Interview with Paul Wiseman
Paul Vincent Wiseman, one of the four vignette designers of the 2018 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show, was born in the rich delta country of California’s Sacramento Valley. His formative years in an agricultural community have made him both sensible and grounded, but he has always marched to the beat of his own drum. After studying at the University of California- Berkeley, his zest for travel took him all over Europe and the Far East. By his mid-twenties, he had lived for extended periods in both France and Australia. It was during these youthful travels that he realized his passion for design. His eponymous interior design studio, The Wiseman Group, was founded in 1980. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, arguably one of the most dynamic and creative regions in the country, The Wiseman Group benefits from the cross-pollination of ideas and aesthetics in this high-energy locale. Influenced by both the city’s rich history and traditions and its proximity to Silicon Valley, the cutting edge of modern technology, the firm buzzes with vibrancy.
Direct, thoughtful exposure to the disparate cultures of the world has allowed Paul to be truthful to what is authentic. He has been influenced by the classic European motifs of Italy, France, England, and Spain, but is equally inspired by Asia and Africa. His is a global perspective on design—eclectic in the best sense of the word.
Paul has a deep appreciation for history, culture, art, and architecture. This love, paired with exposure to fine decorative arts through travel, has inspired his patronage of superb craftspeople. Artisan studios from Paris to the Far East provide the custom design elements that have become a signature of TWG projects.
In anticipation of his vignette at the entrance of the 2018 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show, we asked Paul about his approach to collecting and decorating with art and antiques:
How did you first become interested in antiques?
I am a history buff and I was fascinated how history is often manifested through objects. For example, the neoclassicism of the late 18th century was directly connected with the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There are many other examples such as the Napoleonic campaign furniture. Once I became an interior designer, I loved using antiques to give people a more in-depth reflection of time and space.
Are there any specific historic periods that you are drawn to?
There are many. For me personally, Japanese and Chinese Asian antiquities from the Han and Ming periods and the 20th Century Japanese Art Deco period are particular favorites. I have a 500-year-old Ming table in my living room and on it a Three-legged Han Vessel from a tomb and behind that is a 1920’s Japanese Screen of gold and silver leaf. Each one of these pieces drew my eyes as they were not heavily ornamented.
In your interior design work, what is your approach to incorporating art and antiques?
I love the tension of combining contemporary art with antiques. I think that it reminds us that we are just not of one time or place. Our homes are a great reflection of this dynamic.
What was your most favorite/memorable art/antique find? Or alternatively, can you tell us about “the one that got away”?
I think my favorite find was a console table that I spotted at a Sotheby’s auction in London. My clients got it for a very good price. We found later that it had royal inventory markings that Sotheby’s had missed.
What most excites you about coming to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show?
Of course the Opening Night Gala is the best party in town, but that is a known fact! I like the way the show is evolving which includes more diverse periods including contemporary art.
How do you walk the show? What are you looking for? Any tips for shopping the show?
I always pre-tour the show with my staff to scout out objects that will fit our various clients’ needs. During this tour, everyone gathers images and vendor information. We then follow-up the next morning with a breakfast meeting at our office to review and share all our wonderful finds. We engage clients before the show to gain their approval on prized pieces so we can purchase on their behalf as soon as the show opens.
What we look for varies each year and depends on the phases of our projects. Educating one’s eye is key to a successful show. Due to my experience I can recognize an unusual, unique find in order to educate my designers and clients.