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Vicente Wolf in Vancouver

By 02/24/2011January 27th, 201734 Comments

Interior Design by Vicente Wolf

So, I arrive at the Buildex show downtown this afternoon early enough to grab a seat in the front row to hear Vicente Wolf speak.  I’m happy because I’m sitting there feeling smug. My big plan is that instead of taking notes like everyone else, I’ll just tape the whole talk on my iphone.  Anyone that missed it–lucky for you to be reading my blog–you’ll get the recap here because I’ll be able to re-create it so easily. . .

And just so you know, it was a great talk.

I loved it.

It was unscripted and real and I wish you were there.

Because, when I arrived home, I almost threw my x*#@% iphone across the room because all that I had of the recording was, 12:36 pm 0.00.  Nothing, Nada, Zip. Except that I seriously need to upgrade from my 2G to a 4G. ASAP!

So all I have for you now is what I remember and some images of his stunning interiors:

Vicente started off his talk saying that he ended up in the interior design business because he got fired from every other job he did. I resonated with this because I could tell pretty much the same story about me and how I got here. Jonathan Adler says exactly the same thing in this interview I posted here.

So here’s the thing.  Any one of you, in your corporate job right now, dreaming of doing something creative for a living, looking at someone like Vicente and thinking, “Wow what a great life he must have, I would love to be where he is, but he’s educated in design and has had all the lucky breaks, etc, etc, etc.”  Not so, Vicente shared that he did not graduate from high school, or from design school.  In his slide show presentation, when showing an illustration of a room, was asked if he drew it. His response was, ‘Heck no, I can’t draw, I hire someone to do that for me.’

So then you might be thinking, ‘He’s so brave to venture out and just do what he loves to do, I wish I could have the courage to do that’.  But I have a news flash for you (and it applies to me as well).  Vicente Wolf or I or Jonathan Adler (OMG can I even include myself in between these two) are not doing this right now because we are brave. We started doing it to SURVIVE. And the only difference between doing this and a job (which we can’t keep anyway) is being on the street (because I did not have (1) the trust fund, (2) rich spouse or (3) clients lined up, waiting to buy my work at the time—As Penelope Trunk says in her post, How to Build a Career as an Artist).

Bottom line is, I write this blog and I am where I am creatively because I am unemployable.  Really. Not because I’m particularly courageous. Thankfully my clients expect the truth from me about what works or doesn’t work in their space. And when they hear it, they get it. They might not always be HAPPY in the moment, but at least they can now see the big picture because I have just explained it to them.  My past employers however, were not as eager to hear the truth from me. . . anyway, moving on.

Interior Design by Vicente Wolf

Vicente said that when he hires a new designer for his firm (he has a total of 12) and asks them what they are good at, the answer is usually something like “I love to design new spaces, I love selecting fabrics, shopping and sourcing furniture and accessories” and his answer is “Well what am I going to do?”. In other words, he does all the design, shopping and sourcing including all the presentations to his clients. 

Clients don’t necessarily understand the creative process (after all that’s why they’ve hired a designer) but they understand the logic behind the choices he’s made because his presentation includes the ‘why’ and the ‘because’ of everything he has created.  As Vicente presents his design plan, he walks through every single piece of furniture to explain why he chose this chair to sit beside this end table, and how it relates to the sofa and the artwork around it and so on.

Maria Killam and Vicente Wolf
Someone asked if he could do ‘any style’ and he said “No, I think any designer who is really successful has a look they really love and are passionate about, and that’s what they are known for. People don’t come to me for chintz, because they don’t see that in my interiors.” he said.  Vicente photographs all his interiors as well as installs the furniture and accessories at the same time.  The client has to leave for the 1 – 2 days during the installation and then when they walk in the door, it’s to candles, flowers and it’s showtime!  A great lesson for us all!
ps. Just in case you’re curious, Vicente uses ‘BM Super White’ in all of his interiors.
If you would like your Home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Related posts:

Find the Inspiration to Keep doing what you love Here!
Happiness is. . . Learning how to Ask for what you Want
The Three most Important words in a Consultation
What would you Do?  Advice for Designers/Consultants

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  • Donna says:

    Maria, This was such an interesting discussion…all except the part about the phone..that was so sad (OK, Yes I laughed too!). Isn't that so frustrating! I've had that sort of thing happen more than I can tell you. Try deleting 90% of your photos on your blog.

