San Francisco–based designer Nicole Hollis is always trying to unify the interiors of the homes she designs with the great outdoors. “Everything,” she says, “is connected to the outside.”


That spirit animates her new book, Curated Interiors (Rizzoli), which features residences designed by Hollis in Hawaii and California. For one project, a 1970s cottage she recently finished for a family of six in Marin County, Hollis took her cues from the home’s natural surroundings-set above a lagoon, the house has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the Marin Headlands, and the fog that regularly engulfs the area finds a mirror in the cool, white interiors. Natural materials abound, most strikingly in the primary bedroom’s giant walnut headboard, inspired by the redwood trees just up the road.


Her approach isn’t only reflective of the home’s setting. “I love the connection to nature, and the fact that the house is right on the water, but it’s also just so much about the family,” Hollis says. The designer turned the 2,200-square-foot space into a getaway that could contain four active boys, who sleep on bunk beds in two bedrooms, one of which was converted from the original garage. She kept places where the family could wind down top of mind, including an intimate courtyard complete with a firepit for gathering once the sun sets and the temperature goes down.


To balance out the dramatic surroundings, Hollis kept the color palette neutral. And the white background provides a canvas for the client’s colorful art collection, such as the ceramic stool by Reinaldo Sanguino and a Technicolor work by Sheila Hicks in the living room. A bright painting by Stanley Whitney hangs in one of the bedrooms above a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog.


Hollis says her style is informed by artists, too, especially those who focus on light, form, and material, citing Donald Judd-the daybed in the courtyard is an homage to his work-and James Turrell as inspirations. Their approach to shape and form echoes throughout. “I’ve never worked as a ‘decorator’ so a lot of my interiors are sort of lacking in decoration,” Hollis says. “They are more curated or assembled, but very precise.”

Take a Tour of This California Getaway Home


Most of all, what Hollis prizes in the Marin home is its sense of journey and its embrace of the unexpected, how it moves from closed to open. At the front of the home, for instance, there are no windows, leaving visitors surprised by the interior courtyard that follows. From there the home expands, until its back windows reveal the water and a wide vista. “That,” she says, “is what I really love about the house.”