Five plus years ago, a couple of significant life occurrences caused Josh and Ivy Elrod, two New York City-based creatives, to want a change of career — and scenery.
Josh Elrod needed spinal surgery to recover from banging PVC pipe with the Blue Man Group for 10 years, and Ivy Elrod, a former Rockette, was pregnant with the couple’s second child. That’s when Wilder, their showroom and studio concept, was born. When deciding on where to plant it, the Elrods thought about areas of the country that were growing rapidly but not being fully served in the contemporary design arena. They settled on Nashville, Josh’s hometown.
“For us, the relationship has always been about space and experience,” Ivy Elrod says of adapting their dance and art backgrounds to design and retailing. “That’s the throughline. From a practical standpoint, being artists in New York City, we had both worked so many hustle jobs in service industries, we had a keen sense of working with people and really making that human connection. Ultimately, we’re collaborators in all of these spaces.”
Wilder opened in Nashville’s historical Germantown neighborhood in 2014. It didn’t set out to be a design studio, but design services have rapidly become a large part of the company’s DNA. The team works on both commercial spaces and residences — everything from hotels, offices, restaurants and studios to homes and singular rooms. And now, more and more, patrons stop into the 1,500-square-foot storefront to shop and end up enlisting the Wilder team for their design projects.
“It went from an informal lending-opinion-type-vibe, to being hired as formal consultants and later creative directors, with a crash on-the-job training course as designers,” Ivy Elrod says of the evolution of Wilder’s design services. “We have a lot more confidence now I’d say, however we don’t pretend to be what we’re not: We didn’t go to design school, we’re just highly opinionated creatives.”
The business has also morphed through the years in other ways. Wilder Etudes, a separate project space that showcased a “rotating edit” of product, launched in May 2017 in Nashville’s Edgehill Village on Music Row.
“So much of our approach to what we do is experiential, and I think our backgrounds as interdisciplinary artists is what makes us different than other people in the design space,” Ivy Elrod explains.
Ultimately, the team realized that it could create Etudes edits within its main space, so they merged the two, and continue to showcase their unique sense of style in a main hub. Wilder’s product offering and style comes across as “Millennial” — they hit shows like ICFF and Sight Unseen, as well as Salone del Mobile in Milan — but Ivy Elrod says a lot of what they carry is cost-prohibitive for younger folks.
“Honestly, I think our clients are generally a lot like Josh and I — we vibe young, but we’re much older than you may think we are or than we hope we look. I think it has to do with being New Yorkers. There’s a feeling of vitality in the creative scene that we come from, where there was a wide spectrum of ages who may be hanging together and cross-pollinating.”
This creative attitude has also incubated a unique series of collaborations with artists and designers locally, and from the couple’s extensive connections as New Yorkers, available at the showroom as well — another point of differentiation for the Wilder concept.
Josh and Ivy Elrod look cool and play it cool, but Ivy Elrod says the most strenuous part of operating their business today is time, as they’re parents to young children and they both have their own individual creative practices as well.
“Making the time to execute all of our crazy ideas really is the most challenging thing,” she says. “Corralling the war between our left and right brains into more of a slow dance is key.”
As for now, though, they’ll keep on dancing.