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Interior designer Peter Wilds creates modern homes that truly speak to the client, blending classic lines with surprising elements, “timeless, with a bit of edge,” as he describes it – bringing offbeat moments to a timeless aesthetic. We recently caught up with Wilds to talk about his decision to remain a one-man operation despite his success, and how embracing mistakes along the way can ultimately lead to a better project in the end.

What drew you to the interior design business?

It really does stem quite far back – my mom was a real inspiration for me. She has a Fine Arts degree with a background in painting, and she sold real estate, and she was instrumental in the vision and the aesthetic of the houses. I have vivid memories of being brought to fabric suppliers, tile suppliers, and standing there beside her having those conversations around us. How she was putting elements together, talking with suppliers about the logistics of things. And then at the same time, I saw how she was bringing these elements in, seeing the palette she was working in, and really engaging myself and my sisters in that process.  It really was this innate visceral experience of watching the pieces come together. And so even though my path took different routes in some ways, I chart it back to that time.

And how long have you had your own business?

I started it in 2011. Before that I was the in-house designer at the Cross Decor and Design. In some ways I was instrumental in that piece of their business really beginning. I was there for almost eight years, and again, there’s just been really extraordinary women who have been the key holders to my education, my process, my introduction to things. When I went to the Cross, the owners, Stephanie Vogler and Darcy Ilich, they were instrumental in my development, in my understanding, not just of design, but of business as well. I have the deepest gratitude for these incredible women that really have been my guide through my whole life. 

You’ve intentionally kept your business modest in size—when someone hires Peter Wilds, you’re the one they’re working with.

Yes. I really love the work. I really love the details of just being in there, and the investigation, the searching, the relationship with clients, the conversation around getting to know each other in that way, and the kind of detail and intimacy that’s necessary to really understand and pay attention to what are the needs of the project, and most importantly, of my clients.

I love being on site working with trades. I love the strategic site visits around working through something or figuring something out, the talent that comes with a team that comes together – whether it be an electrician or plumber, or tile setter. I love that collaborative process, and at times I’ve had people say to me, “Do you find it lonely working for yourself?” But it’s an incredibly collaborative process. So I’m never alone in that way. 

There’s so much about this business that is ultimately problem solving. That’s what we’re hired to do. There are a lot of things that happen in this process, and it’s not an easy one. It’s very stressful, as we know it’s very expensive. I had one client once say to me, “I’m really excited, and we just hope nothing goes wrong.” “No, no, no,” I said, “it will. There will be problems. But that’s part of the nature of the beast. But also let’s not forget: sometimes the better idea is born out of a problem.”

So back to this question about, staying small and tight in the way that I do. I just always felt like the way in which I’m built. And the way I operate, the idea of having, say, 5 or 6 other people that are doing the work of Peter Wilds’ design, and meeting the brief of what that is and what that language is – it really becomes more management to me. 

And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to have that experience myself, and I felt like the more people I brought on the further I remove myself from it. I want to stay in the trenches of the creative process. 

How do you define what a Peter Wilds design is?

It’s a good question, and it’s a question that I’m constantly asking myself as well. I think it’s necessary to be able to speak to it because it is the work. But at the same time

I am the work, and sometimes I feel like I’m the worst person to define what that is. 

I can step back and look at a project or look at photos of a project and say, okay, what’s the world that we created here. And of course, when I’m looking at it, I’m not just looking at the physical manifestation of it. I’m looking at the actual experience of doing it: in the conversations we had, and who the people are. I always say I’m not designing the space that I want you to have, I’m designing the space that you want to have, and I’m a conduit for that. I’m bringing my point of view, which is what you’re hiring me to do. But there is a level of collaboration that’s going on.

So I always just speak to my work as a mix of worlds. There’s contradictions in it at times: it’s often described as being somewhat clean in terms the palette I use. But there’s always an unexpected element of how I put things together. I’m always looking at opposites, and it always starts with the physical space.

