The Tao of Paul Wiseman
Entering the home of The Wiseman Group along the northern slope of Potrero Hill is to be transported into a world of serene order and beauty punctuated by the ever warm greeting from the bespectacled master of ceremonies himself, Paul Wiseman. Before we sat down in the firm's project clad conference room, Wiseman indulged us in a tour of the firm's extensive design studios. During the past 30 years, Paul has become one of the most successful and respected interior designers in America. Architectural Digest’s special edition, “100 years of Design,” mentions Paul as one of the top designers. He has been widely published and over a 16 year period has been listed on the A.D. Best Designers list. Our look behind the TWG curtain tells a story of unrelenting precision and passion where the alchemy of Paul Wiseman and his creations live.
CaenLucier: What do you consider "good" design?
Paul Wiseman: Anything that is appropriate for its location, climate and use. Attention to detail and well considered options result in design decisions of the highest caliber.
CL: How has your constant curiosity as a person kept your work evolving and fresh?
PW: I am always curious and there are only two guarantees in life – death and change, so I might as well be curious about change.
CL: How do you see your client’s process today in relation to the way clients and the process worked as you came to prominence years ago?
PW: I think the internet has been a great benefit and also a great hindrance to our industry. The internet generation thinks that quality and appropriateness come with the push of a button. What we do is a process, not a product.
CL: You are currently working with Richard Beard on a Joseph Esherick home in Hillsborough. How has your experience working with Richard on past projects and this current project been unique, surprising and professionally enhancing?
PW: Working with Richard has been professionally enhancing due to the fact that we are both well-traveled, with our focus based upon the love of architectural history and cultural references. This also enriches our relationship with clients by offering our special and unique talents within the design process. Working with a great client and a talented architect like Richard reinforces my belief in the collective creative process. It’s a wonderful synergy! We also share a wicked sense humor.
CL: How have your travels trained your eye?
PW: I was very fortunate to have lived abroad twice in Australia and France and have the opportunity to have extended travels around the world before cultures became more homogenized. Combined with my general curiosity, it allowed me to have a very deep dictionary of cultural cross references.
"The internet generation thinks that quality and appropriateness come with the push of a button. What we do is a process, not a product."
CL: Have you ever traveled with a client for collective inspiration for a project?
PW: I have numerous times over the years. In one instance even before the house was built, I went on a buying trip to London with our client. We really bonded around discovering four 18th century chimney pieces that set the tone for the entire design of the home. The soft limestone-not marble-suggested a relaxed palette for the décor. We were so lucky to find them; I have never seen that quality since.
CL: Working with a variety of clients’ personal aesthetics and different property locations, is there a Wiseman touch that is a common thread throughout these homes.
PW: Every client is different. What I hope to achieve with every project is to get the client to connect to the architecture and location based upon their own personal preferences. Good taste comes in many forms and it is my job to be the guide.
CL: You lived in a very formal residence on Nob Hill prior to your current residence on Belvedere Island. How have each of these residences been a reflection of the same person?
PW: The city apartment formally provided a great backdrop for that part of my life that was much more social. In order to maintain my creativity, the older I get the more I must have sacred space to rejuvenate that creativity. Belvedere provides a perfect venue – I can garden and cook and still entertain, but at a much more relaxed pace.
CL: What is your favorite color and why?
PW: Most shades of yellow and green, because they remind me of nature.
"We have had clients that became serious students of the architectural styles and design motifs we chose for their home. Armed with the knowledge and possessing great creativity, they put their stamp on the project and made it their own."
CL: How would you describe your "dream client?"
PW: Intelligent, curious, kind and respectful. We have had clients that became serious students of the architectural styles and design motifs we chose for their home. Armed with the knowledge and possessing great creativity, they put their stamp on the project and made it their own.
CL: What is your favorite project that your firm is working on at the moment?
PW: All of my projects are favorites, but the most unusual is the Frank Gehry house that we are currently working on. It is Frank’s first residence in 25 years and his first residence in Northern California.
CaenLucier would like to thank Paul Wiseman for all his time and amazing energy! We would also like to thank Layne Varholdt and Kevin Peters of TWG for their organization in helping us produce this feature!