Style and Fashion for the Home
by Dee Fisher
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Mark Twain
Penny Wiseman has always been drawn to visual arts and designing. After graduating from Wapakoneta High School, she went to Raleigh, North Carolina to live with her great-aunt and study fashion design. While living and studying there, she learned quite a bit that didn’t come from books and classrooms.
When a local businesswoman decided to close her interior design business, Penny did a lot of muscle work for her, helping pack up the tools of her trade. Around the same time, Penny’s aunt took it into her head to educate her niece about visual arts and travel. As a result, Penny left her ideas of fashion design behind and decided to pursue a career of interior design.
“Those early experiences in North Carolina really helped push me toward interior design and art,” Penny explains. “Fashion designing just didn’t mean as much to me as interior design had begun to mean.”
She returned to the Midwest and attended Ohio State University and then Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), where she received her degree in interior design (through Purdue). While there, she met the man who would become her husband, and, together, they found and purchased a house that would be an inspiration, as well as home.
“The family of David Humphreys Miller, the Van Wert-born painter, first owned our house on south Washington Street,” Penny says. “The second owner was Dorothy Jones and her husband; she was also an artist.
“The attic has a wonderful studio space, and the English Tudor Revival style of its design was beautiful and inspiring. We signed the papers for it as quickly as we could!”
In the meantime, Penny and her husband started a family, and soon, she began to wonder if she could do something to help earn a living for the family. In 1994, Penny began doing window treatments for close friends—including draperies, valances, curtains, and blinds.
“Before I did my first window treatment, I had never actually made draperies! I learned quickly and did all the work myself,” Penny remembers. “Later, I worked with local seamstresses, who were artists themselves.”
More jobs continued to come to her. Never using any advertising beyond than word-of-mouth, Penny built a business helping people create beautiful living spaces. For many years, window treatments were the main focus, until the recession of 2008.
“People seemed to have other things to spend money on,” Penny reflects. “I turned more to color and design consultation and redoing entire rooms, rather than just windows or carpets.”
With her background in historical design and architecture, Penny also works with antiques and collectibles. “I’m a big fan of eBay,” Penny says. “I’ve been able to purchase many pieces that are simply gorgeous or very unusual and use them in room renovations.” Her attic space/office has become the storeroom for many eclectic pieces that are awaiting a permanent home in the area.
As a rule, customers come to Penny through other customers and friends. “I first set up an appointment to view the room or rooms the client would like to redecorate,” Penny explains. “I interview the client to determine his or her likes and dislikes, I make measurements, and I share the pros and cons of the space.
“The shape and dimensions of the space will often determine what sort of arrangement we can do with furniture and, also, can suggest different color plans.”
Although she orders in furniture, as well as fabrics and accessories for the rooms, Penny does try to work with what the client already owns. “Of course, I will try my best to include pieces and colors the room has, but I also try to be as clear as possible about what my recommendations are.”
In order to create both an artistic and a livable space, Penny does space planning and will work with contractors who are doing physical changes to a house. “Part of my job is to give my opinions on what will and will not work in a room, based on what the customer wants the room to be and do. I work directly with contractors to make sure measurements match and furniture fits in new rooms and renovated spaces.”
After gathering ideas, including photos, swatches, and color palettes, Penny makes a second appointment to present what she feels are the best ways to put the room together, based on her knowledge of color and design, as well as the customer’s own preferences. From then, the job is all about ordering fabrics, furniture, and accessories, and, sometimes, creating draperies and rugs. There may be other appointments needed as new ideas and pieces come across her desk that she thinks may set the room apart.
On her website, you can view several rooms in Van Wert area homes that Penny has designed. She works both with residential spaces and public spaces, including the offices of Roger Okuley, DDS; the entrance and human resource offices of Central Mutual Insurance (located just across the street from her home); and, even the draperies that hang behind the judge in the county courthouse.
“I now have grandchildren, and I don’t work as much as I used to,” Penny says. “However, I’ll continue working as long as possible. When your job is your passion, it’s not something you can just stop doing. I’ll probably be doing design work for many years yet.”
Wiseman Design & Window Specialties
745 S. Washington Street
Van Wert, OH 45891