The creative director and principal of her eponymous firm on being taken seriously in the design world and changing perceptions, one interior at a time.
By Lauren Mang
Photographed by Laure Joliet
For Nicole Hollis, creating a sense of home has always been of utmost importance.
The designer—who began her career working on interiors at architecture firms focused on residential, hospitality, and retail projects—wasn’t always fond how her field was regarded. “Residential design [was considered] less innovative,” she says. “The perception was that ‘decorators’ were not taken seriously in the design world, that residential interiors didn’t merit the attention of workspaces and hospitality venues. So I set out to change that.”
Hollis launched her San Francisco–based firm NICOLEHOLLIS in 2003 with the aim of blurring the line between architecture and interiors. “I approach a project thinking first about the architecture,” she says of her holistic design style. “I begin with the form of the building, study the light and scale, and from there begin selecting materials.” Since her firm’s inception, she and her husband Lewis Heathcote, who acts as its CEO, have grown the company into an award-winning studio that employs 80 designers. Her clients span the residential and hospitality arenas— everything from a dreamy waterfront getaway Hawaii’s in Kona Village, to Seattle’s dark and moody Palladian Hotel.
Hollis knew she was destined for interior design early on. “Drawing, sketching, arranging, and the ability to think three-dimensionally came easily to me,” she says. “I would walk into a space and numerous possibilities would form in my mind.” She credits art, light, and nature as a few of her main creative resources. That love of nature comes into play with a few of her go-to materials of the moment, including reclaimed wood, lime plaster, and formed concrete.
As for what’s next, Hollis has a few things up her collective sleeve, including the launch of NICOLEHOLLIS for McGuire Furniture (a collection of chairs, tables, benches, and accessories, and her first deep-dive into product design), and several residential homes, and various wineries designed in collaboration with San Francisco’s Walker Warner Architects, Norway-based design practice Snøhetta, and Seattle’s Olson Kundig, to name a few.
Consider those less-than-glowing interior design-related perceptions changed.
Nicole Hollis is a judge for the 2019 GRAY Awards. To get your tickets to the event, taking place on November 20 at Seattle’s Nordic Museum, visit grayawards.com.