In the Mix
Design Miami/ exhibitors share tips on curating spaces beyond the ordinary (Part II)
As mentioned in Part I of this story, one of the most overheard comments at Design Miami/ 2022 last month was that the exhibitors’ installations looked especially gorgeous. While our community of gallerists, editeurs, and designers have always excelled at showcasing collectible design through well considered, immersive installations, our most recent fair, it was said, left visitors feeling like the aesthetic bar was raised even higher.
Inspired by last month’s kudos, we followed up with a handful of exhibitors whose unique and inspiring sensibilities wowed fairgoers and sparked conversations. How do they create such extraordinary environments? Scroll on for insights from the tastemaking partners behind Moniomi, Southern Guild, and Gallery FUMI.
Monica Santayana & Ronald Alvarez of Moniomi Design
As debut Curio exhibitors at Design Miami/ 2022, Monica Santayana and Ronald Alvarez of Miami-based interior design studio Moniomi created a spellbinding environment that utilized every surface of the space to maximal effect. It was the perfect context to showcase their self-produced Altis Ornamentum collection, a series of exuberant yet luxurious design objects inspired by the ancient religious sanctuary at the site of the original Olympic Games.
“Altis Ornamentum,” the duo explain, “is a shrine dedicated to the art of sport—told through the ornamentum of Moniomi.” Think basketball hoops, lockers, and benches in precious, richly patterned materials.
When asked to encapsulate Moniomi’s aesthetic approach, Monica tells us that saturated color, layered patterns, and materiality are their “design love language.” She elaborates: “Our strength is color combination. But even when our palette is saturated, it's still quite sophisticated—especially when integrated with patterns and very high-end materials, like zebra-grain wood and veiny marble. Even the patterns within the materials themselves are layered and very present in all of our work.”
For Monica and Ronald, finding harmony between such bold elements begins with identifying a color scheme and the affective quality you want to achieve. Monica recommends asking yourself, “What’s the color story?” while reflecting on how a palette might “emote a feeling when you enter the space.” Ronald adds that feeling also comes from careful consideration of who the space is meant to serve. “Be mindful of the purpose of the space,” he says, “to ensure you're creating the right environment for the people who will use it.”
For those inspired by Moniomi’s vibrant look, Monica offers these final words of advice: “I would just say to bring in beautiful pieces that you love and layer in different textures, patterns, and scales. Make sure that all of the surfaces in the room equally contribute to the overall design, but only incorporate pieces that you love.”
Trevyn & Julian McGowan of Southern Guild
Trevyn and Julian McGowan’s Cape Town-based gallery Southern Guild has attracted a devoted international following for championing contemporary collectible design from Africa and the African diaspora—or as the Financial Times recently asserted, “some of the most inventive limited-edition and one-off craft and design on the continent.” A Design Miami/ exhibitor for more than ten years, Southern Guild is a consistent fairgoer favorite, thanks to the couple’s talent for producing arresting installations, which highlight the allure of each individual object within elegantly composed environments.
“Our programme,” Trevyn says, “pivots on the ingenuity of the human hand and the socially embedded role of African art throughout history. Whatever the medium, the work transforms the maker’s energy into a tangible part of the offering. A number of our artists are concerned with bridging the mythological, spiritual, and physical worlds and the expression of ancestral ties. We work closely with them to ensure their storytelling is authentic and immersive.”
Much of what Trevyn and Julian have achieved arises from the fact they are lifelong collectors. “We are instinctive and have collected slowly, for about four decades now,” Trevyn explains. “As collectors, Julian and I gravitate towards narrative and materiality—both traditional and innovative forms of craftsmanship. We do not focus on a specific era or style, but rather look for things that will stand the test of time.”
For Trevyn and Julian, curation is about fostering connections with the artist-makers and the stories they tell with their work. One example that Trevyn cites is the iThongo collection, created by Andile Dyalvane for his fourth solo show at Southern Guild in 2020. “Because the work represents a profound spirituality for the artist rooted in his heritage,” Trevyn tells us, “we felt compelled to take the entire series of 19 sculptures to his remote rural village first before launching them in the gallery.”
For burgeoning collectors weighing which pieces they want to acquire, Trevyn offers simply, “trust your instincts.” And when it comes to integrating those pieces together at home, she advised to think beyond what is traditional and expected. “You need to walk the space in your head—find a way to be in the space before it actually exists,” she says. “Try to imagine your everyday patterns of living and what you need to make things flow. This is your opportunity to make the world that you want to live in. It’s worth pushing yourself to live in a more soulful way.”
Valerio Capo & Sam Pratt of Gallery FUMI
Valerio Capo and Sam Pratt have often said in interviews that their London gallery, Gallery FUMI, only represents pieces that the couple would want to have in their own home. Their curatorial approach may be personal, but it’s also widely resonant, drawing enthusiastic collectors and clients from around the world.
Success allowed Valerio and Sam to relocate Gallery FUMI from edgy Shoreditch to the super-posh Mayfair neighborhood, near London’s other powerhouse contemporary collectible design galleries, like Galerie Kreo and David Gill. Though the surroundings got sleeker, the vision never changed. Gallery FUMI remains an unrivaled destination for finely crafted furniture and objects—as beautifully idiosyncratic and earthy as ever.
Such admirable constancy can also be seen in the long-term relationships that Valerio and Sam maintain with the artist-makers they represent—like Max Lamb, Glithero, and Study O Portable—even as they continue to scout emerging and undiscovered talents. When asked to articulate the qualities they all share, Sam tells us, “The handmade, craftsmanship, and materiality permeates everything we do. Those who have followed the gallery over the years always tell us that our exhibitions reflect the warmth of the human touch, which makes the work we represent very tactile and approachable.”
True to their word, Valerio and Sam embrace the same aesthetic in their home, a cool yet cozy East London gymnasium-turned-flat that the New York Times style magazine featured a few years ago. Sam shares a few the pieces that they most enjoy living with: the Campana Brothers’ iconic Boa Sofa, because, “we love its quirkiness and how comfortable it is;” and a wood sculpture by Rowan Mersh, because “it is sentimental to us as one of the first pieces Rowan made for us in the very early days of FUMI.”
When asked to share a few tips for creating FUMI-esque, warm and wonderful spaces, Sam upholds the value of the personal. “To each to their own,” he tells us. “We all have individual tastes, so choose objects with care over time. Where possible, commission unique works from makers and give them creative freedom. This not only makes those pieces more intimate and special—since they are made specifically for you and your home—but it also allows the maker to manifest their unique vision and leave a one-of-a-kind stamp on the space.” ◆
If you missed it, check out Extraordinary Environments Part I!