Designing a flawless transition
Wiseman & Gale & Duncan Interiors has new owner, same expertise
Celebrating 15 years in business this July, Wiseman & Gale & Duncan Interiors has been a pre-eminent influence in the Santa Fe design community.
Pam Duncan started the company in 1993 after moving to Santa Fe from Tucson, Ariz., with husband Don Duncan. Last summer, she sold the business, which houses six part-time and full-time designers, to Chris Pieroth in anticipation of retirement.
"I'm getting older," she said. "I wanted to spend more time with family and grandchildren." Duncan has remained on staff, though, and is as busy as ever with design projects.
Asked how the firm got its name, Duncan explains: "When I was still in Tucson, I worked with Wiseman & Gale Interiors, located in Scottsdale, for a few years." Anne Gale and George Wiseman (who died in the early 1990s) were the original partners.
"When Don and I moved to Santa Fe from Tucson," Duncan said, "I thought we needed Anne here, and she said, 'Let's do it.' We agreed that we'd open a studio here together."
The firm started out modestly. Their first studio was "a little old house at 940 East Palace," Duncan said. "The stove was my desk. I had a drawing board on it. I redid the basement, and when we cleaned out the fireplace there was a sign in there: 'Last cleaned in 1953.'"
The Gales had lived in Santa Fe in the 1950s when Tom, an architect, worked for Stamm Construction. Although the couple had a strong affection for the city, Duncan said, when it became clear the Gales would not make a permanent move from Arizona to Santa Fe, she assumed sole ownership of the business, keeping the original partnership's name.
In 1998, Wiseman & Gale & Duncan moved to its present location at 150 S. St. Francis Drive -- formerly an Allsup's convenience store -- where it constructed an additional building.
Saving time and money
Having served several hundred residential and commercial clients over the years, from Santa Fe to Boston and everywhere in between, Duncan observed, "There were fewer design firms and designers when I first moved here. Santa Fe has definitely evolved as a design center."
Still, while Santa Fe now may be home to many designers, actual design showrooms are few and far between.
"We've made a significant investment in our showroom so we don't have to go to Dallas or Phoenix or Denver to source things," Duncan said. "It's not necessary for us to travel to design centers; it's here in the studio. It saves clients time and money."
Included in their space is everything from textile samples and custom furniture catalogs to tables, lamps and unique accessories. With access to numerous vendors, the sky is the limit when it comes to designing the perfect room.
Tucson residents Patty and John Doerr first used Duncan's services about 12 years ago, and -- despite being in a city saturated with designers -- they are choosing to work with Duncan again.
"We built our house and she helped us with furnishings. We're using her again now," Patty Doerr said. "For Pam to come to Santa Fe and do what she did with the business, it's mind-boggling. Pam understands the Southwest."
Asked what she saw as the evolution of "Santa Fe style," Duncan said, "Obviously it's more contemporary. Less cute, less trite, less expected. We're seeing more authentic pieces, and more contemporary art from New Mexico, both Hispanic and Native American artists. Less craft, more fine art.
"I think some of the traditional items are being used in very beautiful ways, more highlighted. Several very fine items instead of lots and lots of something. We have done so many displays of wonderful artifacts," Duncan said. "That has been one of the joys of being here in Santa Fe -- having the opportunity to work with these pieces. It's the reason people come here ... to enjoy them."
Duncan also worked on Houston, Texas, residents Nancy and Lucien Morrison's Santa Fe home. Duncan, Nancy Morrison said, is "so giving of her time and expertise. She's smart and has such fabulous taste. We have tried to meld contemporary and Santa Fe style. It's outstanding and understated. I call it 'contemporary rustique.' It's quite a trick to pull that off."
'A good fit'
Pieroth, the firm's new owner, is a former New York City resident and banker for Citigroup.
"I wanted to move to Santa Fe and be closer to my family," he said. "If I wanted to do that, I needed to buy a business. I didn't want to run a restaurant or buy a truck stop. After working with numbers and banking my entire life, I wanted to do something more creative. I came across Wiseman & Gale & Duncan. In speaking with Pam and her broker, the emotional need I had was filled. When I decided to buy the business," he said, "we thought it would be a good fit. Pam is still very involved in the design."
Pieroth's plans for the company include adding products and services for all price points.
"We're going to launch a do-it-yourself design package," he said. "There are a lot of creative and artistic people in Santa Fe who may know what they want but not how to do it. We want to help them with the execution portion of what they want to do."
The firm also is going to do more with the "green" design phenomena to be more environmentally friendly, Pieroth said, and will offer clients the option to incorporate Feng Shui and Vastu into their design.
The designers on staff are very strong and creative, Pieroth said. His role is to add value to the business through finance and project management. "Once the design has been decided on," he said, "I help make sure the experience is good for the customer -- on time, on budget, meeting expectations."
Duncan's clients Nancy and Lucien Morrison describe the firm's new owner as an "idea person. Chris is a good man," the Morrisons said. "He's kind and has a great deal of business experience. It's a good thing for the firm. He grew up in Colorado and he's a Westerner at heart."
Building on the firm's solid reputation and established name, Pieroth has plans for increasing business.
"There are a number of designers in town who are sole practitioners," he said. "We are creating a package where we can give them access to our resources and vendors, offer billing and business support, but they can maintain their independence.
"We've done that with Barbara Templeman, of Barbara Templeman Interiors," he said. "As a result, we're collaborating on one of the homes in the Parade of Homes."
To learn more about Wiseman & Gale & Duncan Interiors, visit the showroom at 150 S. St. Francis Drive; call 984-8544; or log onto www.wgdinteriors.com.
If you go
What: Collaborative home interior design by Wiseman & Gale & Duncan Interiors and Barbara Templeman Interior Design, House .No. 9 in the 2008 Haciendas: A Parade of Homes’ self-guided tour sponsored by the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 15 to 17 and again on Aug. 21 to 24.
Where: A map to all 40 homes on the tour is available at www.santafehometour.com and is published in Haciendas: A Parade of Homes, the official guide to the tour available for free pick-up in multiple Santa Fe locations, including Santa Fe New Mexican offices, 202 E. Marcy St.
Price: Tickets to the entire tour are $15; they may be purchased at the Lensic box office (988-1234) and will also be available at all Parade homes.
For more information: Call Wiseman & Gale & Duncan at 984-8544; the Santa Fe Home Builders Association at 982-1774; or visit www.santafehometour.com.
Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.
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