by Miyoko Ohtake
To call interior designer Nicole Hollis’s portfolio “eclectic” is an understatement. On one page you’ll find a modern man-cave with a colorful LED-lit staircase and on the next, a rustic kitchen outfitted with copper pots and wicker baskets. Each project has its own merits, but Hollis’s greatest strength as a designer lies in her chameleonlike ability to channel her clients’ desires.
After working for famed Napa Valley architect Howard Backen, Hollis founded her eponymous San Francisco firm in 2003. “I was turning 30 and thought, What do I want to do?” she remembers. “I didn’t have a Rolodex of names but I knew I wanted to do my own thing and had my own vision.” That vision included preserving the craft of carefully curated interiors. “I worry that the art of architecture and design will be lost on today’s disposable society,” she says. “I don’t think there are five easy steps. You can’t just Google ‘the art of living.’ Anyone can pick a chair but is it the right scale, fabric, proportion, weight?”
To successfully design beautiful, functional spaces, Hollis insists that collaboration—–whether with the architects on her staff or out-of-house landscape or audiovisual designers—–is the key. “You can’t ignore architecture; it’s what activates the interior,” she says. Today, however, “everything’s become so specialized,” Hollis says. “You’ve got to collaborate if you’re going to create great interiors.” After all, as she likes to say, it’s not the Nicole Show.
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