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Step Inside a SoMa Design Hive

The new workplace of interior designer Nicole Hollis turns a former tech office inside out.


Nicole Hollis’s office, fronted by steel-and-glass sliding doors by Villi Zanini. The gallery wall showcases art and photographs from her travels.

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Custom workstations by Muller Nichols include electric standing desks.

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Hollis in the conference room.

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Michael Boyd chairs and Berbere World Imports sculptures stand before the shou sugi ban burnt-wood wall of the materials library.

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The family-style James Perse table in the office kitchen is surrounded by chairs by Eames, Thonet, and Prouvé.

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The living-room-style waiting room features a dramatic plaster-and-steel fireplace.

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Chris French created the “bleached” metal backsplash in the office kitchen, as well as the base for the custom marble-topped kitchen island.

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Interior designer Nicole Hollis is known for creating spaces that conjure a sense of place: a wine country bathroom swathed in pinot-red lacquer; a Japantown hotel ceiling textured with whiskey bottles; a Scottish-inspired restaurant strung with lights modeled after Gaelic cowbells; a Hawaiian retreat floored in black basalt lava tile. So when she and her team outgrew their office in SoMa, it was a given that her new digs would say something, loudly, about what it means to live (or at least work) like Nicole. Call it Holliswood: a touch of industrial New York loft, a hint of golden L.A. glamour, a note of material-driven Japan, and a heaping dose of San Francisco quirk.

She and her husband and business partner, Lewis Heathcote, scouted San Francisco real estate for over a year before stumbling upon this 5,000-square-foot corner space, ringed in warehouse windows. Though the SoMa building rises beside 101, “it has a real New York–loft vibe,” says Hollis, herself a New York transplant. Best of all, its fifth-floor perch affords views stretching from Twin Peaks to the Bay Bridge. “As a previous tech space, it had tiny offices and really bad carpet,” Hollis recalls. Of course, the floor’s future tenants—her 40-person army of like-minded design professionals—were unfazed: “We knocked down walls and started over from scratch.”

The firm’s previous office was old-school industrial, marked by raw wood beams and great spans of concrete. “This time, we went the opposite direction,” Hollis says. “Clean and minimalist.” For the open workspace, she tapped Muller Nichols to create custom, all-white workstations built around electric standing desks. Rather than fluorescent bulbs, a series of Fontana Arte dome pendants glow overhead. Throughout the space, shared nooks provide an inviting alternative to the workstations’ stark whiteness. “We wanted to evoke a residential, homey feel when you arrive,” says Hollis. In the reception area, a plaster-and-steel fireplace by fabricator Chris French is surrounded by mid-century armchairs. Nearby, the gleaming welcome desk, also by French, is made of polished brass.

The firm’s materials library—the “not-so-pretty stuff,” jokes Hollis—is housed within a room nicknamed the Cube, its blackened wood walls charred using the Japanese shou sugi ban technique. Inside the singed box, rows of drawers are filled with sample tiles, stones, glass, and wood. Nearby, labeled bins correspond to Hollis’s active projects, which currently include a Yountville brewery, a Palo Alto hotel, and several city residences.

Although the fireside reception area invites hangouts, the designers tend to gravitate toward the James Perse table in the office kitchen, where a multiarmed light fixture arches, spiderlike, overhead. Even Hollis herself is regularly lured from her office to the communal dining table. In the evening, she says, it’s the best seat in the house: “You can look out the window and watch the sun set behind Twin Peaks.”


Originally published in the September issue of San Francisco

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