& Company Said
INSPIRATION | October 3, 2023 | By Saxon Henry
Vicente Wolf at Currey & Company
Our post last week highlighted the array of events we will be hosting during fall High Point Market. This week, we go into more detail about a design dignitary we will welcome to our showroom for a book signing. Vicente Wolf’s gorgeous book Creative Interior Solutions recently debuted and he will be signing copies on Saturday, October 14, from 3 to 5 p.m., so be sure to stop by. The vignette above is an example of how complex his design aesthetic is: the layering of artifacts and modern pieces are exquisite.
Vicente Wolf at Currey & Company
We’re featuring a number of the room settings arrayed in the book and we had the great pleasure of interviewing Vicente about several subjects we feel we have in common with him—valuing artifacts and sculptural objects in interiors, and traveling to source them. Vicente told us that leaving personable objects out of a space is like getting dressed up without putting any accessories on. “Wonderful pieces always make a space feel more human,” he adds. “There is nothing like walking into a space and saying, ‘Wow! Look at that!’”
A portrait of interior designer Vicente Wolf. Image credit Julien Capmeil.
We noticed how Vicente is a master at mixing sleek elements and articles with great patina, and asked him if he believes this is important to the success of a interior. “I think a room with just furniture is a room with no soul,” he notes. “Wonderful objects bring a sense of history, a sense of humanity, a sense of time to a space. I think that can make or break a room. If you see only furniture, the room can look like it’s from a catalog and will feel incomplete.”
Case in point is the above image from the book about which Vicente says, “I conceived of the steel mantel to serve as a focal point, with its matte and shiny surfaces designed to reflect and refract views of the room. The Joan Miró aquatint is hung off-center, next to an antique Roman torso, and vintage crystal sconces produce a soft glow.” Vicente offers “Design Lessons” at the end of each chapter of the book. In one tip, he advises, “If there are several traditional-style pieces in a space, think about adding a few modern classics that might make the stodgier pieces feel more contemporary—remember, all things were contemporary at one time.”
Vicente also points out that artifacts add depth to a space. Proving his great skill at this is the above image from his book that includes an exuberant 18th-century gilded chair and a sleek 1940s oak armchair, both French, grouped with inlaid mother-of-pearl tables from Syria, a stone-topped game table, and a poetic Gilbert Poillerate side chair. A lightbox table that displays a trio of torsos inspired by Cambodian Angkor Wat relics glows from within.
About tapping sculptural objects, he says, “To me, designing a complete room is like forming a complete sentence. What I bring to the room in objects are the words that make the sentences whole. If the space is really modern, you will want things that bring an earthiness and texture to it. If the room is very earthy, you want objects that are slicker. It is always about balancing it out and the room tells you what it needs. To look at it and know that it’s complete, you want objects that give dimension to the space and balance the space.” His favorite room in one of his projects, shown above, bears this out. It is a sun-drenched, glass-enclosed solarium with limestone floors that continue outside to the terrace. “Here, a pair of majestic stone sphinxes—antique garden statuary that I discovered in Paris—preside over a fleet of Bonacina’s Palla chairs and a vintage Tovaglia molded-fiberglass coffee table,” he says.
We asked Vicente if he travels in order to collect. “Absolutely,” he says. “I go around the world at least once a year. I always visit certain places—Indonesia, Thailand, and France; then I fill in with places I’ve never been. This year I’m going to go to Chad in Africa, to Egypt, to Namibia, to Thailand, and to Bali. I choose the places I go not just to buy, but to experience. Those encounters have taught me how to look at things. For someone to be putting objects from around the world in a space, it’s important for them to have a sense of where the things are coming from. Traveling has allowed me to speak the decorative language of the places; to understand the personality of the different countries.” Traveling also allows him to buy distinctive pieces for clients’ interiors. The statues in this space he designed illustrates Vicente’s talent with mixing vintage and contemporary elements. When he renovated the home, he installed a monumental window to honor the room’s breathtaking vista of water and sky; it now resembles a framed painting.
Vicente points out that when people don’t experience other cultures on a regular basis, they can be intimidated about bringing home treasures for their residences. “I have no idea what I’m going to see or experience in Chad but I will be viewing everything I see through my aesthetic,” he says. “It’s like picking up pieces of a puzzle—I know that if I am drawn to it, it will shine somewhere. Whether objects are from France or Africa, I know they’re going to fit because they are going to be filtered through my aesthetic. I steer clear of things that are hokey, that look like souvenirs, and concentrate on things that have a personality. It’s important that they speak to the culture from which they sprang and reflect the people who made them.” Vintage objects and artifacts are sprinkled throughout the dining nook above, which Vicente designed for the owners of a Palm Beach condominium.
