Holly Hunt Loves a Good Espresso Martini, Unique Earrings + More

Holly Hunt has spent her 50-year career in interior design inspiring change and innovation throughout the industry, particularly in reshaping its approach to showrooms. Texas-born and Chicago-based, she’s a triple-threat with a good business mind, great taste, and striking instincts. It might be surprising to learn that Holly didn’t set out to be a big brand – as she says, “I didn’t start with a business plan, I started with an escape plan.”

In fact, Holly’s career didn’t even begin in design. She graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in History, because they didn’t offer design courses unless you were studying architecture. So, she got a job working at Foley’s Department store and credits them with her start in the industry. “We learned everything from the bottom up: display, reordering, buying, merchandising and client relations. It clicked for me there that creativity and business can go hand in hand,” she shared. “Of course, you have to have a good eye for design, but your business sense needs to be just as strong. You can have the talent to create the most beautiful designs the world has ever seen, but if you’re not also focusing on customer service, you’re not going to last.”

light-skinned woman with chin-length white hair seated at a table wearing black

Holly Hunt \\\ Photo: Ed Reeve

It was a divorce and three young sons that pushed Holly into action. In 1983, when an opportunity to buy the showroom in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart that would become HOLLY HUNT was served, she took a chance. “It was a natural extension of my experience designing, refurbishing, and furnishing interiors for the many apartments and houses my husband and I owned in the ’70s and early ’80s in Chicago and Boca Raton,” she explained. “I had visited and done business with designer showrooms frequently, therefore I knew I could offer something better than what was out there. At the time, showrooms had piled furniture everywhere; nothing went together. I wanted my showroom to have a clear point of view – that meant great presentation, a focus on customer service, and better quality design and furniture.”

With a plan in action, the brand took off during NeoCon, known for hosting large parties with live music, food and drinks that thousands would attend. “Everyone wanted to be there. The showroom became an important place to see and be seen, and suddenly, everyone was talking about the brand. I spent the next 40 years building HOLLY HUNT,” Holly said.

Even after revolutionizing the presentation of furniture, assembling an array of diverse makers and design perspectives in a gallery-like setting, Holly didn’t stop. She recognized gaps in the market, going on to create her own furniture, lighting, and textile lines while expanding her business.

“When I sold it to Knoll in 2014, I wasn’t sure what the next chapter of my career would look like. starting House of Hunt, my interior design studio, has been a satisfying and inspiring way to apply everything I’ve learned over the years in a new way.” House of Hunt is a full-service interior architecture and design studio that combines Holly’s passion for design and artistry, an uncompromising eye, and an obsession with refinement and detail.

Holly Hunt joins us for this week’s Friday Five!

two hanging earrings on a white background

Image courtesy Lugano Diamonds

1. One-of-a-Kind Lugano Earrings

My one-of-a-kind Lugano black and yellow drop earrings with rose-cut yellow and white diamonds in a char-black setting. I get compliments every time I wear them, and they deserve every one. What’s not to love about these beautiful earrings? Lugano is a very philanthropic company, which appeals to me, and their designs are very much in line with my personal style: sophisticated and modern. One of their salons is in the shops at The Residences at The Little Nell in Aspen, my second hometown. I discovered it when I was designing The Residences, and I made an effort to stop in whenever I’m in Aspen to see their latest tempting baubles.

modern abstract metal sculpture

Photo: Mnuchin Gallery

2. Arch Brown Sculpture

When I spotted this metal sculpture (Arch Brown, 1962) by John Chamberlain, I knew it would be the perfect addition to the entrance of my new house in Aspen. Chamberlain is an American sculptor I’ve always admired for his three-dimensional metal work. His Expressionist pieces are distinctive, as they’re often made of crushed automobile steel. The texture, color, and size of this sculpture is a showstopper, though it has been on loan to the Mnuchin Gallery for their exhibition “Chamberlain Five Decades.”

Photo: Emily Rhodes

3.Espresso Martini

I love a fabulous espresso martini, made with either a great vodka or tequila, which I prefer. I had my first one in Paris last January with some girlfriends, and now they’re a favorite. Sadly, I don’t even have the recipe to make them at home, but maybe that’s for the best, as I can only drink two at a time.

cream and brown colored car perched atop a laptop keyboard

Photo: Holly Hunt

4. Time With Marco

Early mornings with my cat, Marco, are one of my favorite times of the day. He wakes me up very early every morning for my coffee and his Fancy Feast. I enjoy having quiet time, before or as the sun rises, to organize or exercise. I travel a lot for my job, but he always welcomes me home with total loyalty.

interior space with brick walls and a black armchair with matching ottoman

Photo courtesy Fritz Hansen

5. Fritz Hansen’s Oksen Lounge Chair

The Oksen Lounge Chair from Fritz Hansen, designed by Arne Jacobsen, is the most comfortable chair ever, even though it appears a bit stiff. I’ve always been a stickler about furniture not just looking good but being nice to sit in. No one wants a gorgeous sofa that everyone avoids because it’s so uncomfortable. This chair is not only beautiful, but I love its firmness and mix of materials, which is also very indicative of my style and vision for House of Hunt. I like it so much that I’m ordering a second one so I can have one in both of my homes.

Work by Holly Hunt:

stylish interior open space with white walls, fireplace, and plenty of seating and tables

The Little Nell \\\ Photo: Jonathon Allen

styled bedroom space

The Little Nell \\\ Photo: Jonathon Allen

modern styled bathroom with floating double vanity and walk-in glass shower

Chicago Row House \\\ Photo: Nathan Kirkman

styled interior open space with walls of windows, two white sofas, and a dining table with four gray swivel chairs

Miami Surf Club \\\ Photo: Camera Department Inc. f/s/o Nathan Kirkman

Kelly Beall is senior editor at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based graphic designer and writer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as he can remember, and enjoys sharing what he finds with others. When undistracted by great art and design, she can be found making a mess in the kitchen, consuming as much information as possible, or on the couch with her three pets. Find her @designcrush on social.

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