In our series, Interior Lives, Avenue profiles the new guard of interior design icons about redefining classics and bringing innovation — and beauty — to the industry.
Peti Lau’s eclectic, artful touch is sprinkled all over the world: Thailand, Dubai, West Hollywood, London, New York, and even as far as Mauritius in East Africa. But it’s a city in Florida the interior designer is after these days. “I just think Miami has such interesting architecture. I really like how art-centric and diverse the people there are, too,” she tells Avenue. “I don’t have any design opportunities there, but I’m putting it out there and manifesting it.”
Should the universe grant Lau’s wish — given her impressive portfolio, it probably will — you’ll be hard-pressed to miss whatever she touches in the lively, coastal city. “There’s a lot of personality in my work,” she says, likely alluding to “AristoFreak,” the (admittedly perfect) term she gave her signature, bold style. “Everything I do is very layered, textured, and colorful, but I also think there’s an element of timelessness. I avoid things that are ‘trendy’ because I want my clients to love their space 10 years from now.” Pattern-mixing is another hallmark of her aesthetic, and something she feels particularly well-equipped to do based on her childhood singing opera. “The way I see patterns is the same way I hear music,” she says. “Depending on the notes and chords, a song can sound melancholy or melodic. Much like pattern-mixing, and interior design in general, there are all these contrasts at play, but you still need a sense of harmony.”
Lau’s foray into interior design was anything but conventional. She’d been an expat in Thailand for a few years, dabbling in hospitality and fashion and “just being creative on a tropical island.” After designing the restaurant at a local hotel, her work caught the eye of a friend’s father, who asked her for help in designing his new villa. His neighbor, impressed with the work Lau had done, quickly became her very first client and mentor, providing her with key opportunities in places like Mauritius and Dubai. “I was like, ‘Wow, I really love interior design and I think I’d like to take this seriously,” Lau recalls. So, she packed up and moved back to the East Coast (she grew up near Washington, DC) enrolling at the New York School of Interior Design and graduating in 2011. She bounced around at different design firms until 2013, when she opened one of her own and made a name for herself in the world of high-end residential and commercial design, collecting awards and a cushy spot on HGTV along the way.
Lau says working on the Hollywood Hills home of the Chainsmokers’ Alex Pall in 2018 was a major career highlight, as he allowed her to “really go for it. It was dynamic, collaborative, and fun. He was a really big art collector. His mom is English, so we used House of Hackney wallpaper. We had these bold rock ‘n’ roll moments and also these really sexy ’70s vibes in the living room with a shag rug.” Plus, she adds, “there was an actual tree in the living room.”
Some of the residential projects Lau’s currently tackling sound equally wild: a New York apartment overlooking Central Park belonging to an eccentric Burning Man enthusiast (think Lindsey Adelman chain light fixtures, $70,000 worth of peacock feathers, and hand-blown glass). Then there’s a project in Pasadena: the mid-century-meets-Hollywood-Regency home of the person who created the famous Beverly Hills Hotel banana leaf wallpaper. (Lau, for what it’s worth, opted for de Gournay on the walls.)
These types of projects are where Lau truly shines, and for good reason: “I’m inspired by people. I think that’s probably why I’m a designer, because I really love understanding them and creating spaces for them. The job we do is almost kind of psychic in a way — you have to be able to read people really well and figure out what it is they want before they even know what they want.”