Known for interiors that expertly blend vintage finds, eye-catching art, and thoughtful mementoes from globetrotting travel, designer Vicente Wolf is something of a legend in the field. There are few working designers today who’ve accomplished as much; in fact, last year, Elle Decor selected him to be one of their two dozen A-List “titans,” an additional honor beyond being part of their exceptional list. He’s also the author of multiple books and runs his own New York-based showroom, VW Home, which is available on Chairish.

With so much going on, we were thrilled that Vicente took the time to speak with us about his storied career and the things that inspire him today. See what he had to say below, and be sure to shop an exclusive curation of his Chairish favorites as well.

Vicente Wolf
Vicente Wolf. Photo: Julien Capmeil.

You’re known for incorporating antique and vintage pieces into more modern designs. How do you manage this, and how can people do this in a way that’s seamless?

I don’t see antiques as old pieces; remember, they were contemporary design when they were first done. I see them through Modernist eyes. It is a complicated dance of juxtaposing periods and materials with each other. When incorporating antiques, they should be woven into a room in an unstudied way — it should look like it just happened. I would say that antique or vintage pieces should be dealt with in an instinctual, organic way, avoiding a premeditated look. 

Your design work runs the gamut, from residential to hospitality and commercial projects. How does your approach differ with each of the three? What elements are the same between them and what are the things that make them different?

I approach creating interiors, whether they’re residential, hospitality, or commercial, with the same objective: they should be elegant but not stuffy, comfortable, and have a sense of humor and strong infusion of creativity. The situation may involve different materials depending on a space’s use, but they all require balance.

You’ve been based in New York for years, but you’ve also spoken extensively about your difficult first years in the city as a Cuban refugee. How did those years influence the person (and creative professional) you are today?

It was a time when I absorbed and formulated my point of view by going to museums and taking in the sights and sounds of what New York was about. I was in a period of forward thinking.

Tell us a bit about how your global travels have influenced your design work. And how did the pauses in travel over the last two years affect you?

It’s been difficult not being able to travel for the last two years to exotic parts of the world that call me. Seeing different cultures and participating with them has always expanded my viewpoint, spiritually and aesthetically. My experience with people from remote areas of the world is that they are more connected to their history and the Earth. I have a special fondness for artifacts from these places, which, incidentally, I bring back to New York and sell in my VW Home showroom in Hell’s Kitchen, across from my design studio. Assimilating those different sensibilities and their possibility into my vocabulary eliminates my visual sense of right and wrong. I am not intimidated by things that are different. By naturally accepting different viewpoints, it allows me to offer my clients objects and ideas that are atypical for interiors, creating more interesting and sophisticated environments.  

You’re also known for your passion for photography and the visual arts in general. What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate art into your spaces?

There is always a challenge when it comes to incorporating art into spaces and still giving you a connection to the art itself. Even fine art should be considered a living part of the design and not feel impersonal — like “look but don’t touch.” Art should be moved periodically. If something hangs in one place too long, you stop seeing it. This is one reason I like to use picture ledges, where, in my case, black-and-white photos can be shifted easily. I like art to be flexible.

Vicente Wolf

Over the summer, you were named one of two dozen industry “titans” by Elle Decor, as part of their A-List honors. What was that experience like, and how do you see your position in the design community now?

It’s always an amazing validation when you’re recognized with a great honor such as that… to feel that after the many years I’ve been at this, my work remains relevant. I will say that with almost five decades in the industry, I have begun to take on a responsibility to share my experiences with the next generation of designers coming up. I enjoy opportunities to mentor interns, with their fresh eyes, and I am now in the middle of penning my fifth book. Mostly, though, I see my career and myself in the same way I saw them from the beginning: dealing with the challenges of client expectations and running a successful design business.   

Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?

Anything that sparks my fancy. From 18th-century to mid-century modern, it has to appeal to me and fit into the direction of the space I’m designing. I love the fact that these are pieces with history. They have a personality and they’re not generic and commonplace.

Vicente Wolf

Some Design Favorites…

Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:

Lacquered walls and high-gloss surfaces add an expansive sense and drama. They have a sharp quality that helps the mix of elements stand out. It brings a sense of modernity to a space, even if there is an abundance of traditional pieces.

Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”

Up lights. You can get them really inexpensively, but they bring thousands of dollars of drama.

Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:

Cedric Hartman three-legged tables

Favorite paint color:

PPG Delicate White, which, being the PPG spokesperson, has been renamed “Vicente Wolf White”

Favorite piece of decor in your home:

My 18th-century Indonesian daybed that I bought in Borneo

Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:

David Hicks

Favorite style icon:

Pauline de Rothchild

Design destination every creative should visit at least once:


Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:

A designer doesn’t make money when he’s in the office. Designers have to get out to visit client projects and showrooms. It always pays off. 

Vicente Wolf

Some Lifestyle Favorites…

Favorite vacation destination:


Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:

The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok

Favorite restaurant:

Salivar’s Clam & Chowder House in Montauk

Favorite small museum:

The Morgan Library

Favorite podcast:


Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:

Home-baked goods, and if not, a wonderful orchid

Favorite flower:


Favorite adult beverage:

Vodka, tequila, bourbon

Favorite way to unwind at home:

Play with my cat, cook up a storm, and entertain

Favorite entertaining essential:

Good conversation

All photos courtesy of Vicente Wolf


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February 14, 2022

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.