London’s emerging interior design talent

Holloway and Li

‘Worldbuilding’, a term used to describe the creation of an imaginary setting with cohesive qualities, is a central theme in the work of interior designers Holloway & Li.

“We always create a narrative backbone for the concept of a project,” said co-founder Alex Holloway. “Basic elements for creating a story can include a biographical link or cultural references. We have an interest in creating stories that last 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 this,'” he added.

Mr Holloway and Na Li, who are in their early 30s, met as apprentices at London architects Michaelis Boyd Associates, where they worked on the Oxfordshire Members’ Club and the Soho Farmhouse Hotel . 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 are not alike but there are underlying visual clues that link them to their work such as the unexpected or offbeat application of materials. They call it “material alchemy”. In a recent residential project in Highbury, Holloway & Li made their kitchen entirely from stainless steel, a design that resembled a fast food restaurant. There are sheer bright orange accents made from resin all over the soft pink plaster walls.

They recently worked on the Bermond Locke hotel-apartment near London’s Tower Bridge for the Locke hotel brand, which is inspired by the landscapes and cultures of the Californian desert and themed around circularity. Here, cactus, terracotta and sky tones mingle with psychedelic metallic surfaces in an empty shell of a former office building. (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 when it comes to sustainability,” 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; the stone is “considered bulky unlike concrete, which can be poured in place”, Mr Holloway said.

Interior designers based in Clerkenwell choose materials based on the purpose of their application. They enjoy working with natural materials such as wood and stone, but are aware that other blank options are limited. “We would like to use hemp and dirt, but we would only use them if they could be elevated from their original uses,” Mr. Holloway said.

Currently, Holloway & Li is working on hotels in Soho, Canary Wharf and St Pauls in the City of London, and a few residential projects in Chelsea and Mayfair which are single family homes.

Holloway & Li said they have found that customer tastes are increasingly sophisticated, diverse and forward-looking.

The interior designers won the Workplace Sub-5000 sq ft Project of The Year award at the 2022 Mixology Awards for an experience-driven showroom in The Market Building in Clerkenwell. Their projects have been published in the design magazines Wallpaper*, ELLE Decoration and Livingetc, among others.

Betty K. Park