Maybe you know designer Peti Lau from HGTV’s Design Star: Next Gen or are familiar with her signature AristoFreak™ style. But, did you know that prior to becoming a professional designer, she had a past life as an opera singer and ran a hotel in Thailand? As part of our series, My Design Journey, we spoke with the vibrant New York-based Lau about her entry into the field, her proudest moments along the way, and her biggest dreams for the future of her brand.
On Making Her Way Into the Design World
For Lau, discovering her interest in design was a gradual process. “I wasn’t the typical designer that was the child that would move furniture around in a room,” she reflects. “I knew I was artistic and a very creative person.”
As a kid, Lau played many different instruments, sang in choirs and jazz bands, participated in theater, and then became an opera singer. “I felt I was given these artistic gifts and inside I felt responsible for sharing them,” she says. “But, when I decided that being a musician was no longer what I wanted, I felt lost.”
Lau decided it was time for her next journey—literally—and traveled the world, settling on the tropical island of Koh Samui in Thailand. There, she opened a restaurant and bar and started a clothing line before being asked to design a restaurant for a hotel.
I realized that I was destined to be a designer. For the first time in my life, I felt the passion and calling to do what I was meant to do.
Soon, clients wanted her help designing their homes. “I realized that I was destined to be a designer,” Lau reflects. “For the first time in my life, I felt the passion and calling to do what I was meant to do."
After spending several years designing homes in Mauritius, Dubai, and Thailand, Lau returned to the States, where she enrolled at the New York School of Interior Design. She explains, “I decided I wanted to commit to my career and get an education as an interior designer—and also fulfill a childhood dream of living in New York City.”
On Her Brand, AristoFreak™
“Diving deeper, I like to think that I redefine boldness, elevating romance and Boheme—the free-spiritedness that lives inside all of us—with a taste for the eclectic and cheekiness for that unexpected factor,” she says. “It’s that mix of cultures, colors, patterns, and mix of history and global styles that tell a story is what I believe is the AristoFreak™ Style.”
The concept of storytelling is something that Lau finds key when it comes to her style. “It’s the juxtaposition of all these elements together that tell a story and can express the spirit of the person that inhabits the spaces,” she says. “Good design should always have an opportunity to tell a story and through storytelling is how we connect as humans.”
On Her Career Highlights Thus Far
Lau distinctly remembers the first time her work was published in a major outlet. “I had been a designer for over 10 years at the time, but I decided to wait for the right project to be published,” she explains. “I ran all over New York City to find a Wall Street Journal weekend paper.”
Another highlight? Designing homes for Drew Taggart and Alex Pall of The Chainsmokers—“not because of who they are, but more so that I was really able to go for it and be as creative as I could be for," she says. "Who doesn’t love designing for rock star DJ’s?”
But that’s not all. Participating in HGTV’s Design Star: Next Gen on HGTV has also been a major highlight for Lau. “I wanted the opportunity to be on the show as a platform to not only share my AristoFreak™ visions, but also to showcase and share my design process—that design is a way of thinking—and how I view the world,” she says.
Lau greatly values the opportunity that Design Star: Next Gen presented over the past year in particular. “When people ask me what I was doing during the pandemic, I respond, ‘Oh I got in the kitchen and got creative, and oh yes, I also made a TV show,'” she says. “I am grateful that I was selected to be a part of such an incredibly talented and diverse cast. It is my hope that we inspire others out there to live their biggest dreams.”
Of course, Lau says that designing for TV is incredibly different than her usual client-facing work. “In real life, I design for the people who will inhabit the spaces. On Design Star: Next Gen, I’m designing for the camera and the audience is the end user. They are both design, but they involve very different approaches and outcomes to the design process.”
On Her Own Design Style and What She Enjoys Most About the Industry
“I describe my personal style as eclectic, bohemian, preppy, and glamourous,” Lau says of her personal aesthetic. “I like to prance around in gowns at home.”
Good design should always have an opportunity to tell a story, and storytelling is how we connect as humans.
She values the collaborative nature of the design industry. “I am so proud to be in an industry where we get to be surrounded by beautiful things, but our industry is really big and small at the same time,” she says. “We are all so supportive of each other. I truly felt it during the past year with the pandemic; everyone I know has really pulled through to share our struggles and challenges and really has been so supportive of one another. I feel so grateful to be a part of an industry that has so much love and passion for what we do.” She adds,”I feel that we as designers help facilitate the improvement of people's lives and well being. And that to me is so honorable and something I’m proud to be a part of.”
On What’s Next for Lau and AristoFreak™
Lau is eager to see what the future will hold for her career. “Even though I’ve been designing professionally for 15 years, I feel like my career is just starting,” she says. “I’m just so grateful for the amazing clients and projects that I get to be a part of.” What are some of Lau’s goals in particular? “Finding ways to be more creative, bigger, and better.”
The concept of storytelling will continue to be key. “I’m currently working on my AristoFreak™ Collection where people can incorporate my designs--such as my wallpaper, global-inspired textiles, table settings, and one of kind lampshades--to tell their own stories in their own spaces,” Lau explains.
And perhaps she’ll return to her hotel design roots, too. “I would love to design boutique hotels and retreat centers in places around the world for people to experience and connect on deeper levels,” Lau says. “That’s definitely in the works and will be much needed after the pandemic will be over!”