HomeInterior DesignNicoleHollis Transforms a Storied House right into a Elegant Duplex

NicoleHollis Transforms a Storied House right into a Elegant Duplex

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The apartment in downtown Manhattan was expansive, sprawling over more than 5,600 square feet on two levels. And it was located on the opposite side of the country. But it took just two months for Nicole Hollis, principal and creative director of her namesake San Francisco–based firm, to get the duplex up and running and her clients moved in. 

It helped that the residence in question was in excellent condition, requiring little more than the removal of wallpaper and various built-ins that previous owners had installed, followed by plastering and painting. It was also on the top two floors of the historic Puck Building, the late 19th–century former printing plant and one-time home of the satirical weekly magazine Puck (not to mention the locale of the interior design studio of Debra Messing’s Grace Adler in the sitcom Will & Grace), with two gilded statues of the impish Puck character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream standing outside. The 11-story redbrick Romanesque revival building currently houses a mix of residential and commercial tenants (the REI flagship store is at its base). “It’s iconic,” begins Hollis, who went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Midtown and had an early design crit in this very building. Today, her studio’s portfolio encompasses worldwide residential design, about 85 percent of business, but also hotel projects, about 15 percent, which secures her ranking on two of Interior Design’s Giants lists: 64th amid the top 100 and 51st among hospitality. 

How Nicole Hollis Approached This Duplex Design for Repeat Clients

sitting room with dark black couch and chairs and the exposed red brick wall in the backgroundsitting room with dark black couch and chairs and the exposed red brick wall in the background
Featuring an original barrel-vaulted brick ceiling and a Sheila Hicks woven sculpture, the living room’s open and airy furniture plan is suitable for the client to host small charity events, with guests seated in Arttu Brummer’s mohair-upholstered wingback chairs and a custom leather-wrapped sofa, all served by a Vincenzo De Cotiis cocktail table and Noro Khachatryan’s onyx side table.

For this project, Hollis already knew the clients and their taste well, having done multiple homes for them over a dozen years, including their primary residence in Silicon Valley. A couple whose three daughters are now teenagers, they prioritize comfort. “It’s like shorthand with them by now,” Hollis continues. The clients wanted to start using their new place as soon as possible—the husband often comes to New York for business, and his wife is involved in charities and the arts—so Hollis hit the ground running. 

With original brick walls and barrel-vaulted ceilings and iron beams and columns providing strong character, Hollis quickly decided that her approach would be “keeping things calm and neutral.” She opted for a quiet palette that ranges from creamy whites to warm grays and browns with the glint of gold, brass, and bronze in select furnishings. There’s virtually no pattern in the place, save for the existing black, white, and gray marble flooring in the foyer, but luxurious textures—cashmere, mohair velvet, woven leather—abound. Much of the color is supplied by a collection of arresting artworks by the likes of Olafur Eliasson, Sheila Hicks, and Donald Judd, procured by consultants with whom the clients and Hollis had worked in the past. 

Fresh Furnishings and Plenty of Space to Entertain

living room with black lounge chairs and a colorful cloud-like wall pieceliving room with black lounge chairs and a colorful cloud-like wall piece
Another view of the living room reveals a pair of 1960’s lounge chairs by Liceu Artes e Oficios standing before an Olafur Eliasson wall piece.

The homeowners brought little more than a single piece of furniture to the apartment—a walnut-slab table with a bronze base by Tyler Hays that would go in the dining room—so there was lots of shopping to do. Hollis scooped up an overscale mobile chandelier by Céline Wright plus a set of eight 1960’s walnut-and-leather chairs by Sam Maloof to go above and around the dining table. “To get chairs that were comfortable and available—those were a coup,” Hollis notes. The designer knew the clients liked the sectional sofa with built-in bookshelf by Antonio Citterio that she’d selected for their primary residence, so she got another one for the family room here and paired it with a mesmerizing green-ombre coffee table by Ini Archibong. As for the balance of the furnishings, Hollis and her team gathered contemporary and mid-century pieces, artisan-made works and those NicoleHollis designed itself. 

The lower level, containing the entry foyer, living and dining rooms, kitchen, den, and gym, needed to accommodate work and entertaining as well as family life. In the living room, for example, the main seating group, which revolves around a sculptural cast-brass cocktail table by Vincenzo De Cotiis, might be the setting for a charity event. Meanwhile, near the window, two tub chairs and a bronzed table by Hun-Chung Lee provide an intimate spot for morning coffee. Upstairs is a second foyer, three bedrooms and bathrooms, and a home office. In the bedrooms, Hollis streamlined the decorating, installing temporary bedframes until custom ones, upholstered in linen or wool bouclé, were completed, and showing restraint everywhere. “It’s so easy to overdo, to overdecorate,” she says. The bedrooms the daughters use when they’re in town might at other times function as guest rooms, so they were deliberately kept neutral in character, yet blue-chip art and rugs in wool and silk maintain the luxe factor. 

The Main Bedroom Features Soothing Shades and Textures

bedroom with dark blue bed with black silk sheets and white headboardbedroom with dark blue bed with black silk sheets and white headboard
In the main bedroom, wool bouclé wraps the custom headboard, which encircles cast-bronze lamps by Elan Atelier.

The main bedroom is perhaps the serenest space in the penthouse. Given the ruddy brick of the window wall, Hollis dialed the temperature down with a gray scheme: It’s the color of the plaster on other walls, the sheer alpaca-wool drapery, the mohair covering a pair of 1950’s wingback chairs, the stain of the custom nightstands. The latter are enveloped by a curving oak headboard. The vintage chairs possess a similarly strong, sculptural form.

