Design entrepreneur Olivia Peter draws on family and cultural legacy to create tasteful, extravagant spaces.
Photography by Olivia Peter, Special to Culturs
A descendant of ancestors who hailed from the northern Tigris-Euphrates Valley, located in present-day Iraq, Olivia Peter is a Chaldean American. Outside of Iraq, the United States city of Detroit, Michigan is home to the majority of Chaldeans, and according to Peter, more than “95 percent of [Chaldean Americans] in the Detroit community can trace their origin to a single town, Tel Kaif — one of several Christian towns in the northern Iraqi province of Mosul, near the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh.”
Chaldeans are known for having extravagant taste, especially when it comes to home décor — such extravagance is linked to their ancestry, Peter explains. Her own passion for interior design spurred Peter to create an Instagram account devoted to her unique style and taste.
“It has been such a fulfilling experience watching others be inspired by my designs,” she says. “It touches me to my core knowing that I am able to … help [people] create their dream living space.”
A Legacy of Lush Living
“My parents and their families first stepped foot on American soil in 1977,” Peter recalls. “Since then, the homes in my family, and in every generation, all have the same thing in common, and that is simply extravagance. Because of historic struggles, we as Chaldeans have adapted to the skills of entrepreneurship in order to become successful. It is instilled in my genes.”
Chaldeans love to entertain, which requires a home well-suited to hosting. “I personally have added a fully functional kitchen in my basement just for entertaining,” Peter says. One of Peter’s favorite décor pieces is a set of candlesticks passed down to her from her mother, who also received them as a gifted family heirloom. Chaldeans value tradition, so Peter plans to pass the candlesticks on to her own son once he starts a family.
In the meantime, she proudly displays them in her home as a reminder of family and culture. “I am truly passionate about my culture,” Peter says. “I believe that it shows in my home décor.”
She concedes it’s difficult to watch other Chaldeans struggle in Iraq, but it also reaffirms her drive to share her heritage with the world. “My philosophy is live with what you love,” she says. “Let your décor be a reflection of who you are without having to speak.”