Erected on the footprint of the former Hotel Tomo at the crossroads of Japantown and Pacific Heights in San Francisco, the Kimpton Buchanan hotel was envisioned by Nicole Hollis, founder of San Francisco-based NICOLEHOLLIS Interior Design, as a dynamic urban destination and pied-à-terre with a bohemian feel. Drawing on local influences and iconography while celebrating street life, urban culture, and artistic virtuosity, the hotel used repurposed materials, such as whiskey bottles and barrels and local art, including a mural inspired by the Bay Area landscape and Japanese illustration techniques, to characterize the hotel’s whiskey lounge-inspired lobby. “Rather than a literal representation, we looked to the materials to act as cultural signifiers,” Hollis says. This included the color palette, which has the blackened, charred wood of the Japanese whiskey barrels, the imperfect blue of hand-dyed indigo textiles, and the earthy neutrals of handmade Asian pottery.
Message in a Bottle
To underscore the moody, Japanese ambience, Hollis illuminated the lobby space with an undulating light installation made from whiskey bottles. The installation was made in partnership with local designer and manufacturer, ELA Lighting. “It channels the glamour and gleam of whiskey bottles used in an unexpected way,” Hollis says.
Lock, Stock, and Barrel
The design firm added a sense of drama to the lobby by
creating a feature wall made of whiskey barrel staves that were charred with a traditional finishing process known as Shou-Sugi Ban. “The repurposed wood brings a sense of history, intrigue, and cultural meaning,” Hollis explains.
Given the hotel’s vibrant location, Hollis wanted the lobby to embrace street culture, yet offer a cozy hideaway for guests in the midst of the frenetic energy of the city. “The large sofa is a central feature and welcomes guests,” she says of the custom made, vintage-inspired piece. “It’s laid back, but also elegant with the leather upholstery.”