Design, Architecture & The City: a rendez-vous with San Francisco local designer and architects.

anna volpicelliComment


Hall Winery ST. Helena tasting rooms.

Hall Winery ST. Helena tasting rooms.

Design is a way of living. It is a lifestyle. It combines beauty and functionality. “As designer we have the duty to serve a function because what we design has to support people lives. At the same time it has also to be beautiful and emotional uplifting” said Nicole Hollis, creative director and principal of NICOLEHOLLIS. Listening what a house, a building, a room has to reveal is part of her creative process. Making connection with clients, architects she works with, researching natural materials like stone, woods is part of the exploration of a new environment, of a new challenge. “When I start a new project I am more focused on what other people have to say, what are their needs, expectations, what are their habits and lifestyle. From there I start my journey in finding the ideal solution for them”. Beauty is an essential part of her work which has nothing to do with perfection. “Imperfection is beauty. It is more human and it makes you at ease, at home. That’s why I love artisanship, it embodies the power of the human touch that brings an emotional connection to where you live”.

We sat with the designer in her office talking about the industry, San Francisco and the importance of mentorship.

D: How have the local design and architecture industries changed in the last 5-10 years?

NH: The design industry is becoming more sophisticated and more international. Visibility is now more on a national and international stage thanks to the innovation in technology that has brought more attention to the Bay Area. Design has been elevated by Apple, IDEO and all the tech companies. More architecture firms are opening offices here, designers and clients are more demanding. I think, in general, that clients are more knowledgeable than ten years ago. Their eyes have been trained by more information, more possibility to travel, more creativity and more trust on the design industry to deliver.

D: How is technology affecting the idea of design and architecture, the development of new products and new buildings?

NH: Tech companies are investing in design more than in the past. It started few years ago when Google was building playgrounds in its locations. At that time it was weird. Now it is a trend. Tech companies are becoming more experienced and they look for higher quality. They are willing to hire fine artists, designers and famous architects to build and renovate their offices. This is good for the industry because it brings more money in. They are hiring more qualified firms like Gensler, for instance. I think as technology is evolving design is evolving too.


Sonoma Live Oak fireplace

Sonoma Live Oak fireplace

D: What are your favorite design pieces and architecture projects in the Bay Area?

NH: I like the de Young Museum. I love the San Francisco Federal Building. I think that when Thom Mayne of Morphosis Smithgroup designed it, he took a risk because it is not a common San Francisco project. The new SFMOMA is very exciting and there are some really great residential architecture going on right now. Salesforce tower is supposed to be interesting too.

D: In your opinion, who are the new young and talented designers and architects in the Bay Area?

NH: We have many extremely talented and up-and-coming designers here at NICOLEHOLLIS.

D: What do you think about housing affordability? Is there a solution to solve this problem?

NH: We need more affordable house. Otherwise we are going to be one single society of technology engineers with no artists or creative people. This is a shame. 

The Palladian Hotel in Seattle, meeting room.

The Palladian Hotel in Seattle, meeting room.

D: What are your thoughts on San Francisco and the Bay Area’s future?

NH: I think that a lot of good design is coming to the city thanks to this bubble we are living in right now. I am looking forward to seeing more good buildings. Just look at restaurants or hotels, for instance, owners are paying much more attention to interior design. People are buying houses and they are investing money to restore them. This is a good sign.

D: What are you doing to leave a positive mark on San Francisco and the Bay Area?

NH: I think mentoring is a good way to leave a positive mark. Honestly I am not so interested in leaving a mark on the city in itself, but I am more stimulated to have an impact on people. As a woman, most of all, I always encourage all the women that work with me to speak up and to not be afraid of sharing their ideas. We deserve respect as men in this industry and I want them to be confident. At the end of the day self-confidence is the key to be successful.


Nicole Hollis.

Nicole Hollis.