drawings up-to-date and another to talk about furniture. We work backward from when the construction schedule says the house will be ready for furniture to prioritize.”
“The clients were very involved in the color schemes; they wanted a rainbow of bright colors. We really took it to the next level. I didn’t want it to go the wrong way; it could have gotten really tacky or cheesy, so we struck a balance. It’s important that the clients are involved. It is their home, so it needs to reflect their personality and their lifestyle.”
“The clients’ design program was very Burning Man meets Grateful Dead, meets San Francisco Victorian, meets Morocco. They hadn’t been to Morocco before so we all went to see classical and contemporary examples of Moroccan architecture, design, and tile. The clients got to choose exactly what they wanted—like all of that plaster work here came from Marrakesh.”
“Our clients get deep into the drawings and materials. They often want to meet the artists—they’re willing to fly to meet them or go to studios, galleries, and showrooms. The client here went to Katie Stout’s studio in Brooklyn, and that’s how the chandelier for the kids retreat came about. Kids deserve great design, too.”
“That headboard by Ido Yoshimoto is custom-made. My husband and I selected the redwood and Ido brought it back to his studio, which was once JB Blunk’s studio. Ido’s father was JB Blunk’s assistant, and he met Noguchi when he was a child. There’s a lot of Noguchi maquettes in the studio, so as we designed this headboard, we’re looking at these sketches by Noguchi and JB Blunk. It was a special experience to have that headboard for my home fabricated there.”
“Getting some texture and material play was my priority in my son’s room. The curtains are hand-embroidered and have a little bit of sequined shimmer, but the Bouroullec brothers’ installation on the wall gives us a softness. Now he’s added his touch, and in that sense, it’s about keeping it simple and adaptable.”
“Clients say no every day, and I never get offended. You spitball a little bit and you don’t take it personally. My team—not so much. They worked so hard to get that concept, rendering, or idea. But you just have to be able to throw your babies out. It’s OK. You’ve got more ideas; I’ve got thousands of ideas.”
“Every project is different. We don’t have a formula, and we always start from scratch. It’s harder to be original and not duplicate. It challenges myself and my team to keep experimenting, exploring, and developing ideas. We’ve had failures in the past, but you learn from those, too. It’s important we keep evolving.”
“There is a lot of anticipation of needs in hospitality design that translates to luxury interiors. We think through all the details clients don’t consider. Maybe in the kitchen we’ll make sure the things you see are beautiful, and the things you shouldn’t see are like the back of house. Creating that separation of function when designing a house involves that hospitality aspect.”