July 07, 2015

Steven La Fonte, is founder-director of the firm Design Elements, Inc. and considered an authority in home fashion. As an excellent professional interior designer with a worldwide career he has earned the respect of many architects, clients and colleagues from the same industry.
hrough our interview Steven opens the doors to their knowledge and ideas to achieve the dream of many new talents...

What is the key to being a successful designer ?
Being a good communicator is important, but even more important is being a good listener.  Know your clients, their lifestyle, their needs and what makes them comfortable.   Then, have an active imagination, create, innovate, discover.  Let your creativity take over and don't edit too soon.  Think big, and later, allow yourself to bring it all back to solid ground, where your imagination meets your clients' vision and budget.
Where do you go to get inspiration?

I'm drawn to Nature.  Colors, smells, sounds and textures -- all of it gives me a fresh perspective.  Even when clients don't think that certain color combinations go together, Nature has a tendency to prove them wrong, and I love to show them how it all does match and blend.  Inspiration also comes from my daily surroundings -- people, fashion, music, art, even advertising.  And the most exhilarating moment of inspiration is when it comes from a piece of textile that suddenly becomes the basis for an entire room.

Can you share with us some of the projects that are adding dimension and depth to your repertoire?
I recently completed the Latin America headquarters for Young & Rubicam, Wunderman Advertising and Bravo Group on Brickell Key in Miami. This was an exciting project because I designed public areas and conference rooms, as well as the lounges for the creative teams, which need to be comfortable, relaxing, and yet, stimulating.  
I am in the process of designing a 3/3 home at the new One Hotels and Homes in Miami Beach.  Designing on a blank canvas is always a great opportunity to just let your imagination fly, and that's where I'm finding myself mixing and matching styles and textures. This residence will have an organic feel using exotic woods and driftwood, linen textiles, leather and natural grasscloth wall coverings, combined with splashes of glamour.  It's actually a lot of fun to see it all come together.  And what makes this project especially interesting is making presentations, communicating and updating my Parisian client via Skype.  Thanks to this project, I've brought technology into the equation.  

Another exciting project at The Murano Portofino, in the South of Fifth area in South Beach. It is a vacation condo characterized by simple lines, purity of materials and textures and shapes.  In a way, it brings out the practical and the sexy -- all in one space.
What is your most recent big project?
I just finished a 20,000 sq. ft. turnkey spec home in Bridgehampton, New York that I designed for an investor, my eighth project in The Hamptons.  I'm keeping the classical style and architecture of the house, and combining it with clean lines and neutral colors with splashes of aquatic blues and shades of orange for a more modern transitional look.  The project was completed two months ago, just in time for the rental season in Long Island.

How does your design process work?
After the initial meeting, I like to create a roadmap of the project based on clients' lifestyles and personalities. I ask clients to provide me with visuals of color schemes and styles that they feel particularly attracted to.  This is what I call a "look book."  Every client has something relevant to express regarding their style, so it is very important to listen carefully.  Based on the client's needs the design should express an artistic quality that merits lasting recognition. It must lead and never follow trends. 

What are some design trends that you're seeing right now?
First, the color blue is still relevant.  From watery azure to deep and vibrant indigo, blues are welcome additions to color palettes.
Second, natural materials and textures are also part of today's designs, and I believe they will be for years to come.  Inspired by the natural world, many of today's interiors include tables crafted from one solid piece of exotic wood, or stunning slices of semi precious stones on lighting fixtures, or wall treatments in natural materials.  People want to bring the outdoors indoors, more and more. Last but not least is the blend of metallic finishes.  I'm not afraid to have bronze in a room with nickel. Metallic finishes continue to provide a sophisticated sense of drama and elegance to any environment.
What advise would you give to young designers who are just starting out in the industry?
To be articulate, genuine and approachable.  Make clients feel comfortable around you; make them feel they are part of the process and the vision.   Create interiors that combine beauty, comfort and livability, and use quality labor and craftsmanship.  Nothing replaces custom-made furniture, accessories and fixtures -- and don't be afraid of the cost.  Surprisingly, many times the cost of custom-made elements is similar to showroom prices.  And of course, stay current in an ever changing world.

Proudly I want to finish this edition deeply grateful to Steven La Fonte.  Our conversation has been an experience full of many emotions. I recognize his work for many years and writing about it revives a series of professional memories that have certainly been unforgettable.

Thank you very much to my great collaborators,

Professional Photographer Brett Hufziger :
Luis Morales Owner Kom Furniture            :

Luis Morales Valerio - Designer Steven La Fonte - Guillermo Feliz
Photo By BRETT HUFZIGER -  Flowers and Styling  By ANTONIO CABRERA

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