Those pieces and certain others were installed six months after the initial move-in, with the final installment of furnishings at the nine-month mark. By then, the clients had long since settled into their new home away from home. 

family room with a long white sectional and multiple colorful woodcuts on the wallfamily room with a long white sectional and multiple colorful woodcuts on the wallfamily room with a long white sectional and multiple colorful woodcuts on the wall
In the family room of a duplex penthouse in New York, a 5,600-square-foot project by NicoleHollis for a repeat client, the Groundpiece sectional by Antonio Citterio, coffee and side tables by Ini Archibong and Gary Magakis, and a custom oak media console are enlivened by a grid of Donald Judd woodcuts.
entry to the stairway with a view of a draped chandelierentry to the stairway with a view of a draped chandelier
Eric Schmitt’s granite-finished table occupies the upper foyer, which leads to the duplex’s three bedrooms and en suite bathrooms.
stairwell with a smoked-glass chandelierstairwell with a smoked-glass chandelier
The stairwell’s custom smoked-glass chandelier is by Bocci.
entry with white oak console and round mirrorentry with white oak console and round mirror
A console by Patrick E. Naggar furnishes the entry foyer.
swivel chairs in a mini reading nook area by the windowswivel chairs in a mini reading nook area by the window
Near the room’s windows, swivel chairs by Bunn Studio join a Hun-Chung Lee table.
dining room with bright yellow artworkdining room with bright yellow artwork
Backdropped by an Eamon Ore-Giron artwork in the dining room is a Céline Wright chandelier and a Tyler Hays table, the latter flanked by 1960’s Sam Maloof chairs found on 1stDibs.
guest bedroom with dark blue sheets and colorful watercolor paintings on wallguest bedroom with dark blue sheets and colorful watercolor paintings on wall
Linen upholsters the custom headboard and frame in one of the two daughter/guest bedrooms, where the rug combines wool and silk and the artwork is by Charles Gaines.
guest bedroom with colorful painting on the wallguest bedroom with colorful painting on the wall
In the second daughter/guest bedroom, the bench is by Thomas Hayes Studio and the painting by Ariana Papademetropoulos.
bedroom with bed with black sheets, reading nook and white drapesbedroom with bed with black sheets, reading nook and white drapes
The bench in the main bedroom is by Alexander Purcell Rodrigues, the 1950’s armchairs upholstered in mohair velvet.
home office in the corner of the bedroom with black desk and chairhome office in the corner of the bedroom with black desk and chair
Lit by an opal Beran lamp, a Christophe Delcourt desk in the office off the main bedroom rests on a leather rug.

PROJECT TEAM

NICOLEHOLLIS: JENNIFER RUSSO; KATEY HOOD; SHERRY WANG. 

DEBONO BROTHERS: GENERAL CONTRACTOR. 

PRODUCT SOURCES

FROM FRONT FLEXFORM: SECTIONAL (FAMILY ROOM). 

WOVEN: RUG. 

THROUGH FRIEDMAN BENDA: COFFEE TABLE. 

THROUGH TODD MERRILL STUDIO: SIDE TABLE. 

VCA: CUSTOM CONSOLE (FAMILY ROOM), CUSTOM NIGHTSTANDS (MAIN BEDROOM). 

MARC PHILLIPS: RUG (LIVING ROOM). 

BARAHONA: CUSTOM SOFA (LIVING ROOM), CUSTOM HEADBOARDS (BEDROOMS). 

ROGERS & GOFFIGON; TOYINE SELLERS: SOFA FABRIC (LIVING ROOM). 

THROUGH MAISON GERARD: LAMP. 

THROUGH CARPENTERS WORKSHOP GALLERY: COCKTAIL TABLE. 

THROUGH HOSTLER BURROWS: VINTAGE WINGBACK CHAIRS. 

MARK ALEXANDER: WINGBACK CHAIR FABRIC, SWIVEL CHAIR FABRIC. 

THROUGH GARDE: SIDE TABLE. 

THROUGH SIDE GALLERY: VINTAGE LOUNGE CHAIRS. 

SANDRA JORDAN PRIMA ALPACA: LOUNGE CHAIR FABRIC (LIVING ROOM), CURTAIN FABRIC (MAIN BEDROOM). 

THROUGH RALPH PUCCI INTERNATIONAL: TABLE (UPPER FOYER), CONSOLE (ENTRY FOYER). 

BOCCI: CUSTOM CHANDELIER (STAIRWAY). 

RADNOR: SWIVEL CHAIRS (LIVING ROOM). 

THROUGH R & COMPANY: ROUND BRONZE TABLE. 

DEDAR: HEADBOARD FABRIC (MAIN BEDROOM). 

THROUGH COUP D’ETAT: LAMPS. 

BDDW: TABLE (DINING ROOM). 

SWADOH: CHANDELIER. 

THROUGH MORENTZ: CHAIRS (DINING ROOM), ARMCHAIRS (MAIN BEDROOM). 

LIAIGRE: BED FABRIC (BEDROOM 1). 

FORT STREET STUDIO: RUG. 

GUBI: LAMPS. 

HAO WAI: NIGHTSTANDS (BED­ ROOMS). 

FLITTERMAN COLLECTION: RUG (OFFICE). 

THE FUTURE PERFECT: DESK. 

DESIGN WITHIN REACH: CHAIR. 

BERT FRANK: LAMP. 

THE RUG COMPANY: RUG (BEDROOM 2). 

STONE AND SAWYER: LAMP. 

THOMAS HAYES STUDIO: BENCH. 

ATELIER PURCELL: BENCH (MAIN BEDROOM). 

HOLLAND AND SHERRY: BENCH FABRIC. 

THROUGH GALLERY FUMI: SIDE TABLE. 

JOUFFRE: DRAPERY. 



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