Palm Beach Florida Weekly

Pretty PRACTICALITY

Victor Figueredo combines beauty and function at his Koi Design Group


Victor Figueredo loves beautiful things.

As principal at Koi Design Group, he finds creative ways to make them integral parts of homes across the state.

Born in Cuba, he came of age in Tampa, where he learned to view life with the eye of an artist.

“I started off in marketing, then as an artist. I was brokering artwork. I was going to clients’ homes and started moving things around,” he said during an interview in his newly opened studio and retail space in West Palm Beach. “I just loved it. I loved surrounding myself with beautiful things – like my dogs are little works of art.”

After all, even canines can have a sculptural quality.

“It was a natural transition for me to get into design,” he said.

Mr. Figueredo was a familiar face at the Delray Beach outpost of ABC Carpet & Home, where he worked for 13 years. He notes that he had over $20 million in sales during his tenure at ABC.
“And I was doing a design project every summer at ABC,” he said.

A few years ago, he left ABC, which has since closed.

“I hit the ground running,” he said. “For four years, I’ve been working out of the house, working out of my car.”

Mr. Figueredo had a mess in the car, and papers, carpet and fabric samples strewn throughout the house.

His partner, Ross Meltzer, spoke up.

“He finally said, “You need to get an office,” Mr. Figueredo remembered with a laugh.

“I thought about retail,” he said. “I wanted a beautiful showroom, where I can go to work every day. I wanted to have a place to meet my clients instead of spending half my day in the car. And I thought I could do retail, too. It’s my passion. I love to sell.”

His tidy space on Georgia Avenue between Southern and Forest Hill boulevards allows him to do both.

Clients can stop by for a consultation or just shop from a selection of lamps, pillows, sculptures and coffee table books.

“I have all kinds of little fun things,” he said.

The space is close to other designers, as well as businesses that cater to them. Elizabeth Fountain has a large retail space and studio nearby. The retailers Kofski Antiques and James & Jeffrey have neighboring estate sale facilities, and that dean of American fabrics and design, Carleton Varney, has an office just down the row from Mr. Figueredo.

He sees the area becoming a design hub and says he’s joining other businesses to form the Georgia Avenue Merchants Association.

“These are exciting times,” he said. “I think I did this at the perfect time.”

His South Florida clients like bright hues that evoke the sun and the sky and the flowers of the region.

“I just love bright colors – that’s the Latin influence in me. Not bright, like reds – my house is in the oranges — but blues and greens that are just happy colors.”

He said he’s proud to represent the wallpapers and fabrics of designer Meg Braff.

I’m the only person who represents her, and I carry her entire line of wallpaper and fabrics,” he said.

The walls of Koi Design Group are covered in a geometric paper designed by Ms. Braff.

“I told her I love this Blue York, and when she sent it to me, I just went nuts. It’s not masculine. It’s not feminine. It’s just gender neutral. It’s just happy. It makes me so happy,” he said.

Mr. Figueredo is using wallpaper when he can.

“Wallpaper has a major resurgence right now,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to totally have fun with a space — makes it a lot more interesting.”

And he’s possibly offering the perfect aesthetic in these more casual times.

“It’s coastal — more like a contemporary coastal chic,” Mr. Figueredo said. “I like form meets function, too, because most of the upholstery I use is indoor-outdoor, or some kind of acrylic dye product that’s very resilient to pets and sun.”

After all, people come to Florida to relax.

“If you think about it, the majority of my clients are seasonal, so they spend three to five months here out of the year,” he said. “The last thing they want to do is to be taking care of their furniture while they’re here. Or spills on rugs or spills on anything.”

And as a pet owner, he’s big into durable surfaces and sees indoor-outdoor carpets and fabrics as a major trend.

“Many manufacturers are geared to that product,” he said, mentioning Crypton, a coating that makes fabrics impervious to liquids.

It makes sense from a practical standpoint.

“If you had to recover your sofa every two or three years, it would be expensive, especially if you have young children or pets,” he said.

The newer fabrics are soft and supple, unlike the stiff outdoor fabrics of yore.

That gives designers more flexibility.

Mr. Figueredo said he also tries to maximize his clients’ space.

“I did that the other day. I had to meet a client in the morning and they had the sofa three feet from the wall, so you could walk behind the sofa. They had the seating area centered, so the room looked very small,” he said. “It wasn’t a large room, so the first thing I did was move the sofa back, move the chairs around and all of the sudden, the room looked a third larger, which, of course, it was.”

In his own home, Mr. Figueredo uses ottomans to increase seating.

That reflects an increasingly casual lifestyle, even in tony Palm Beach.

“There are people who have rooms that are, ‘Ooh, I don’t want to touch anything.’ But it’s more about actually using the room,” he said. “There’s a younger group moving to Palm Beach, much younger, and they have young children.”

He protects the tops of his nightstands and tables with glass. That way, his guests do not have to fuss with coasters or worry about dribbles and spills.

“Who wants to live like that anymore?” he said. “I don’t want to worry about someone sitting down or if they have something on them. Or if the dog jumps on the sofa.”

He also tries to make a space individual.

“When I work with a client, my goal is to make them happy,” he said, adding, “I try to understand their aesthetic and maybe try to fine-tune it.”

There’s an art to design, without question.

And Mr. Figueredo said art is essential to design.

He’s worked in a variety of media over the years and has had some well-received exhibitions of his own photography from Cuba.

“I love art. You can have beautiful furniture, beautiful carpeting, beautiful accessories and you have horrible artwork on the walls that’s commercial looking, it just loses any type of interest for me,” he said.

When it comes to having original art, budgets are irrelevant. Clients can use photography or paint their own work.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money. If you have children, have them paint on a board and put a frame around it and hang it in your living room, he said.

Mr. Figueredo remembered that he had the children of one client use a mattress box as their canvas for a large work that he hung in an entryway.

“It looked like a Motherwell painting,” he said. “Things like that are special, and that’s what I love.”

It’s all about the individual.

“To me, you can go to a hundred homes and they have a very similar sofa, but when you look at an original work of art that no one else has, that’s what makes that room special,” he said.

Well, that, and the person who owns it.

“At the end of the day, I’m not living in their house,” Mr. Figueredo said. “At the end of the day, I need to make them happy.”

– Koi Design Group, 5709 Georgia Ave., West Palm Beach; 561-225-1414 or www.koidesigngroup.com.

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