With a deep regard for history, San Francisco interior designer Nicole Hollis adds a burst of contemporary elegance to an 1866 townhouse
When Stephanie and Rowan Trollope hired acclaimed San Francisco designer Nicole Hollis to renovate and redesign their Russian Hill townhouse two years ago, Hollis, noted for her deft deployment of modernism, was immediately captivated by the opportunity to bring the historic property into the 21st century
Originally built in 1866, the three-story house had been renovated by California architect Julia Morgan in 1916, and still maintained the elegant Victorian air and classical proportions. Today, Morgan’s classic Italianate, stucco exterior is still intact.
“In this day and age, it’s important to remember the woman who paved the way for all women in design and architecture.”
“The work of Julia Morgan has always been an inspiration to me,” says Hollis of the groundbreaking Beaux Arts-trained figure behind Hearst Castle. “In this day and age, it’s important to remember the woman who paved the way for all women in design and architecture. I was very honored to be working on one of her homes.”
This was to become a multipurpose residence: a family home for three children, and a home office for their father. Rowan Trollope is senior vice president and general manager of Internet of Things (IoT) and applications at Cisco Systems Inc. He is also an accomplished international mountaineer who wanted a storage/workroom for his rock-climbing equipment and his Triumph motorcycle.
San Francisco architect Aleck Wilson opened up the house to all-day southern sun, as well as the ultra-private garden. The light-drenched living room now flows to the kitchen and dining room.
Hollis set about identifying what was timeless and what should be contemporized, without being trendy. Taking a high-low approach and blending furnishings from different eras and styles, spanning LED tube light pendants by of-the-moment talent Bec Brittain to 1950s Italian lounge chairs in ebonized wood, Hollis followed the family’s mantra to prioritize comfortable, easy living, with nothing too precious.
The kitchen features a custom island designed by Wilson, and a black-and-steel La Cornue stove. The custom oak-and-brass dining table, designed by Hollis, is centered on the original historical fireplace and antique surround with a painting over the mantel by Christopher Badger.
The original ballroom on the second floor was converted into a romantic master bedroom, complete with the original antique French marble fireplace. “There were no closets so we imagined monoliths with satin-polished brass doors, to create a soft golden reflection in the room and incorporate closets, a TV and a headboard,” says Hollis.
“Stephanie and Rowan have been great clients with real vision and appreciation for design and art,” she adds. “They allowed me freedom to create an environment that embodies their personal style.”
With hints of the future and the evolving family, the house nonetheless continues to pay homage to Julia Morgan, whose influence lingers in every room.
Photography by DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN.
Written by DIANE DORRANS SAEKS.