Baron Wolfgang has worked with interiors in Sioux Falls for more than a decade. Known for an artistic sensibility, a penchant for joy, and unerring good taste, this local luminary of design sat down at Sioux Falls delicatessen M.B. Haskett (one of his favorite projects) to dish on his work, and how we can make our interiors work for us.
When did your work in interior design start?
Baron Wolfgang: I originally studied ceramics at Minnesota State in Mankato. I wanted to be a starving artist, but then thought design might be a better fit. In 2003, I started working for Traditions doing merchandising and helping in the showroom. Now, I’m a designer at Montgomery’s, where I’ve been since April.
Can you recall a certain design memory that inspired your career choice?
BW: It wasn’t so much design as it was architecture. I always remember seeing the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and Gaudi and thinking, ‘It’s really interesting how you can reinterpret the same ideas and come up with something more functional and cool to look at.’ Also modern sculptures. I draw a lot of inspiration from artwork, both painting and sculpture. Design is really about making a sculpture out of a space.
What is your personal aesthetic?
BW: I would describe it as ‘Me.’ I like a little bit of nostalgia. Heirloom pieces in furniture. Those older, really well-built pieces that can be harder to attain. But overall, it’s a really modern aesthetic, with little bits of traditional ugliness thrown in.
How do you work with a client to make a space feel like ‘them?’
BW: It’s really critical to understand who they are, what they do, where they’ve been, and really kind of get to know them. The space needs to reflect the user of the space. It’s really about relationships. A lot of times a client has some ideas and has seen some things. In this day in age, we have Pinterest and Houzz and these really great social tools to help us out. It can be my job to help them sort through that.
How do you find special pieces, so clients’ homes don’t look cookie cutter?
BW: I really like to spend time looking at what’s out in the universe. What’s new or really classic. What pieces can we reinterpret? Maybe using something unconventional. I think people, most of the time, have one or two pieces they want to work with. So I think I kind of draw inspiration from the pieces they have existing. I like to take a little time to make sure we’re finding exactly the right pieces.
What are some pieces worth investing in?
BW: Your dining room table. Don’t skimp on your dining room table. Get one that’s functional. Get one that’s not too big and has something interesting about it.
Also, bedroom furniture. Maybe not the bed itself, but casements, a great dresser or sideboard. You can even use them in other rooms as an entertainment console, in your bedroom for storage, in your dining room. Some of those larger wood pieces can be things you keep reincorporating in different ways throughout different stages of your life.
How can we tell something is well made?
BW: Look at how solid a piece is. Any furniture that has nuts and bolts you can see is probably not going to stand the test of time. It’s really not made to. It’s up to us to ask how things are constructed. I would ask about the finish. If it’s wood, make sure your drawers are dovetailed, and it might have a dust cover between the drawers. Those are signs that some effort was made, rather than building all these pieces of furniture to get them out the door.
I think domestically-made furniture is wonderful, if you can get it. It’s becoming more and more rare, but those pieces tend to last longer than imported pieces.
What are some inexpensive items than can change the feel of a room?
BW: Artwork. Original artwork is really integral. I would love it if everyone had original artwork. You can invest a lot of money in artwork, or a little. It always increases in value. There’s wonderful artists in our community doing great things.
Pillows are great to switch out. Bedding, lamps, or new dining room chairs. If you’ve got a great table, you can switch those out. Reupholster smaller pieces. A great rug can go a long way, too. Just a couple hundred dollars and you can get a new feel in your space.
What trends do you think will look good for a few years?
BW: I like navy as a neutral. That’s been a big trend, even in painted furniture. I think it could be a great way to add a lot of personality to your space. I also love black and white. It gives you contrast and something to play off. And they’re comfortable colors. Those bright colors – hot pinks and magentas – are fun, but in small doses.
You did the design here in M.B. Haskett. What are some of your favorite aspects of this space?
BW: Probably one of my favorite aspects is the wood wall. All of that wood was recycled from the renovation or it was recycled from Mike [Haskett]’s farm. We were able to do that without spending any money, so we got a really awesome design element without eating into the budget for custom tables or anything like that.
I also love the original artwork. We really spent time curating that. Lisa Candela and Laura Jewell have pieces in here, and it really sets the tone and makes it feel like a comfortable space.
What did Mike want this space to convey to his customers?
BW: He wanted an older feel. A lot of reference was made to old ice cream parlors and old delicatessens in New York City. He wanted his customer to feel like they could be in a small town or a big city. I think this place fits right into that.
What is your design philosophy?
BW: Everyone deserves a great space to come home to. •