Design News: Interview with interior designer John Robert Wiltgen – Being one of the Top Designers in Chicago and one of our favorite in the United States, John Robert Wiltgenexplains to us in an exclusive interview that “Thinking outside of the box” is the way to go when it comes to the Wiltgen philosophy. Being in charge of creating an unique and contemporary architecture and interior decoration style, the award-winning designer John Robert Wiltgen is renowned worldwide for his exceptional style and taste.
As a teenager, long before studying architecture and interior design, Wiltgen was mesmerized by performance art while working backstage at Arlington Park Theatre. It provided a mega dose of theatrical know-how from ZsaZsa and Eva Gabor, Leslie Caron, Louis Jordan, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and other masters. Working side-by-side with award-winning set, costume and lighting designers helped develop his exquisite sense of style.
At 19, he became a partner in a design firm. “I learned at an early age that I liked being the boss,” recallsWiltgen. Less than three years later, he opened his own practice. Through time, Wiltgen’s body of work grew from single family homes to vintage co-ops to luxury high-rises at Water Tower, One Mag Mile, Chicago Place and recently Trump International Tower, where the design team has completed 22 homes.
“Thinking outside the box” represents the Wiltgen philosophy. The designer demands that of himself and his team, each of which is challenged to learn something from every home they create enabling them to reinvent themselves for the next residence. “This is what distinguishes our work,’ he says. Imaginative architecture, highly creative space planning and exceptional furniture, accessories and art give this design collaborative an edge that attracts the curiosity of the media and the public.
The interview with John Robert Wiltgen was about what inspires him, future projects and personal achievements.
John Robert Wiltgen: Finishing a project for a client with a 2,700 square foot terrace 23 floors above Lincoln Park, installing the rooftop for a new Hyatt Centric, starting several new exciting projects, our Holiday office party.
To be in love with our work is always the key to achieve better results. Are you in love with this job? …Yes. The clients were amazing to work with. They were open to trying new things. This home is very different from their other ones. They were very decisive. What do you love most about being an interior designer?
John Robert Wiltgen: At John Robert Wiltgen Design we are more than just interior designers. We will prepare all of the construction documents for the residences we are creating from the ground up and / or remodeling. Then we will select the finishes, furniture and furnishings for the home and finally we will help assemble an art collection the is integrated with the rest of the project.
Do you have a favorite project or a favorite story about one of your projects?
John Robert Wiltgen: My favorite project was a home in Lagos, Nigeria. It was an exotic destination and a totally different culture. We had body guards follow us around everywhere we went. For many different reasons it was like being in a James Bond movie. We had to present our drawings to their version of a building department. There were like 6 or 8 government officials that sat in on our presentation and when we informed them that the home (which is over 40,000 square feet) would have bullet proof windows everyone asked “…for what kind of bullets?” It was like going to Harvard.
How important is a perfect chemistry between you and your clients to achieve the best results?
John Robert Wiltgen: I always tell people that a job can only be as good as our clients allow it to be.
We have to tell you, we loved to see the Intuition Table by KOKET in your Trump Tower project. This table is costumized. Could you tell us what was the inspiration for this change is?
John Robert Wiltgen: We are always inspired by extraordinary products that our vendors create but sometimes they do not meet the size and/or finish requirements for one of our installations. So many times we start with the already designed version and then modify it to be what we need.
This project also won the Crystal Key Award. Could you tell us how it felt?
John Robert Wiltgen: Everyone in my office was extremely proud. We work as a team and share in the 15 minutes of fame.
How would you describe your work style? Do you have any kind “signatures” that help to identify your projects?
John Robert Wiltgen:Good artwork and accessories. Whether they were part of our client’s inventory or we found them for our clients. Over the years we have placed a pretty fabulous Picasso, two (2) Monet paintings, a large Botero bronze, and a suite of Warhols just to name a few pieces. Then you need the perfect lighting to illuminate these items; you will most often find that in our work too.
If you had to pick one project around the world that you wish it had been made it by you, which would it be?
John Robert Wiltgen: The actual palace at the Kempinski Palace Hotel in Istanbul. It is amazingly beautiful. One year I was there with a bunch of friends and was able to host a dinner party in the lobby of the palace. It was surreal. The service. The 170 year old interior. The exterior. The Bosphorous. Fireworks. Tell me when you want me to stop. I cannot say enough about it.
Choose the best pieces to compose a project can be the secret to getting the best overall result. Although it seems easy, this is a delicate task and needs full attention on time to execute it. Do you have some tips for those who do not know well how to start a challenge like this?