Welcome back to Eustis Chair’s “More Than Chairs” Series. For this edition, Eustis Chair had a conversation with Eve Wildrick, President of Executive Interiors. Eustis Chair had the pleasure of talking with Eve about where she finds inspiration for her design, the effects of the pandemic on her business, and much more.
Please share a brief overview of you and your background.
My mother, Suzanne Binswanger, started Executive Interiors in 1961. The business began as an art consulting firm where Suzanne and her business partner would help law firms, accounting firms, and other service businesses. The only artwork they had was their diplomas. My mother helped them buy art for their offices. The business rapidly expanded from artwork to interior design, starting with just a chair! Though her background was in antiques and antique furniture, no one wanted to do the small space projects she was taking on, so she took on the niche of 50,000 feet and under.
I first experienced the business by being dragged around to showrooms by my mother. I never thought I would want to go into the business based on how much I dreaded those showrooms. I would sit by the door and count the minutes it took for my mom to look at fabrics!
I majored in art history in college, where I did a traveling school program in Rhode Island. Through that program, I got the opportunity to work with Arts Rhode Island before coming back to Philadelphia. I always thought I would go into art conservation because of how much I loved textiles, but I hate being inside all the time! I want to be out and about. So, after college, I did work designing the layout of plants in large places, like shopping malls and offices. I didn’t enjoy the planting job, so when my mom asked me to help her buy antiques for clients in 1977, I took her offer. My mother is no longer working with me aside from occasional projects, but she is ultimately the reason I entered this business.
In the 50 years since my mother started Executive Interiors, the business has expanded from just office space to a mixture of commercial, hospitality, and residential.
How has your business been affected by the pandemic?
I wish I had been in residential more when the pandemic started! I’ve been doing more commercial, university, and hospitality spaces in the last year or so. Of course, everyone shut down because of the pandemic, but they are beginning to open back up just now. It seems I missed the bandwagon on residential redo’s this time.
In the industry as a whole, I see a lot more transactions happen online because of the pandemic. I believe everyone should see what they’re getting, so I’m eager to get back to the older way, even if it’s old-fashioned. You need to sit on, feel, touch what you’re getting. I feel it’s important to connect with your client and their space when designing, remote doesn’t work for me.
How do you approach a club renovation project? What is the design process like?
In the Yale Club and other historical rooms, I’ve worked on a lot of the inspiration from the room’s history. Considering how it was used and how it is used inspires some of my design choices. At the Yale Club, we reused the same wallpaper that was originally in the space. It fit precisely in the panels that were previously there. Adding elements of the room’s history back into the design gave it its incredible elegance.
What are some of your most memorable projects?
I’ve been trying to research the last residential project of Louis Khan in Philadelphia. The projects that are the most memorable are long-term projects like the University of Pennsylvania Law school who I have worked with for over ten years. I’ve worked with them through different Deans, with different architects, and in different situations. For me, it’s so satisfying to work in all those different spaces! There’s one residential client who I have worked on three projects for. It’s fun to grow with someone and reuse furniture and add furniture to space. Clients that turn into lifetime friends make projects the most memorable.
How do you come to meet most of your clients?
I have a lot of repeat business! I feel very lucky. Sometimes I get hired by the client to separate from the architect or sometimes I come on with the architect and often end up sticking around longer because they have side projects. So, it depends. Depending on the projects, things change. I pound the street sometimes, but it’s mostly referrals.
Do you work with a team?
It’s mostly me. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger team. I always meet with the client personally, and I am the face of the business. I am doing the work, but I do have people who help me.
Are any of your children going to be continuing the legacy?
Both of my children work in a business where they’re very successful. They both say they would love to work in the design business, but I say, stick with what is bringing you success! But we’ll see.
Where do you find inspiration?
I go to art museums every other week or so. I get really excited about what I’m seeing! I think that’s inspiring. I love to go back to the showrooms now. It can really start me off. But I find that my inspiration comes from being outside in nature. I need to be outside. There’s so much inspiration here in New York. Books and reading too!
Do you like to travel?
All I’m talking about is the next trip! I traveled to see my grandchild in California recently. California was so inspiring. And I am dying to go to Europe! I get inspired and recharged when I am there. So I’m hoping to go to France and Portugal next. I’ve traveled to a client in Colorado a few times too.
Do you have any pieces of furniture that you’ve kept as you’ve moved around?
I have two pieces of furniture that I have moved with me for the last 40 years. One is an English cricket table that is 54” round. We have had family dinners and squeezed up to ten people for dinner parties there. Eating at a round table is a wonderful place to have good conversation.
The second piece is an 18th century English hall table. I purchased it many years ago at the Philadelphia Antique Show, not realizing that it had only two front legs. The piece rests on the wall for support. A bit scary!
We had a great time speaking with Eve, and we cannot wait to work with Executive Interiors again!