express’s Elijah Michel connects with James Peters, Interior Designer and author of Fire and Brimstone: a personal journal of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in New Zealand, to discover his secret for success.

When did you first discover a passion for interior design?

As an 8 year old. My Aunt owned an arts and crafts house designed by the renowned architect Chapman Taylor. It was a magical wonderland to me when I visited, enhanced by my aunt’s passion for it’s heritage and architectural references. Her passion was intoxicating.


What steps did you take to bring your passion to fruition?

I used to design stage sets and houses as a youngster; as I entered my early teenage years I discovered cinema and would take myself off to the movies and study the interior designs in American, English and European films. I spent many hours in the library devouring books on design and architecture.

What does the term ‘success’ mean to you? Do you feel you have attained it?

Success to me is being able to work and make a living in the fields you have passion for. I have had four careers in the domain of design and the arts: bookshops, contemporary art, contemporary furniture, and interior design. The latter three in the pioneering stages in N.Z. Five years ago I was made a peer/professional member of the” Design Institute of NZ.”  In their summation they stated I had attained, in their eyes, success in all four domains which was unusual and thus worthy of the recognition. I guess I feel there is some merit in that summation and I was humbled by the inclusion.   

Success doesn’t come without failures – what hurdles have you overcome to get where you are today?

The opportunities for a young working class man in the late 50’s/early 60’s, working in design and the arts was considered almost impossible. We all as youngsters need a mentor. I was fortunate to meet the great classical architect C.R Ford in my early twenties. He was 90 years old, I was 21. He opened the world of design to me with his tutoring, designs, history and encouragement. His place in my life was brief and profound for me.  A piece of advice he gave me I have never forgotten: “You will meet with adversity in your life, don’t shy away from it, face it. It`s how you cope with the hurdles in life that makes you the person you are.” I held onto those words when I encountered professional and personal obstacles. 

Has your sexuality affected your career path in any way over the years? If so, in what way?

In all the fields I have worked in not once have I been negatively confronted on my sexuality. Perhaps because I have worked in the arts this has been an easier path for me to traverse in this respect.  

What would you recommend to younger readers to help them follow their career interests and passions?

Believe in yourself and others will believe in you. Follow your passion. If you love what you do and work hard it will reward you financially, but I  strongly advocate – one cannot measure one’s life success merely by one’s bank balance. You can lead a rich life through the passions you follow and experiences encountered.

An interview with James about his book can be found here