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On a Roll

As Miami’s design team of choice, Yabu Pushelberg continues to redefine the city’s aesthetic one extravagant project at a time.  

From left: Yabu Pushelberg principals George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg at their Miami Beach residence

City for Display: 

Since opening their studio more than 30 years ago, just about every country, industry and publication out there has been touched by the design magic of Yabu Pushelberg. From Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. boutiques to hotel brands like W and The St. Regis, it seems George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg have done it all when it comes to commercial design. With multiple South Florida projects already under their belt and yet more on the way, it’s clear YP is shooting for the moon (some may say literally, since it would not be surprising if they pioneered aesthetics in space). We caught up with the dynamic duo at their South Beach residence to discuss their charmed portfolio of projects, life in Miami and what’s next on their agenda.

For years you’ve avoided being pigeonholed for a specific look like many of your design contemporaries, yet you’re synonymous with decadence. Why do you think that is? GP: Rather than decadence, as you call it, or bombastic ideas, we uphold quality and classicism, which seem to resonate with our customers who understand the value of good design.

Along with residences in Toronto, Manhattan and the Hamptons, you have a home in Miami Beach. What was it about the city that made you want to settle here more than 15 years ago? GY: Besides geographic convenience, it was the city’s cultural scene, which was just beginning to bubble through a small but edgy art and fashion group led by creatives such as the late Regina Nuessle and Wilhelm Moser and his Manipulator magazine. GP: We love Miami’s Latin authenticity, the exoticism compared to the rest of the country, the ever-changing landscape and the world-class people- watching.

How often are you here? GY: Many winter weekends.

Was The St. Regis Bal Harbour one of your biggest projects worldwide thus far? GY: Yes, both in scale and time. Three buildings and seven years later, the hotel has become an anchor for Bal Harbour’s history in luxury and glamour. GP: That project allowed us to play with exotic stone and mirrors and pay homage to Dorothy Draper. We love the hotel’s art collection and large guest rooms with those big terraces with ocean views.

You’ve also been tapped to design Ian Schrager’s forthcoming hotel, Miami EDITION, which is big news in hospitality. How often have you worked with him? GY: This will be our fourth Schrager project and it’s unique because we have the challenges of designing a modern hotel in a historic property. Under preservationists’ eyes, we’re being very cognizant to honor its past. The iconic swimming pool and diving board will be restored and there are several unique amenities that will give it destination status. There’s a skating rink, a bowling alley and the revitalization of the original Matador Room, a historic supper club and nightclub from the beach’s heyday.

You’re also working on the redesign of what was once the Hotel Victor, which will be rebranded as Thompson Ocean Drive. Is it more challenging to redesign an existing property versus creating an entirely new one? GP: Think about it like good plastic surgery. When you’re working with any historic property, you need to emphasize and complement its historic aspects and qualities without making it look too modern and garish. GY: Our inspiration for the Thompson comes from the Côte d’Azur for a casual yet sophisticated feel.

Another one of the properties you’re working on is the ECHO in Aventura, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. How does that project stand out from other residential properties? GP: In the way its large public areas are used as organic and curvilinear spaces. [Sculptor and video artist] Richard Serra’s work provided the inspiration for the seamless and powerful interiors.

Outside of Miami what else are you working on?
GP: We’re designing a hotel in Rio and a resort in Los Cabos from Hyatt. GY: But we’re not done with Florida. We’re in talks for another hotel project and a waterfront, mixed-use development.

When it comes to commissions do you have a preference if, say, it’s just a lobby or a restaurant versus the whole shebang? GP: We prefer to control the entire project, including landscaping, pool areas, entrance, complete interiors and even the façade. It’s the only true way to achieve cohesive, consistent and memorable design that’s beneficial to the client.

What’s happening with your furniture collections and your showrooms? GY: We’ve partnered with Toronto’s Avenue Road, which specializes in exotic, hard-to-find lines worldwide and we opened a second showroom in New York. We’re now actively seeking a Miami space for a store.

It’s rare for designers to see their fantasy projects come to fruition. What else tops your to-do list? GP: Prominent cultural institutions like museums and such. GY: And many more Miami hotels, please!