And  I’ve just always kept my head in more European spaces in my mind, and I find a lot of people working in Europe do a beautiful job of that dichotomy of that tension of mixing those elements. And that’s just my vocabulary. It spills into furniture, it spills into tile selection, it spills into millwork. It’s all of those things, and how they then layer in. 

I wanted to jump back to that idea of problems that will come up—that idea of embracing failure as a means to moving toward something better. 

I’ve gotten so much better at the embracing that reality around all of us making mistakes. When you’re seeing a project that’s not yet complete, and you’re stepping on site and seeing it realized. And I hit that place in my gut where I think, Yes, this is exactly what I imagined I wanted to be.

It’s easy to connect to that space. But it’s equally important to step on site and see something not coming together in that way that you imagined, and listen to that same spot in your gut where you’re understand that it’s wrong. 

It’s so exciting sometimes when you’re standing with a group of really creative people, and I include my clients in that in that in that group, because I’m all for the better idea. Maybe this sounds egotistical, but I know I’m the beginning of this creative world that we’re engaged in. It starts with what I’ve come up with. But I’m not the one who’s doing all the work. When we need to make a change on something, I’m all for the better idea. And so when we’re brainstorming about something, and the client standing there, and then they’ll just say, Well, what if we did this? I’ll say, That’s the better idea. Yes, let’s do that.

I love that process. I love that because I just want the best, and I don’t care where it comes from. And I think the only way that works is if I feel confident and strong about my ideas and what my offer is, and the world that we’re working to put together. 

Speaking of collaboration, you often bring your clients into Provide when selecting furniture and accessories. Can you tell me more about how you work with Provide?

Well, first, I would say I always admire and I’m amazed at the feat of running a business.

And if have a presence for any length of time, that’s an amazing feat as well. So I have just tremendous admiration for what David and Robert have built, the niche world that they created in this city, particularly how keen their eyes are, the beautiful way in which they curate product in a small city! It’s not easy to do and still stay unique. So just aesthetically and creatively, I’m drawn to what they provide. No pun intended. And I’m drawn to them as people. So that’s really critical for me, too – to me it’s always about the people.

I feel like I share an aesthetic appreciation, and I feel like what they offer ties in beautifully to my work, and because it’s such a collaborative process, we’re in it together. We’re in it together creatively, and we’re also in it together financially—we are dependent upon each other economically for our own livelihoods and for the community at large. And I don’t take that lightly. I really think it’s a responsibility. 

And I love introducing clients who don’t necessarily know what Provide is, and have never been there before. In fact, I’m spec-ing something literally today, for a client who’d never heard of them before. She’s somebody who is at a chapter in her life where she’s a widow, and her children are out and gone, and she’s sold her home, and she’s now in this new adventure in her life, and her lens was really focused in a certain realm of aesthetics.  I’m not being obnoxious when I say this, but I’m kind of blowing her mind in some ways, because all of the things that I presented her with initially, I got a hard “no” on. But I told her, I think you need to see some of these things. And then, of course, I take her to all these showrooms, and she can see why they work. She told me, You’ve introduced me to so many modern things, but the modern things that you have introduced me to, there’s still such warmth and craft, and a kind of primitive beauty to them. 

You work with a lot of artists, and it sounds like that builds exactly on that understanding the craft behind their work.

And we have so many phenomenal people in this town. And David, is a champion for so many of them. It’s the craft, which I think at the end of the day speaks to the price point of something. And it’s easy to either see a link on a website or walk past the window, or even step in and dismiss something because you first led with a price point on something without knowing its story. And it does require that that sometimes.

And have you worked with any of the furniture makers that are in the Design Gallery, too?

We just ordered a number of pieces from Lock and Mortice – we ordered the bespoke line from the collaboration that Provide is doing with them. And we’ve done some Martha Sturdy pieces as well.

I think that Gallery space is so beautiful. We’re lucky to have it. And at the same time I know the huge risk that it is, and I know the expense that it is. I mean, I was just there an hour and a half ago. I literally love everything in that showroom.


 Photography by Janis Nicolay.





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