Interview: Meet New York-based designer Vicente Wolf

We're in a New-York state of mind having just interviewed Vicente Wolf. Read on to discover his secret to successful designing and find out how he went from sweeping showroom floors to becoming one of America’s most influential interior designers, regularly featured in top magazines such as Elle Décor USA, New York SPACES and Architectural Digest...

House Beautiful USA named you one of the 10 most influential designers in the United States and Architectural Digest included you in their AD100 list of top architects and designers. How did your interest in interior design grow?

I grew up in Cuba and my parents, who were both in the building business, influenced me from a young age. Many of their friends were architects, so construction sites became as familiar as playgrounds.

Since I can remember I always loved working with volume and scale. Arranging furniture was like meditation for me and it came naturally, even though I never knew being an interior designer was a career that existed.

Shortly before we left Cuba, my parents bought a new house. On the morning we moved in, the furniture arrived just as they were leaving for work. By the time they came home, I had arranged the whole house.

So how did you get to setting up your business in a light-filled New York loft?

We moved from Cuba and landed in Miami Beach in 1961. I had little education and am dyslexic, but I was determined to make it in New York. When I first arrived in Manhattan I went from job to job, jumping among advertising, banking, modeling, selling and acting (though my dyslexia made it difficult to remember lines!). Then I met someone who was working in interior design and the puzzle pieces fell into place. One day I was sweeping floors in a Manhattan fabric showroom and a year later my first decorating job appeared in House Beautiful.

Traditional meets modern in this quirky New York apartment designed by Vicente Wolf.

What was your first big break?

While trying to figure out what to do with my life I went back to an old pastime from my childhood – planning interiors and doing drawings and I relied on my own judgment and observed everything around me - museums, gardens and other designers.

My first design job was a living room on Long Island that came about through an acquaintance - it was also the first project of mine that was ever published. This job started my portfolio, which turned into more work, which lead me to where I am today.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by designers like David Hicks, Billy Baldwin and Bob Patino, with whom I worked for fifteen years. The person I am most inspired by is my good friend Preston Bailey. His beautiful work and extravagant designs constantly challenge my borders.

You’re the only US designer to have designed vases and bowls for Baccarat and your projects range from the Westin hotel on Times Square, two Manhattan restaurants and even a clothing showroom in Hong Kong – what has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

Working with Steve Wynn designing the SW Steakhouse at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas was incredible. I love that I have thousands of people enjoying my spaces and designs on a daily basis.

Vicente’s SW Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

How would you describe your home's style?

Loose, eclectic, and constantly evolving.

How do you think interior home style compares in the UK and USA?

I think British interiors have a much stronger basis in traditional and classic design - though masters of blending different periods together, it always leans towards tradition. In the US, the range is broader due to the fact that we haven’t had that much history to collect pieces, so modern design is much more prevalent here.

Vicente designed this stylish apartment in Tribeca, NYC.

In terms of trends, what do you think will be big this summer?

Anything that's easy, cost-effective, and uplifting in its colour and point of view.

What three products could you not live without?

1. My Bosch washer and dryer.

2. My passport.

3. My La Perla underwear.

What’s your top tip for wannabe designers and your secret to successful designing?

Go with your gut. But first learn to be a professional with a keen sense of business before you sign on with the responsibility of someone’s home and finances.

For beautiful furniture, accessories and daily design ideas for your home and lifestyle,
shop at ACHICA.

Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor