Friday, January 09, 2009

Tablescapes: Vicente Wolf

First, let me apologize to anyone who doesn't like the word "tablescape".  I know certain folks in the decorating world prefer to call them "vignettes" or some such thing.  While "vignette" is a very pretty word, I think that "tablescape" is perfectly suitable, precise and more meaningful when used to describe these table-top compositions!  It's what they are, after all - little "scapes" (a scene, or view) situated on tables.  The name makes perfect etymological sense to me!
A scene from Vicente Wolf's home in a Manhattan warehouse - notice his beautiful collections, arranged as tablescapes in the background.

Now,  where was I?  

I wanted to talk about Vicente Wolf's tablescapes.  In case you don't know, Vicente Wolf is a renowned Cuban-American designer and photographer (self-taught) who I could have sworn I blogged about but guess I didn't feel I had the authority to - he is rather intimidating! He is one of my most esteemed interior designers - despite the fact that I don't always like his rooms!  
I'm only kidding - I do like many of his rooms.  But although Vicente and I don't share the same taste even half the time, I admire him enormously and appreciate his rooms immensely.  They have a very particular look.  They're modern but not really minimal.  They look very clean but still have pretty traditional elements (often a traditional chair).  There is plenty of white, Asian elements, and a sophisticated, uncluttered but collected-over-time look with lots of worldly art and photographs.  Oh, and plants, lots and lots of tall plants and flowers!
Wolf has a very distinctive point of view, informed by his extensive travels and his photographer's eye for detail, color, shape.  I would love to go for lunch with him and spend the afternoon walking around town with him teaching me how to see the world the Vicente Wolf way (the title of his first book is "Learning to See").  We could all learn a ton.  Vicente, are you up for it?

But to get back to the focus of this post - Wolf puts together a mean tablescape!

His compositions are so worldly and elegant and recall far-away places.
Vicente's tables look like they've been put together by a cross between a well-travelled anthropologist and a slightly crazy child.  I've never seen tables quite like Vicente's for delivering a point of view.  For one thing, he always uses  giant, crazy-looking plant material.  I never see anyone else using houseplants, but Vicente has them!  And his plants and flowers are often tall and jungle-ish and totally suit the scale of the room.  He doesn't let the fact that they dominate the table bother him!  

Then he has a few odds and ends on the table (often very small things next to ginormous flowers or plants) like you've never seen before. There are never familiar things - instead these beautiful things all look like they were hand-hewn by some undiscovered tribe somewhere.   Everything has provenance and you know  that each little thing has a marvellous story.  

I don't think Vicente shops much at mass market retailers, but I could be mistaken.  Instead, his tables have an accumulated-in-our-travels, genuine look that I adore.  They speak of "life beyond these walls", and clearly say "to Hell with what everyone else is doing".
I love Vicente Wolf's tables - they're like the decorating equivalent of ikebana- precise, novel, a little weird, and utterly beautiful!
Another photo of Wolf's lovely warehouse home - his photography from his travels, as well as his collected works, is very beautiful, and he displays it casually on chairs (to facilitate quick decor changes).

If you're interested in reading more about Vicente Wolf, you can visit his firm's website here. For a very funny interview with Wolf and a photo montage from his fascinating home, you can visit New York Social Diary here.  Wolf also has a blog that can be accessed through his company website.  He travels a lot, so don't expect updates often!

(All photos from these sources)


  1. Great post Terri! I love that glass candlebra, pretty!

  2. He obviously thinks highly of his photography since he actually "seats" it as one would a guest. I like that.

    My, what an interesting post, Terri. I feel as if I've just been to an intriguing lecture with all the visuals to pull it together.

    I loved the way you describe his work as a cross between a well-travelled anthropologist and a slightly crazy child. I find his work highly sophisticated, but that shows my limitations for understanding it. I simply have no words. The only thing I can say about it is that I'd love to visit, but I'd hate to live there.

    Thank you for a rich and informative post!

  3. I just happened to run across your blog. I really enjoyed it. I thought you might be interested. A group of bloggers do a "Tablescape Tuesday". It's really a lot of fun. I'll be back!! Terrie

  4. This is a great post, Terri! I love doing stuff like this myself. Happy New Year, btw!

  5. Vincente Wolf is on of my all time favourite Designers. He has an interesting way of composing a room, which comes from seeing it through a photographers eye. And the pieces he picks up on his travels add to the diversity and depth of his designs. Thanks for the post. Some of the rooms I have never seen before.

  6. Wow - what a massive post! So interesting to see the tablescapes from one designer - especially Wolf.

  7. I love the word 'tablescapes'. Once, when in an antique store, I used the term and the owner assumed I was a designer because of my knowledgeable use of the term!

    Although Wolf is not one of my favorites, I have tremendous admiration for him as an artist, because his work is truly artistic.

  8. What a thrilling post! Vicente Wolf seems to be a very interesting man and I would like to sit in on your lunch. LoL

    I have never heard the word tablescape. I guess I would say arrangement or still life but maybe that would be wrong.

    Anyway, I love still life! Most of my photos are of still lives or arrangements.

  9. Awesome post. (I don't mind tablescape & I'm confused as to what the issue is with it?? I was actually wondering about that today.. really!) Love his interiors & all the white!