“Simple, clean, with attitude—like my clothing.” This is how boutique owner Ruti Zisser describes what she envisioned when she turned to interior designer Nicole Hollis to create her second eponymous women’s clothing shop on trendy Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Hollis had also designed Zisser’s first store in Palo Alto, so she already understood the image that her client wanted to project. To adapt the same feel within this new context, the designer added a fresh twist that subtly nods to the Bay Area.
At just 560 square feet, the Ruti boutique posed the challenge of making use of every bit of space while ensuring that design didn’t overpower and detract from the high-end clothing the store showcases. Known for her residential and commercial interiors throughout the region, Hollis often works with a palette of natural materials, most notably wood. She stayed true to form in this project, artfully using wood and other simple materials to create a backdrop that would not only complement the casual yet highly crafted clothing, but also reinforce the aesthetic of the emerging brand. “I didn’t want to use wood the same way many retailers do—as flooring with white walls,” Hollis explains. “So I reversed things. The floor would remain concrete and the walls would be expressed in wood.”
Because wood was the primary component in defining the space, the type of wood became a key decision in the design process. Color, grain, and texture all had to complement the spirit of Zisser’s Israeli-imported clothing lines. Ultimately, Hollis chose a wood with a cooler grey tone and an unfinished, weathered texture, reflecting San Francisco’s cool, foggy climate.
“Ruti’s husband found a piece of wood we loved,” recalls Hollis. “It had a greyish-silver color and wonderful rough texture.” With the wood sample in hand, Hollis began searching architectural salvage companies for as close a match as possible and eventually found one in sufficient quantity to panel the store. Believed to have been pine barn siding, the reclaimed wood was cut in 1-foot-wide planks, heavily weathered with some warping and cupping, but brimming with character. The designer asked the salvage company to fumigate the wood but otherwise left it just as it was. Installed in horizontal bands from floor to ceiling, the material produces a surprisingly elegant effect. At the same time, the rough appearance of the wood creates a striking foil for the delicate textile creations, while its cool grey color harmonizes with the desert-inspired color palette of Ruti’s offerings.
Hollis paid equal attention to the other materials and fixtures of the shop. An off-white leveling compound was applied to the concrete floor for finish; the existing ceiling was simply painted. A minimalist display and lighting system, made with standard components, allows for maximum flexibility in merchandising. Running the length of the space, four tracks of theater-inspired chrome light fixtures fitted with PAR lamps highlight the clothing, which is hung on ½-inch-diameter steel rods suspended from the light bars. Both lighting and clothing can easily be reconfigured to accommodate changing product.
Simplicity guided the design of other store fixtures as well. In an innovative gesture, Hollis created a simple merchandising table from stacked reams of white office paper capped with a 1-inch-thick acrylic top. Only when examining the merchandise on the table does the paper construction become evident. Covered with white ceramic tile, the cash wrap desk echoes the crisp form and color of the merchandising table. Shoe display platforms on the floor and a tall cubby-like shelf for displaying and storing accessories were constructed from 1/8-inch-thick darkened-steel plate, providing notes of contrast.
An evolutionary step, Hollis’s design both continues and advances an appropriate architectural reflection of the Ruti brand. As a backdrop for the clothing, the patina of reclaimed wood expresses just the right level of affinity for both the context and the clothing with “attitude.”
San Francisco, California. 550 total square feet on one floor. Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request.
Interior Designer Nicole Hollis. Client Ruti Zisser. team: Katie Martinez; Mike Medeiros. Contractor: Dean Kahan; Shaull Saidi. Cash wrap wall installation: Yedda Morrison. Photography by Adrian Gregorutti.
Antler chandelier: Roll & Hill. Mirror: Commute. Woven chair: Moroso. Jewelry table: Voila! Gallery. Fit lights: Rejuvenation. Royal forms: Ronis Bros.