The Real Deal Miami

Developers tailor interior design to buyers

Design reflects overseas' buyers cultural preferences
By Emily Schmall | June 03, 2013 12:00PM

From left: Forato Design Group model unit and Azul y Company model unit at Vizcayne

Vizcayne, twin 49-story towers on Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, broke ground to great fanfare in late 2011.

However, a year later, some of the pricier two-bedroom units in the 849-condo development remained unsold, so the building’s marketers, International Sales Group, commissioned interior designers from five countries – Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Colombia and the U.S. – to design five model units.

“The designer showcase was Vizcayne’s best selling tool,” said Philip Spiegelman, an ISG principal. “Our sales mirrored tastes but the models selected did not always psychographically match. Cross-cultural lines appeared,” he said.

The trend in tailoring design to specific nationalities is driven by swelling demand from overseas buyers looking for a second home in the U.S., said Carlos Forato, a Sao Paolo-born interior designer and realtor whose company designed Vizcayne’s Brazilian model unit.

“Developers have units on the market for a long time that they have trouble selling, but they find out that if they finish the units, they can sell them much faster, and whatever they spend on interior design they can easily earn back from the sales price,” Forato said.

Forato’s unit in Vizcayne boasted wood-paneled walls sourced from trees from the Brazilian Amazon while the Venezuelan model unit fused high-end European design with splashes of color and texture.

In Miami, 60 percent of buyers came from overseas last year, according to Miami’s realtor association, and the majority of Vizcayne owners hail from Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

“Throughout South America, you see lots of European influence. Venezuelans like clean lines but not completely modern – they like an eclectic touch,” said Caracas-born interior designer Maria Jose de Caires-Murphy, whose Azul y Company designed the Venezuelan unit.

Indeed, Azul y Company’s Coral Gables showroom is a tribute to eclecticism and to the designer’s extensive global travels; the company also operates from Tenerife and Seoul using the slogan sin frontera, or without borders.

On one set, salvaged Bali teak complements antique Chinese cabinets and modern Italian chairs.

“The middle class has the opportunity now to travel and that’s changing design,” Jose de Caires-Murphy said.

Nonetheless, iconic Miami interior design – floor-to-ceiling glass, simple geometry and light, white textiles – continues to regin.

“That’s the look,” Forato said, adding this his clients, mainly Northeasterners and South Americans, are in the market for exactly what is most associated with Miami.

“When they come here, they want the Delano look; they want to feel like they’re on the beach, they want to feel like they’re on vacation every day,” he said.