A San Francisco Design Collective Reveals its Impeccably Cool Creative Studio

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By Paige Alexus / Published by Dwell
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Nicole Hollis and her thriving design collective just completed a six-month renovation that transformed a 1920s industrial space into their new creative laboratory in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood.

Made up of more than 30 interior designers, architects, and furniture designers, Hollis’ team quickly grew out of their former office, which was originally built in 1908 and housed the oldest machine shop in San Francisco. After searching for a new home base, they discovered a perfect locale that was in need of a complete renovation, but was filled with potential—thanks to 5,000 square feet of valuable space and a substantial amount of tall windows that look out to impressive views of the city. They turned it into a bright, blank canvas where they can clear their minds, find inspiration, and focus on each individual project with fresh eyes. 

After knocking out confined cubicles and tearing up old carpet, the space is now a light-filled, minimal studio where the team can experiment on a daily basis.

When you first enter the space, you step into a moody entry salon with hand-applied Italian integral color plaster walls and a marble fireplace. Designed to feel welcoming and residential, it’s furnished with midcentury armchairs and a dramatic hanging light fixture by Bec Brittain.

When you first enter the space, you step into a moody entry salon with hand-applied Italian integral color plaster walls and a marble fireplace. Designed to feel welcoming and residential, it’s furnished with midcentury armchairs and a dramatic hanging light fixture by Bec Brittain.

Hollis points out, "You move from a dark reception salon into a bright white, open space. The contrast of moving from darkness into light is always part of my work." The reception desk consists of a brass-clad box that was custom made by Chris French Metals, and acts as Hollis’ ode to Donald Judd.

Hollis points out, "You move from a dark reception salon into a bright white, open space. The contrast of moving from darkness into light is always part of my work." The reception desk consists of a brass-clad box that was custom made by Chris French Metals, and acts as Hollis’ ode to Donald Judd.

"The space has a loft-like feel that’s a bit more New York—and hard to find in San Francisco." -Nicole Hollis

Hollis’ team opened the space by removing multiple walls and preserving the original steel windows and high ceilings. The views stretch from the Bay Bridge to Twin Peaks.

Hollis’ team opened the space by removing multiple walls and preserving the original steel windows and high ceilings. The views stretch from the Bay Bridge to Twin Peaks.

The central open work area is filled with white standing desks made by Muller Nichols, which sit under large dome pendants by FontanaArte.

The central open work area is filled with white standing desks made by Muller Nichols, which sit under large dome pendants by FontanaArte.

In the main conference room, Hollis and a few members of her team spread out photos and plans over a custom conference table made Christian Hummler. The pendants overhead are designed by Piet Boon for Moooi.

In the main conference room, Hollis and a few members of her team spread out photos and plans over a custom conference table made Christian Hummler. The pendants overhead are designed by Piet Boon for Moooi.

Hollis shares this office with her husband and CEO, Lewis Heathcote. Panton Chairs, designed by Verner Panton for Vitra, can be found in various areas of the office. Poured concrete floors are kept consistent throughout the space.

Hollis shares this office with her husband and CEO, Lewis Heathcote. Panton Chairs, designed by Verner Panton for Vitra, can be found in various areas of the office. Poured concrete floors are kept consistent throughout the space.

To create a place where employees and visitors can have family style lunches, they brought in a large dining table by James Perse. The hanging light is Lampada 046 by Dimore Studio.

To create a place where employees and visitors can have family style lunches, they brought in a large dining table by James Perse. The hanging light is Lampada 046 by Dimore Studio.

Directly next to the dining area is the dark kitchen, which has a custom island that's made with a metal base and a CoorItalia Calacatta marble top. Designed by Chris French, it’s designed to invite socializing.

Directly next to the dining area is the dark kitchen, which has a custom island that's made with a metal base and a CoorItalia Calacatta marble top. Designed by Chris French, it’s designed to invite socializing.

Hollis made sure to create areas where vendors, artists, and artisans can drop off their work or samples. Shown here is the materials library and high-top tables that provide storage and allow for casual, impromptu meetings.

Hollis made sure to create areas where vendors, artists, and artisans can drop off their work or samples. Shown here is the materials library and high-top tables that provide storage and allow for casual, impromptu meetings.

Hollis explains that they use acrylic trays (like the ones shown here) for presentations, both internally or with clients. "The trays present actual material specifications and are typically organized by room. The materials are filed away after presentations," she says.

Hollis explains that they use acrylic trays (like the ones shown here) for presentations, both internally or with clients. "The trays present actual material specifications and are typically organized by room. The materials are filed away after presentations," she says.

Their materials library is partitioned from the open space with charred wood walls that have been turned black with the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique. Shown here is the storage side of this wall.

Their materials library is partitioned from the open space with charred wood walls that have been turned black with the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique. Shown here is the storage side of this wall.

The space is also filled with Herman Miller’s all-black edition of the Eames Molded Fiberglass Armchair.

The space is also filled with Herman Miller’s all-black edition of the Eames Molded Fiberglass Armchair.