Photo: David Duncan Livingston
Determined and thoughtful, interior designer Heather Hilliard has built a coast-to-coast portfolio through teamwork and elegant taste.
“I’m not a specific-style driven designer. I don’t have a formula style for every project,” said Hilliard, principal of San Francisco’s Heather Hilliard Design. “It’s more collaborative. I like to work with a team. That’s my team, the architect, the landscape architect and the clients. I find I get the best results that way. Ultimately, I want them to live their best life in the house.”
In business for more than a decade, Hilliard’s projects are scattered throughout San Francisco. She also serves clients in Silicon Valley, Marin and the wine country. Her portfolio includes interiors in the Bay Area, Hawaii, New York and Boston.
Hilliard succinctly summarizes her design philosophy.
“I don’t have a specific style, but I like using classic detailing with the restraint of modern design,” she said. “Something that is warm and inviting.”
In this interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Hilliard shares the importance of context, the role 3D rendering plays in her business and how she likes to incorporate textures and fabrics into her works.
Q: Do you have a favorite architectural style?
Heather Hilliard, principal, Heather Hilliard Design.
Heather Hilliard, Principal, Heather Hilliard Design.
Heather Hilliard’s eponymous design firm is a full-service, boutique interior design studio that’s been around for more than a decade. The firm’s portfolio includes projects in San Francisco, the greater Bay Area, Hawaii and the East Coast. She’s participated in the annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase eight times, she’s a patron member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art and has been on the Designer’s Circle for both the San Francisco Antiques Show and San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art’s Fog Design + Art Fair for many years.
She holds an undergraduate degree in art history and a masters of fine arts in interior architecture and design. Before starting her firm, Hilliard worked at The Philadelphia Museum of Art for five years and later as a senior designer at an AD 100 design firm in the Bay Area.
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A: Not really. Every home is different and we try to work within the context of that house. We don’t want to do the same thing over and over—we want every project to be unique. We do this by collaborating with clients, architects and others associated with the project, and we place a strong emphasis on context. The context is the location of the home, its architectural style, the client’s desires and its surroundings.
Q: What’s a piece of technology you can’t imagine doing business without?
A: AutoCAD software is the first that comes to mind. It allows us to create plans and elevations and detailed drawings. It’s hugely helpful in helping us navigate proportion and scale. Sometimes a client will see something in a magazine and want to do it in their house, but the dimensions don’t allow it. In these cases, software like AutoCAD and SketchUp allow us to make three-dimensional models that help people visualize a space. Instagram is another bit of technology that we use to market ourselves and communicate with clients.
Q: What are some recent projects, or projects you’re currently working on?
A: We have been working for two years on a large new home in Hillsborough. We are excited to install that project in a few weeks. I’m working on exciting projects in Presidio Heights, Pacific Heights, Mill Valley, Los Altos Hills and Boston. We recently wrapped up a contemporary 10,000-square-foot home with an indoor squash court in Silicon Valley. We’ve also done an extensive interior renovation of a historic San Francisco home to a client’s exacting standards.
Q: What are some of your favorite materials to use?
A: It depends on the project, but I’m a big fan of textures, so I incorporate a lot of different materials into my designs. We always use a combination of woods, metals, natural stone, as well as textured woven fabrics and custom rugs. I don’t use a lot of prints and patterns. Instead, I specify solid and woven fabrics, like cashmere, alpaca, silk, linen and wool.
Q: What role does lighting play in your designs?
A: I place a lot of emphasis on lighting. I like creating layers of light. This can be done by using a combination of recessed light fixtures and pendant lights, scones and floor and table lamps. This creates different layers of light at different heights. It is important to have lighting on dimmers to raise and lower light levels to create scenes in a home.