Designing Woman
Opera singer, fashion designer, restaurateur, Peti Lau adds interior design to her color-filled life.

Most people imagine the life of an interior designer to be a worldly one, with work that sees the designer jetting off to California one day and Europe the next, designing homes for the most fabulous people on the planet. For Peti Lau, life imitates impression.

Born in Israel to Chinese-Vietnamese parents, Peti (pronounced Peh-tay) Lau has lived in multiple far-flung locales. At age four, Lau and her family moved to Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. where the young Peti took voice lessons and, later, enrolled in opera workshops to eventually win classical vocal competitions. Her proud parents consist of an entrepreneur father and a creative mother whom Lau says "...was always making or reupholstering something."

At 18, Lau, with her boyfriend, trekked to San Francisco in a red Geo Tracker. Lau continued her opera studies at the renowned American Conservatory Theater where she also dabbled as a stylist and took film classes. "I felt there was more to do in the world," she says of her new artistic pursuits. Five years later, with dreams of living on a tropical island, Lau was off again, this time to Thailand's island of Koh Samui where she fell in love, opened a restaurant, and launched a clothing line for up-and-coming chefs, aptly called "Tasty Nosh." Ever cognizant of the inspiration she acquired from living in the Far East, Lau says, "The colors and textures there are deeply expressed in its textiles and traditional garments. I have a deep understanding of how that culture differs from the West."

It was on a trip to her warehouse distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona that Lau visited Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home. Inspired by the space and Wright's architecture, she discovered her next creative calling. "Design projects came easily," she reveals. "And it was fun! I recognized that I was very good at this." To further hone her skills, Lau began studying at the New York School of Interior Design.

Lau gives much credit of her success to her extensive global travels that have provided her with deeper insight and inspiration for design. "The more I travel, the more exposure I get, and the more I push myself. Understanding other cultures and lifestyles helps me tell my clients' story." The designer describes her style as "eclectic and worldly." She has a preference for India "...where women wear such beautiful, bright-colored saris." Other countries' styles have shown her that Americans, even New Yorkers, are conservative with color. "We tend to use too many beiges, blues, and grays. I use those as a foundation, and pop it up with bright accents, like chartreuse, vermillion (my signature color), magenta and metallics."

Lau's leaning towards the East does not infer an eschewing of the West. "I'm not afraid to use a Fortuny fabric and I've been known to gravitate towards toiles in conjunction with modern lines." Her Old World/New World bent is a look Lau has coined, "Aristofreak" (a word she's trademarked) where Bohemian elements are combined with other genres for a chic, maximalist mix.

Lau's home base is Manhattan where her eponymous firm actively designs throughout the city.

In rare moments of down time, Lau practices Kundalini yoga or takes offbeat exercise classes like aqua cycle. "And I go on dates!" says the twice-married designer who laughs about her two trips down the aisle. "It always shocks people when I recite the old axiom: 'The third time's a charm!'"