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Get to Know Aimee Wertepny of PROjECT. Interiors

Here at Refined Haystack, we just adore Aimee. Not only is her work edgy, compelling and 100% drool-worthy, but we also have the best time hanging with her whole team, whom she affectionately calls "the tribe." It's been a big summer for them; they landed the cover of Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, won Chicago Magazine's Best Of Chicago 2014 "Best Interior Design Company for People Who Hate Beige," and got a huge spread in Interiors. In the midst of all of the excitement, she took a few minutes to relax with us and give us the dish on what it's like behind the scenes at PROjECT. and, of course, we also picked her brain for a few killer design tips.

What has it been like to see your work in print all summer?

Exhilarating. Three magazine features, and we landed a cover! This summer has been a treat for us. For me, the biggest boost has been seeing how the firm has grown over the last five years. Both senior designers’ work was acknowledged in press at the same time, so I’m really proud of us, “the tribe.” When we made Chicago Magazine’s "Best of," that was the blindsiding icing on the cake; we had no idea it was coming. Me, the magazine and the happy dance at Whole Foods... picture that! I hit up the wine bar immediately.

Which current project are you most excited to see completed?

That’s a trick question! But I have to say I’m pretty revved up about this incredible home in De Pere, Wisconsin that we’re installing in September. Our clients matched us up with dSPACE Studio for the architecture. It was love at first sight and we’ve been going steady ever since! The whole team is just magic; PROjECT., dSPACE, and the clients Ruthie and Michael… we’re all grooving to the same tune. We get down and dirty to the finest detail. The architecture is inspiring, clever and thoughtful. The home is modern, glammy, rustic, tribal and FUN. And yes that means a firepole down to the locker room and a zipline to the boathouse. (I’m not kidding.) 

In founding your design business, what was your vision or mission?

To do what I love and love what I do. I had no solid plan or business outline. I just knew I needed to follow my heart, take a risk, pay my bills and give back in some way. Oh yeah, and build a selective team. I wasn’t into the solo gig. I am a Leo after all, and my ladies are everything.

So, ‘vision’ is a hard one… but after nearly ten years in the game I have some tricks up my sleeve. We’re working on expanding into a larger space, and we’ll grow the team to ten or so. We’re producing a line of soft goods available on our new website (projectinteriors.com) and will continue getting our hands dirty. My initial ‘mission’ is somewhat accomplished; “the tribe” is the most solid group of women on the planet. I’m proud of our work, our clients rock, and the opportunities continue to expand. We’ve helped hundreds of children attend school in Tanzania and we are building a school in Nicaragua to honor our 10th birthday next year! 


What makes the PROjECT. team unique?

We’re like family, hustling’ through life, design and family; both the good and the tough. Problems, solutions, you get the idea. Our approach is ‘all hands on deck,’ so even though the designers have full reign over their projects, we are always connecting on this and that. Not a project runs through our studio without nearly everyone’s touch impacting it in some way - space planning, drawings, selections, orders, follow ups, installation - we’re in it together. It’s important we learn from each other’s strengths, and celebrate one another with an occasional vaycay! Last year we went to Sayulita, Mexico and went ziplining. Now that was hilarious! 

If you could give the mayor one aesthetic project, what would it be?

More design-forward outdoor public chill spaces. More outdoor art installations. More warehouses turned into global markets like they have in London and Cape Town. More revival concepts like The High Line in NYC, for example. Abandoned lots turned into gardens and street corners turned into sculptural seating arrangements. And not just downtown, but right here in our neighborhoods where families live and residents are doing their day to day. There’s a neighborhood garden around the corner from me, and some mornings I sneak down and have a coffee before work, right under the grapevines. It’s the best.

What is your "signature style"?

An organic glam mash-up of texture, materials and high-contrast concepts. The more raw the better; tattered, shredded, woven, reflective; a little sparkly, a little tough. I love all the weird stuff like recycled black rubber anything… it must be all those trips to Africa. I schlepped a large tire bowl back from Peru earlier this year. That was interesting. We create spaces that are meant to be experienced as well as admired. Spaces with soul.

Where do you recommend a homeowner "splurge" versus "save"?

Splurge on anything you love; anything that makes your soul smile, has a history, and helps create a space. I love custom millwork, sculptural lighting and ART! Save on the support pieces; the consoles that hold amazing lamps, the sofas covered in pillows and a growing family. And paint is, of course, the least expensive way to completely change a space. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

Ideally? Any and everywhere. I’m always lurking around spaces, taking pictures, looking under tables, chairs, anything… looking for sources or a new way of anything. But mostly TRAVEL. The NYC, California and Valle de Guadalupe jaunts (that’s my hidden gem in Mexico for wine, design and culinary amazingness) are good for ‘designerding’ out. The ‘off the grid’ travel is where it’s at for re-grouping, re-aligning, re-connecting and connecting with people, culture, and nature. I try and start every year with a big trip. The last few years I’ve camped in the Serengeti and traveled around Tanzania, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru. This Christmas I’m off to Thailand. So keep an eye out for alpaca and Thai silk with black rubber in our upcoming projects!  

What are a few of your favorite local sources?

I love The Find for one-of-a-kind accessories that never disappoint. That's where we got the porcupine quills for the "Fancy Pants" project (image 9). We hit up Matthew Rachman Gallery - within Treva Gallery - for mid century modern furniture, lighting and rugs. You'll see their lamp in the new Palmolive project we'll be uploading soon. And when I go to Jayson Home, I know I'll always a walk out with amazingness, whether that be accessories, succulents, yummy candles or a feather juju hat!

Do you have any design rules you always follow? Any big "don'ts"?

Don’t hang draperies low or art high. No “accent walls” that have a million angles. No visual clutter. Edit, edit, edit!

Love PROjECT.'s work as much as we do? Visit Aimee's profile to learn more about their approach, and find contact information if you'd like to inquire about their services.

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