Design & Decor Blog

designer interview: peter wilds

It was a delight to interview hip Vancouver designer Peter Wilds for a feature in Style at Home’s January 2013 issue.

His ability to juxtapose opposite elements like masculine and feminine, elegant and industrial, unique and classic is impressive. As is his talent for making the quirky look chic – his obsession with skulls single-handedly made me feel better about my love of guns (…in terms of home decor, that is).

Peter Wilds in his Gastown, Vancouver, studio. Photograph by Janis Nicolay

But what I didn’t have room to include in the article was where Peter’s style comes from – how he got into the business, where he got started and what inspires him. How lucky, then, that blogs aren’t nearly as limited in space.

SAH What are some of your earliest design memories?
PW When I was around 10 years old, I would rearrange my bedroom all the time and then invite my family in to see the new look. And in a 10’ x 13’ room, it was amazing how many different configurations I could come up with. I’d put the bed in the centre of the room or on these really stupid angles – you know, just really, really bad space planning. But I remember being super-conscious of what my relationship to the room was – how I felt in the room, how it looked to me. I was always finding a new way of seeing my space, going through these little room revolutions all the time. But I didn’t connect that to my career path or wanting to be a designer then.

SAH So what was your path to design?
PW I used to be an actor working in theatre, film and television, but I always had a quiet obsession with interior design and decor. While I was acting, I would study the architecture, design and furniture of every place I traveled, cultivating a knowledge and vocabulary in the field. And while it was a great career, I knew acting wasn’t the direction I wanted to be going in. So I returned to school to complete a Masters in Counseling and Psychology (I had often volunteered for suicide and crisis call centres, so I was interested in the field), but after a year felt certain that it wasn’t for me. So I finished that year, took a trip to Europe, and I was literally walking the streets of Paris thinking “Where am I going to go with my career?” And it just kept coming back to me: “It’s design, it’s design.”

SAH What was your first move?
PW I started working in home-furnishing retail, as general manager of Caban in Vancouver. And after about two years, I had a serendipitous conversation with Stephanie and Steve Vogler of The Cross Design & Decor. They were looking for someone to join their team who appreciated decor, and I was looking for a job that focused only on decorating and design. Everything aligned in such an effortless way. After being there for almost seven years, I knew it was time to do my own thing, which was to start my own firm, Peter Wilds Design.

SAH What are some of the highlights of your style?
PW I’m a huge modernist fan – I love the control and clean lines of modernity. But the moment I pick something clean and clinical, I want to pair it with something that is a bit soft, or has a little more history or heritage to it, so, elements that are French or British always tie in. I’m a sucker for a tufted sofa. I’m a sucker for a wingback chair, but I’ll put an edgy Designers Guild fabric on it. The minute I bring something super, super elegant into a space, I want something edgy or unexpected and more masculine paired with it. So I’m always dealing in opposites.

SAH When redesigning a new client’s home, where do you start?
PW One of my company mottos is, “Everything we’re going through in our lives is happening in our homes.” I feel really, really privileged to be in my clients’ homes, it’s not something I take lightly. When you’re in someone’s bedroom and you’re talking about how they sleep and how light affects them, it’s personal – it can be emotional.  There’ve been times, when a client is visibly emotional, that I’ve just stopped an asked: “What would you like to do right now? Do you want me to go? Do you want to have a glass of wine? Do you want to go walk around the seawall?” My studies in counselling and psychology have been really helpful because, for me, the relationship with my clients is the most important part.

SAH Without the help of a designer, what is a simple way for an amateur to update a room on a budget?
PW Painting the room is an easy fix. And another great option is to wallpaper a room. It provides a graphic punch to a room and allows you to bring in an artistic touch without having to spend tons and tons of money on art.

SAH What spaces are you most likely to wallpaper?
PW I wallpaper a lot. If you’re in a little studio apartment there’s no reason why you couldn’t just do it in your main room, for a huge impact. I’ve used it in powder rooms, in bedrooms, even on ceilings. I think it’s interesting in unexpected places, as well, like the back of a cabinet or the interior of a closet.

SAH What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
PW Well, working out always helps. Or, just literally moving. And travelling. There’s no shortage of creativity in the world. And I think it’s always important to remember that. When you’re feeling uninspired, when you’re feeling like you’re tired of your own ideas and viewpoint, you just step out.

SAH And do you have a favourite destination for inspiration?
PW France hits me every single time. Paris I never tire of – I just keep going back. And, you know, it’s actually annoying me a little bit because it keeps me from going to other countries sometimes!

SAH What’s your favourite TV or movie interior?
PW I was really struck by the interiors in the Italian film I Am Love. I was really taken with them. I’m a huge fan of Wes Anderson and, while his interiors are somewhat quirky, the attention to detail in them is incredible, I’m such a fan of his aesthetic. It’s not like I would decorate a room his way, per se, but I’m inspired by his sense of humour and attention to detail.


From his favourites to his inspiration to his decor style, I just love Peter Wilds’s aesthetic!

What do you think?

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