Mischa Couvrette founded Toronto-based design studio hollis+morris just a handful of years ago (and just a year prior to that, Couvrette was studying marine biology), but it’s safe to say the company and its stunning lighting designs are wise well beyond their years. We caught up with Mischa to talk about how he got started in design, one fateful sailing trip to Guatemala and what makes for good lighting, among other things.
What’s the story behind Hollis+Morris? How did you get into design?
hollis+morris is the namesake of the intersection in Halifax where it all began. As a student in 2013, I studied marine biology and environmental science at Dalhousie University while living together with other architecture students. It was during that time that I discovered my passion for design. My friends and I spent months refurbishing an old sailboat, working with our hands and eventually made the voyage sailing to Guatemala. Back home I began to think of the design world as a reality for myself and opened my first design studio at the corner of Hollis St. and Morris St. in Halifax.
In 2014, hollis+morris was launched in Toronto with several solid wood and metal furniture pieces at Toronto’s Interior Design Show – Studio North. As the studio grew and the collection evolved, we started to explore the creative possibilities of LED technology and integrated lighting into the collection.
So, what makes for good lighting—is there more to it than simply illuminating a space?
I find lighting to be such an interesting and sometimes difficult category to design. There are SO many possibilities and new technology is constantly being developed but there are also many boxes to tick for it to be an effective design. It is generally the first thing you see, often installed in your line of sight, it has to be functional, aesthetically pleasing, and feasible to construct. I think the dichotomy between these two is what I find so fascinating, the challenge is worth the reward of seeing a finished design finally launched.
What is your design process? Does it start in the studio, or does inspiration strike you in unexpected ways? Where do you find inspiration?
For me, the design process is never starting or finishing and definitely isn’t limited to the studio. I’m constantly looking at elements in nature and discovering patterns that form naturally. From there, I spend time in the studio abstracting the shapes and natural materials until I find the correct balance. I find inspiration mostly in nature and patterns. My goal in producing a product is to distill something complex into something simple and distinct.
Do you have a favorite design or design process story?
Over the years my process has changed dramatically. When I first started in a two-car garage I was full of enthusiasm and energy. I would spend hours “smashing” things together looking for the right balance in a piece. Five years and 2 kids later, I am more tactical in my approach. I look for inspiration in my everyday environment and I am constantly drawing. Once something stands out I build it in 3 dimensions and render it to look almost like a photo. From there, the team analyzes everything from the design, function and materials to its category in the market. If it passes the test, it moves into prototyping and ultimately a product is born.
How does being a Canadian company influence your work?
We are proud to design, build and source materials locally. Sustainability is something that we’ve strived for from our product to our packaging, but it is also about being proudly Canadian. I have found so much inspiration from East to West coast and worked hard to develop my own design voice. Reaching out to international markets was a no-brainer, we’ve been able to expand our customer base and find endless sources of inspiration.
Any new or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?
Without trade shows and design fairs [during the pandemic], we’ve had the benefit of stepping back again into nature and find inspiration for new designs. I am working on several new pendants inspired by rain drops and the movement of water as well as other series inspired by the phases of the moon.