Holloway & Li
“Worldbuilding,” a term used to describe the creation of an imaginary setting with coherent qualities, is a central theme of interior architects Holloway & Li’s work.
“We always create a narrative backbone to a project’s concept,” co-founder Alex Holloway said. “The building blocks to creating a story can include a biographical connection or cultural references. We have an interest in creating stories that live longer than our involvement in the project.”
“Interiors don’t exist in a vacuum… it’s about a feeling and an atmosphere, rather than saying ‘it’s going to be like that,’” he added.
Mr. Holloway and Na Li, who are in their early 30s, met as apprentices at London-based architects Michaelis Boyd Associates where they worked on Oxfordshire’s members’ club and hotel Soho Farmhouse. After leaving Michaelis Boyd in 2015, they worked on other projects separately before joining forces in 2018. They both studied at The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, which gave them a similar value structure, Mr. Holloway said.
Their design projects don’t have a similar look but there are underlying visual clues that tie them to their work such as the unexpected or offbeat application of materials. They call this “material alchemy.” In a recent residential project in Highbury, Holloway & Li made its kitchen entirely out of stainless steel, a design that resembled a fast-food outlet. There are transparent bright orange accents made from resin throughout against soft pink plaster walls.
They recently worked on the Bermond Locke apartment hotel near London’s Tower Bridge for hotel brand Locke, which is inspired by Californian desert landscapes and cultures, and has a theme of circularity. Here, cacti, terracotta and sky tones mix with psychedelic metal surfaces within an empty shell of a former office block. (The project was shortlisted for a 2021 Dezeen Award in its sustainable interior category).
“We like to push boundaries and apply things in new ways, especially regarding sustainability,” Mr. Holloway said. In another recent project, Holloway & Li used stone as a replacement for concrete because it has a large carbon footprint. It’s not an easy option; stone is “considered cumbersome unlike concrete, which can be poured on site,” Mr. Holloway said.
The Clerkenwell-based interior architects choose materials by looking at the purpose of their application. They like working with natural materials such as timber and stone but are aware that other virgin options are limited. “We would like to use hemp and rammed earth but would only use them if they could be elevated from their original uses,” Mr. Holloway said.
At the moment, Holloway & Li is working on hotels in Soho, Canary Wharf, and St Pauls in the City of London, and a couple of residential projects in Chelsea and Mayfair, which are single townhouse dwellings.
Holloway & Li said they have seen that clients’ tastes are becoming more sophisticated, varied and future-facing.
The interior architects won the Workplace Sub-5000 sq ft Project of The Year at the 2022 Mixology Awards for an experience-led showroom in The Market Building in Clerkenwell. Their projects have featured in Wallpaper*, ELLE Decoration, and Livingetc design magazines, among others.