Art and Soul : Trisha Wilson

Although Trisha Wilson has played a pivotal role in some of the most ambitious mega-resort projects the world has ever seen, she remains completely grounded and dedicated to her philanthropy.

By Ayesha Khan


 “My team challenged small local manufacturing facilities to step up and accept the challenge of our custom designed pieces.

It CAN be Done” reads a plaque on the desk of the president and CEO of this smart Dallas design office. In walks the vibrant Southern Belle, who has channelled the advice of her beloved plaque for the past 29 years. She greets each employee with a contagious effervescence. The very sight of her motivates her gifted employees, several of whom have been with her for over ten years. This chic Turtle Creek Boulevard office is the command center of Wilson Associates, Trisha Wilson’s vast realm of interior design, with offices scattered across the globe, from Los Angeles, Dallas and New York, to Johannesburg, India, and even as far afield as China and Singapore. As the office buzzes with activity, Wilson will most likely spend the day on the phone, “I talk on the phone endlessly. I spend my days communicating with all different people- employees, clients, vendors…” she tells us, “Because our six offices span the globe and are in different time zones, there is never an hour in the day when the office is closed!” We are actually lucky to have caught her on a day when she’s not travelling; her schedule has her regularly shuttling across the world, from South Africa to Singapore. But she is not at all complaining, “I love travelling!” she says with a smile.

And it is this “can do” attitude that has won the University of Texas-educated designer international acclaim. Her success story has been taught as a case study at Harvard Business School, and she serves on a host of administrative committees. She has also won an impressive array of accolades, including 19 Golden Key awards for exceptional service to the worldwide hospitality industry. But what is most interesting is that Wilson didn’t always see this as her future. “When I first graduated from college, I would have never dreamed that one day I would own an international interior design firm with seven offices around the globe! After graduation, I went to work for a department store chain in their home furnishings department,” she tells us with endearing honesty and enthusiasm. After her department store gig, Wilson went on to work on several residential projects but the crucial turning point came when Wilson made a “gutsy phone call” to hotel developer Trammel Crow. The result was the Anatole hotel in Dallas, and Wilson’s fate as one of world’s most prominent designers was sealed.

Wilson then landed some of the industry’s most sought-after projects, and an arsenal of repeat customers, from Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons to Sheldon Adelson. But it is her long-time relationship with Sol Kerzner that truly brings a smile to Wilson’s face. “Sol is constantly challenging me in terms of innovative, creative design. What amazes me is the way he interprets and understands the drawings. He motivates me to really look into the design and evaluate it with him. Our one-on-one dialogue is the key to make sure the vision is executed,” she tells us.

Sol Kerzner concurs: “Trisha is great. We first worked together on the Palace of the Lost City. I met up with her, and I saw her work, and felt she was very talented. She has to be one of the best talents in the world. That is what it is about: using the best, most talented people! I have worked with Trisha over 17 years.” Upon the launch of the Palace of the Lost City, the media asserted that Wilson and her team had changed the face of design in South Africa. And for good reason- the project saw an elaborate display of fine design, from its six-story Grand Lobby to its dazzling Crystal Court, where a 10,000 piece mosaic was drawn from 60 different types of semi-precious stone, and the massive 5,000 piece crystal chandelier presided over giant elephant sculptures. “My team challenged small local manufacturing facilities to step up and accept the challenge of our custom designed pieces. We spent many months at factories showing them what Sol had envisioned in terms of furniture, fabric, lighting, and carpet design. We taught them how to stretch their abilities.”