    But I love reading about how people make it doing what they love. I DO know that it takes a lot of work and determination. When I'm 'retired' I'm going to do that too. Don't have any time right now..but I'll be doing fabric art for people's walls. In fact, I'll be doing my first 'commissioned' job this March. It's my dream job. :o)

    Loved the photos you used today. Are you trying to hint to me about the yellow pillows. Sigh..I did two major sewing projects this week..and it wasn't pillows. Of course.

    Great post!

  • cindy northampton cin design studio says:

    Great post! Sorry about the phone – I have to contain myself from tossing my laptop out the window nearly every day. Love to hear encouraging words about doing what you love and where people get their start…

  • Anonymous says:

    He wouldn't use Super White for kitchen cabinets though would he??? (Seriously, would he??)

    I'm so sorry about your phone! I have been there, done that =(

  • Sherri Cassara says:

    Thanks Maria for another great post. I am disappointed for you AND for me to miss out on what was on that recording – however what you did relay was valuable and appreciated. And so much of it is my story too so thank you for sharing! I am anticipating hearing your insights from the blogger's conference (please share for us who can't make it!) 😉

  • Jennifer Duchene says:

    Maria I love this post. The part about the phone – I have recorded a couple of interviews and I couldnt hear a thing so I can relate. I can relate to all this cos I am pretty much unemployable myself. So I had a great laugh. and wished I had been with you. Cool orange scarf and how fascinating to know that Vincente is a super white BM guy. I guess that makes the color choice easy.

    Jennifer Duchene
    Home Makeover Mixtress blending Lifestyle & Laughter

  • stephibdesign says:

    This is a great post. Interesting to hear about Vicente. He has an amazing eye for design and for colour. Interesting to note he cannot draw. (I don't actually know why this interests me but it does). I think that often creative people forget that it's not necessarily their creativity which is going to enable them to survive and succeed in the business world but rather, their passion, their determination and developing your business sense.
    Great post, thank you.

  • Brillante Interiors says:

    Phone or no phone you said the most important things of his talk. I found he has great humour, not just great style. I will soon try to write a post about today…brava Maria to have already done it!

  • Barbara@HausDesign says:

    What a fantastic post. The first pictures stopped me dead in my tracks!! I think I am going to re-post it with some ideas on how to get that look! More imporantly, your inspirational words were fantastic! I loved the tip about "staging" the space for the clients so the first impression really wows them. Thanks!!!

  • Lynne says:

    Maria, you are very self-decpreciating! This is a fantastic post, I am sure it's all the better for being your personal take-home rather than a summary of the content. I love these pics and I love his comment that there are looks that a designer does really well…this probably applies to all our professions, and I bet it evolves, too. Thx for posting 🙂

  • Honey says:

    As everyone else has said, great post. Regarding your phone though, I have had my new iPhone 🙂 for only a few weeks, it replaced an old BB that nearly drove me insane–we are going to have a big party for the day I crush it, hopefully under the wheel of the car! Shall I send you an invitation? It was very lucky to never have been tossed out of the car window. Our relationship was that tortured. 🙂

    The reason I love your post is it makes me think about all the people who tell me I'm wasting my time in my "regular Job" and should be doing design work. I always respond with an "I wish"….but my job has one important benefit–paid tuition for 3 children currently in the University! So, just a few more years and maybe I will venture out there!

  • I wish I could have been there to hear Vicente speak. You did a great job of conveying his ideas. I love how honest and straightforward he is – such a talent. Thanks Maria.

  • Bruce Barone says:

    Great post.


    Thank You.

