Designer Vicente Wolf: An Interview

Vicente Wolf has designed royal homes, Las Vegas restaurants, apartment buildings, and retail stores around the world. He has authored several books featuring his projects and design methods, including his most recent release, The Four Elements of Design: Interiors Inspired by Earth, Water, Air and FireMr. Wolf has over 35 years of design experience, and has created and designed collections for several companies including Baccarat, Ralph Pucci, and his namesake company, VW Home. I sat down with Mr. Wolf to discuss his interior decorating style, advice, and what he sees for the future of interior design.

NCFA: Describe your design style.

VW: I like spaces that are centered on clean architecture, whether that's traditional or modern. I admire the straight lines of Palladian architecture. There has to be a sense of balance, of scale. I can then play off of that by blending periods and cultures, using some midcentury pieces and some personally designed pieces to create an environment that travels well through time.

NCFA: Do you have any cardinal rules when it comes to design?

VW: I don't. Each situation is different. If you want to hang your curtain four inches off the ground, I'll tell you it doesn't look right, but each individual project starts from zero. It's about what you feel is a creative solution. I work from my gut - what seems to be right to me, what feels right to me.

NCFA: What are your recommendations for people interested in redecorating?

VW: Look at the professionals and see who's doing something you like. Contact that person and tell them your budget, limitations, and goals. It's always worth it to hire a professional.

NCFA: Can you tell me a little bit about your new book, The Four Elements of Design?

VW: I think most people, when they're trying to discover what their point of view is, will just tear pages out of magazines. This book is for consumers as well as designers, and it's all about the idea of trying to discover your own aura or essence. For myself, I've been very successful in dealing with the four elements. You don't have to be 100% of any one thing, but if you love drama and intensity and color, that speaks to me about what fire is. Once you can say, "Yes, I'm earthy - I like things that are tied to the ground, like taupes and browns, engulfing colors with a natural quality," then you have an idea of what direction to follow. 

You might see something in a magazine that you love because it’s dramatic or appealing, but it’s not really who you are. Your home should reflect your taste - not someone else’s.
— Vicente Wolf

NCFA: You've designed several collections for Baccarat, VW Home, Ralph Pucci, and Restoration Hardware, among others. Do you have a favorite?

VW: I loved the pieces I did for Baccarat. They were modern, but they still had a twist to them. And the pieces I've designed for Henredon are still being sold today. They influenced a lot of manufacturers in High Point, who present designs based off what I did there.

NCFA: You get your design ideas from your travels all over the world. What would you say is a must-see destination for design inspiration?

VW: For me, it's Southeast Asia. I'm always looking for the places most people don't go to. I like to discover places that aren't necessarily popular. In that, I can see the real essence of that country. I look not for what I'm accustomed to, but what piques my eye. I just came back from the Himalayas, and in December I'm going back to Sri Lanka. I'll travel to Hong Kong next month. Every year I go to Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong to find inspiration for VW Home

NCFA: When you work with a client like Clive Davis or Steve Wynn, what is your process? Do you present your ideas in stages?

VW: I'm not a shopper; I'm a designer. I don't talk about this specific couch or that particular lamp. First, I find out their likes and dislikes, how they live, their requirements and the emotions that they want in the space. Then, like a painter, I create a portrait of who they are.

I only present one concept. Creating an environment isn't about the individual; it's about designing the entire space. You present a complete idea and a total concept rather than individual items. They're approving a concept and an idea rather than certain products.

NCFA: What trends have you noticed lately?

VW: We're not in a period in the world, economy, or politics that really opens us up for many trends. I think the trend right now is comfort, security, and protection. People want to relax. I think new trends open up and things start changing when society is feeling more secure, and we're not there now.

NCFA: What are your plans for the immediate future?

VW: Just working. Gardening in the summer, going to the beach. Making sure I'm as creative as possible with every project that I get.