2020 Residential Interior Design Award: Nicole Hollis


By the time Nicole Hollis set foot in the Queen Anne-style residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, its nearly 7,400 square feet had been “gutted down to the studs,” the interior designer recalls. “There was tremendous potential and we were afforded opportunities to develop key moments with the clients’ desire to do something significant.” According to Hollis, the homeowners—a couple with two young boys who were looking to lay down roots—desired spaces that were modern as well as comfortable and livable, with “custom furnishings and interior finishes that would sustain the wear and tear of toddlers and golden retrievers, as well as host friends and family.”

The living room is furnished with a Jean-Michel Frank sofa and a custom Nicole Hollis travertine-topped coffee table. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
A custom mirror by Barnaby Barford from David Gill Gallery shines bright in the living room. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Over the course of three years, Tim Murphy began the process before Hollis’ eponymous firm was brought on to help finish these objectives. The collaboration helped ensure that the finishes and materials complemented the furnishings and art. “Throughout the project,” says Hollis, “we sourced vintage pieces, designed custom furniture and found new modern pieces to create a beautiful, functional interior while staying true to the classical architecture.” Although no surface was left untouched, period details like the crown molding were kept in place. Antique fireplace surrounds and mantels provided inspiration as Hollis reimagined the formal living and dining rooms for present-day living.

Hollis had the clients’ existing rosewood dining table refinished in an espresso stain to better suit the finishes in the room. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
In the dining room, a painting by Bernadette Jiyong Frank from Dolby Chadwick Gallery hangs above a Studioilse brass cocktail cabinet. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

As part of what Hollis describes as a “modern reinterpretation,” a brand- new kitchen, family room, master bedroom and upstairs lounge were in order. Most importantly, the entire home’s layout was vastly improved; many of the rooms were previously long and narrow. “By opening walls and reformatting the house,” she elaborates, “we were able to make the home more functional.” Likewise, the furniture selection prioritized practicality. A custom leather- upholstered ottoman, for instance, has just enough padding at its corners to make it kid-friendly. A boy’s bedroom features a Nicole Hollis-designed full- size daybed with a trundle that accommodates the needs of growing children.

The Hollis design team created a custom bar, suitable for entertaining. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
A nine-globe branching Burst chandelier by Lindsey Adelman is a focal point in the kitchen. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
Dark floral wallpaper by Ellie Cashman Design sits behind a mirror by Lee Broom. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

While the overall scheme is “quite soft and romantic,” says Hollis, she notes that “each room has a different palette and different levels of natural light.” Every space tells a singular story and every piece in the house was chosen with purpose. The light fixtures in particular deliver drama and texture. There’s Lindsey Adelman’s Burst chandelier—with its striking handblown glass spikes and barnacles, accented with 24-karat gold foil—that presides over the dining room. The master bedroom’s sitting area is illuminated by John Pomp’s Rock Edge chandelier, comprised of two tiers of hand-cast, sculpted glass crystal. Another standout garnish: the formal living room’s custom Acqua mirror by Barnaby Barford from David Gill Gallery. “Each piece is gold- glazed ceramic individually wired to the mirror frame,” says Hollis. “It adds a level of reflectivity, dimension and interest to the space.”

A boy’s bedroom features a Nicole Hollis-designed full- size daybed with a trundle that accommodates the needs of growing children. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

For the art, Hollis and her team turned to local establishments—among them Dolby Chadwick Gallery and Jessica Silverman Gallery—and sourced from art fairs. “The clients have been slowly building their art collection over the years and worked with us to procure some key pieces, like the John Chiara in the dining room,” says Hollis. In the living room, a painting by JMary from Almond & Co. and Louise LeBourgeois’ Whip Waves #600 from Dolby Chadwick hang above the sofa and piano, respectively.

The master bedroom includes a custom canopy bed by Uhuru Design and nightstands of Hollis’ design. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
A custom vanity flanked by shelving for shoes and handbags is in the master closet. Photos by Douglas Friedman.
Soft hues and brass tones dance throughout the master bathroom. Photos by Douglas Friedman.

Across its four levels, the dwelling allows for enviable amenities such as
a second-floor terrace that offers alfresco dining, and a fourth-floor terrace complete with a fire pit and easeful seating to relax in while marveling at
the stunning vista. The latter also came in handy during Hollis’ installation: “Due to the number of stairs,” she says, “we ended up craning in most of the furniture through the top-floor deck.” Talk about rising above a challenge. – Anh-Minh Le