  • Make no mistake, i have read every single post you have written, and pondered most every word. This post, i must say, is one of my favorites. I'm glad you didn't record it, because i really enjoyed the way you translated his thoughts. You made this giant real and approachable and, being a fan of his work, I loved reading this! Wish I could have been there so we could have had coffee after and chatted about what he said all day! Thanks for posting this Maria!

  • Mary says:

    Since color can make such an impact in a room, I'm kinda surprised he only uses white on his walls.
    It must have been fun to meet him though.

  • Caroline says:

    I love you more than ever!!!!!
    I'm so happy that I discovered your blog. This is such a wonderful, wonderful post and it totally made my Thursday!

  • Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    Every interview that I've ever read or heard about Vincent I've LOVED. I relate to him so very well! Like you said, he's so real. He is so open about the way he works and he has inspired me to become a better designer.


  • Kelly says:

    His rooms are so simple and gorgeous. The room with the yellow pillows remind me of you!

  • Anonymous says:

    How can he use the same color for every installation?

  • Splendid Sass says:

    Thank you for sharing this great post with us, Maria! Great lessons to be learned.
    Hope all is well with you.

  • GBC Style says:

    I love him. Just so down to earth about design. I, like you, can identify on how we get where we are in our lives. it's all about following your gut on what feels right and never being someone your not.
    enjoying your posts very much.

  • Dale says:

    Time for a new IPhone I guess…

    PS – I choose to think you're courageous anyway.

  • traci zeller designs says:

    What a wonderful post, Maria. People love you because you are courageous, candid and inspiring! I hate that I missed Vicente in High Point, so I am thrilled to have had this recap. I especially love hearing about his take on having a signature look. I'm just not interested in chintz either!

  • Becca says:

    Get that phone upgrade girl! But seriously…don't be so hard on yourself. Your work is so inspiring!

  • Braxton and Yancey says:

    Oh how I love reading creative peoples back story, especially when it's as honest as Mr. Wolfs. This post has been very inspiring to me. Thank you.

  • Laura@Developing Designs says:

    First and foremost, you look great in the photo. He, is such a stylish striking impressive honest down to earth man. I had the opportunity to hear him speak as well and was hanging on every word he said….so real, and amazingly talented. 🙂

    Second, sorry to hear about your phone. I have 4G, but it only is 4G in a few select cities, of course not the one that I reside in.

    Thank you for some great pointers and hints in this world we find ourselves in. AND you ABSOLUTELY can count yourself in the company of such likes.

  • Kristen says:

    Why is he hiring designers for his firm if he's not going to let them actually design anything? If he just wants someone to manage installation, why doesn't he hire project managers?

  • camdesign says:

    Oh too have been in Vancouver a few more days to have been with you… I so like Vicente Wolf.
    Great post, I will come back and read it again later, so good…
    Regards, Carol Ann
    PS hope your phone healthy again soon…

  • Ideezine says:


    How fun and hey when plan "A" fails go to plan "B". That's called being creative with what you have in front of you. Hold out for iPhone 5 in a few months!

    What you've posted here I hope resonates with those creatives just getting laid off currently. You have to never stop believing in yourself. Ignore the nay sayers and get on with it.


  • Emom says:

    Interesting insight…..thankn you….smiles.

  • Ragan says:

    Thanks for sharing the photos and insights about working in the interior design field. It takes a hearty soul to be self-employed and successful in interior design, and if you really have a passion for it and really want to make it work, you will be successful!

  • Christine @ The Glam Blog says:

    Maria…you constantly inspire me with your insight and thoughts. You always seem to write something that I am thinking or mulling about — you are soooo real. If you are ever in the Toronto area, would love to meet face2face!!
    Happy weekend!!

  • Design Elements says:

    Wonderful post, Maria! love Vicente's work. I have all of his books. They really have learned me to see…Happy Friday

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    Great post Maria. I actually was invited to go to his showroom in New York when you and I were there and due to the lovely weather, exhaustion and our schedule I just didnt make it.

    He really does have a great business. I would love to sit with him for an hour and pick his brain about his systems, and process.

  • Luciane at says:


    You've simply made my day with this post and you've inspired more than you know.

    Thank you!


    Luciane at

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