We asked Vicente to tell us one of the most incredible finds he’s ever brought home and he quipped, “My career was an incredible find: I didn’t know it until I picked it up!” He then said in all seriousness, “I’m sitting and looking at an amazing Dutch Colonial cabinet from the 19th century that I bought in Indonesia; it has a European feel but with an Asian flavor. I walk into VW Home and there are things I see from all over the world, which always take me back to the place I bought them. Furniture would be the jewels of the picking, such as the things I see that I bought in Burma.” A number of objects in the space above illustrate this point. About the room, he says, “I designed the L-shaped sectional sofa in this living room with cushions covered in two contrasting tones of Janus et Cie fabric. The wool “boulder” floor cushions, made by South African artist Ronel Jordaan, can be used for extra seating. Sitting atop the antique Indonesian table are sculptural pieces and a Castore table lamp by Artemide.”
Vicente is especially fond of Inya Lake in Burma, where he will find treasures like fragments of temples, as a shopping destination. “Every other day in the different little towns that abut the lake, there are markets,” he explains. “Whenever I’m there, I go to the different markets and I see so many gilded pieces and fragments, which would overwhelm most people because it’s like seeing 500 flavors of ice cream and being told to pick two! I walk from table to table or blanket to blanket and, having done this for so many years, I’ve trained my eye to focus on the things that look right. When taken out of the mish-mash—once I have them back in my room in the hotel room—I see a jewel in each piece. I have found so many wonderful objects that shine in my mind!” In the dining room above is an arrangement of antique mirrors; stainless-steel mirrored panels; and antique and vintage gilded, silver-leafed, and black-painted frames. On the table are sculptural hands Vicente collected as he traveled.
Vicente does not believe procuring is a rich person’s privilege. He explains, “The last time I was in Egypt, I bought various scarabs for my house in Montauk—I now have twenty of them. When you see them all lined up in different sizes, the arrangement creates interest. People walk into the house and say ‘Wow! What are these?’ They cost from fifty-cents to two dollars each and alone, they may not make much of an impact, but when they form a collection, they are powerful as a group.” In his chapter “Design Challenges,” Vicente offers a tip that furthers this premise, which you can see in the above photo: “Money has nothing to do with good design—a big budget might offer more options, but never underestimate the beauty of found objects, flea-market treasures, and a white canvas slipcover.”
We were drawn to the buxom sculpture balancing on the console table in this space that Vicente designed because it feels familiar to us given we have been developing so many bronze figural sculptures during the past several years. About the space, he says, “For the 2019 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York, I designed a space called the ‘Dreaming Room,’ which featured aubergine walls. The Kohler tub was mounted atop a raised platform as a counterpoint to the gleaming, black-painted floor. The silvered Indian wedding chair and the French 1940s armchairs—upholstered in Fortuny’s Simboli fabric—are from VW Home. The photo displayed over the mantel is by Hellen van Meene.” Notice how it is reflected in the vintage Karl Springer vanity mirror that sits next to the Gaston Lachaise sculpture from Vicente’s personal collection that caught our eye.
In the image above, Vicente chose a curvaceous Vladimir Kagan mohair sofa and a cocktail table that he custom designed to soften a corner of this living room; the carved-sandstone torsos are from VW Home. One of his design lessons in his book could have sprung from this page: “I’m always drawn to furniture, objects, lighting, and rugs that are sculptural, as they can add unexpected poetry to a space.” We asked Vicente if there was something in particular that excited him about coming to visit us during High Point Market. “What is going to be great is that I can share so much with the people who are coming,” he says, “whether it’s about what inspires me or showing projects I just completed, particularly sharing the process involved in how I created them. This will be a great pleasure for me.”
Join Us in High Point
Along with the book signing on October 14 from 3 to 5 p.m., you can hear these process stories and inspirations at The Point on Sunday, October 15, at 10 a.m. Gary Inman will have an intimate conversation with Vicente about what drives him and what intrigues him. A book signing and luncheon will follow so if you miss our Saturday book signing, be sure to make your way to the corner of Commerce Avenue and Wrenn Street where the venue is set up. You can, of course, stop by and see us anytime during Market: we’re in IHFC, showroom M110.