2023 Residential Design Award: Nicole HollisAuthor:Anh-Minh Le
When setting foot in this 13,000-square-foot Presidio Heights residence, visitors are greeted by a polished bronze pumpkin, standing nearly five feet tall and instantly recognizable as a work by Yayoi Kusama. Just beyond it, a sculptural spiral staircase further captivates, as does a nearby Gerhard Richter watercolor. Taking in these aesthetic delights, it becomes abundantly clear: This is a singular and special place, guided by a passion for modern art—from the homeowners’ blue-chip collection to custom-created elements.
The goal for Nicole Hollis—whose San Francisco-based eponymous practice spearheaded the interior architecture and design—was a venue that not only functions for a young family of four but also serves
as “a backdrop to support their growing art collection,” she says, noting that her team considered the clients’ pieces and conferred with their art consultant, Laura Smith Sweeney. Given Hollis’ own enthusiasm for art and penchant for collaborations that yield one-of- a-kind results, it’s no surprise that she and the clients quickly developed a rapport. “They were so open and gave us carte blanche to do what we do,” she continues. “Even though we did the project during COVID—that was the tough part—I think we nailed it.”
The once French country-style interiors were completely gutted, with only the fireplace locations retained. Throughout the home, dark wood has been replaced with white Marmorino plaster walls and ceilings by Thom Bruce. For the striking staircase—built by Bay Area Millworks with plaster by Bruce and a the kitchen and another powder room with unexpected charm. The latter’s walls shimmer, thanks to a custom Venetian plaster with mica flecks by Londubh Studio; the pink hue is drawn from the Yoshitomo Nara work that graces the space.
Breccia Capraia—a marble with gray and deep aubergine veining—is prominent in the kitchen. “It’s all custom-made in Italy,” says Hollis. Typically, such undertakings entail traveling abroad to meet with the fabricators, but the pandemic prompted changes to the process. “We FaceTimed,” she recounts. “They called us from the quarry to show us blocks, and also called when they started cutting.” Similarly, the living room’s Calacatta Oro bookmatched fireplace, which Hollis designed with a curve, was achieved remotely. And in the primary bathroom, the flooring, wall cladding, vanity and carved tub were all cut from one block of Arabescato Corchia. “The stone itself has a lot of activity,” Hollis allows, “but the overall effect is soothing. There’s not a lot of different finishes and tiles in the room, so it feels calm and quiet.”
Amid a project teeming with exquisite bespoke features, the dining room still manages to stand out. “We commissioned Ingrid Donat out of Paris,” says Hollis. “We gave her the entire room—to do the hand-carved wood paneling and the bronze crown molding, baseboard, fireplace and lighting.” The endeavor was done via Zoom and email, with about 250 pages of shop drawings sent back and forth over the course of a year. Once Donat’s layout and finishes were finalized, Hollis selected additional items, like the Atelier Février rug, Faye Toogood console from Friedman Benda, Espasso chairs by Sergio Rodrigues and Paul Mathieu chandelier from Ralph Pucci. Donat created the dining table, too.
Hollis considers the two-year project a success in many ways. “Creatively, the collaborations with artists and fabricators—that’s where the magic happens, when you bring these creative minds together,” she says. And it’s a “good sign” that the parties involved in the home’s transformation, including Upscale Construction and architect Stephen Willrich, have a desire to join forces again on future projects. But most importantly, she says, “The clients are really happy, and that’s a win for me. This is their home; it needs to reflect them….Being able to work with their collection and having every room be adorned with such beautiful works of art is just the icing on the cake.”