Sisters Hannah and Emily Collins are on a mission to inject texture and personality into the design of Bay Area’s dining scene
Words by FLORA TSAPOVSKY
For a while, every single Californian eatery you stepped into looked a bit too familiar. White walls and relaxing birch, minimal textiles and plants in every corner, the tables white and ready to serve as Instagram backdrops. So when Media Nocne, a Miami-Cuban cafe in the San Francisco Mission neighborhood, opened in 2017, jaws dropped. Featuring bright turquoise columns and a bathroom wallpapered with bananas, the restaurant’s decor felt fresher and livelier than anything that came before it.
The project is an ideal example of the talents of sisters Hannah and Emily Collins, who co-founded hospitality interior design firm Roy in 2013. Since then, the studio has slowly become synonymous with a new type of dining experience in the Bay Area, featuring settings that are deeply personal, chic and, yes, popping with color.
“The reason people go out to restaurants is because they’re fun, so we always consider what elements make people enjoy themselves,” Hannah says. Despite the fact that the client’s needs always come before the firm’s aesthetic sensibilities, the duo can’t help but admit that certain touches have made their spaces instinctively recognizable. “Relevant yet timeless,” Emily says, describing Roy’s aesthetic. Hannah continues: “I like a minimalistic approach, but there’s always some aspect of quirkiness. A lot of our projects have a neutral palette with color strategically highlighting certain elements.”
Cases in point include Elda, a recently opened S.F. bar where palm trees mingle with ocean-green tile and electric-yellow finishes, and Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon, a historic property the pair outfitted with lattice leather chairs and deep-blue leather booths. At Wildseed, the brand-new vegan restaurant in the Marina neighborhood, blue touches are found throughout, perfectly complementing the golden light fixtures and wooden accents.
Most recently, Roy completed the second outpost of San Francisco Champagne bar The Riddler, whose proprietors chose New York City for a sophomore iteration. Though it opened just last month, The Riddler’s East Coast edition is already attracting crowds eager to sip and dine in the plush, luxurious interiors.
Before each project begins, the two designers collaborate closely with the venue owner to narrow down a specific concept, trying to work as much as possible with existing architecture. Sam’s, for example, was all about “coming up with design language that’s a modern interpretation of a 100-year-old narrative,” Hannah says. And at Elda, owned by a trio of first-time bar owners, the design was intended to be “very architectural, new and fresh.”
Next, the sisters make their first foray outside of dining, taking on a yet-to-open glamping hotel in Escalate, Utah. While the project may be in its early stages, rest assured this won’t be any run-of-the-mill resort. “The trend of lots of white is gone; people are interested in … color, angular shapes and plays on texture,” Hannah says of the task at hand. “It’s very adventurous, a lot of unknowns.” These two seem more than up to the challenge.
Feature image: For S.F. eatery WILDSEED, HANNAH and EMILY COLLINS of ROY design firm selected brilliant blue chairs, an abundance of plants, and gold and brass accents to make the space feel lively, warm and modern. Photo by Aubrie Pick.
Nov. 26, 2019
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