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By Rebecca Wallwork | July 14, 2011 | Lifestyle
Owner Paulo Bacchi and wife Lais at Artefacto’s Coral Gables showroom
Inventory” is not a term one would immediately associate with a cutting-edge, Design District-worthy furniture business’ mounting cross-continental success. Yet though it may sound far from sexy, “inventory” in fact has everything to do with the rise of Brazilian manufacturer Artefacto here in Miami. It’s why the upscale, on-demand furniture company is uniquely positioned now, almost 10 years after entering the local market, to take advantage of the Brazilian dominance in Miami real estate.
Artefacto’s owner and president of US operations, Paulo Bacchi, says his Miami warehouse contains more than $25 million in inventory, not out of braggadocio, but rather a statement on the company’s method. “Having product of this quality available for immediate delivery makes us different,” Bacchi explains. With the April arrival of Artefacto’s new 40,000-squarefoot showroom in Aventura and a new Artefacto Show House concept opening in July at the existing flagship store in Coral Gables, the company’s exposure is set to skyrocket.
Artefacto’s collections, produced in the company’s facility in São Paulo, blend the sleek lines of modern Italian design with hints of French colonial flourishes, an understated Asian appreciation of natural beauty and an eco-friendly ethos born and bred in Brazil. “Artefacto is the greenest furniture company in Brazil,” says Bacchi. “We only use recycled woods, and each step of the production process is designed to make the least amount of impact on our environment.” Bacchi introduced this green streak long before “eco” became a buzzword. “It was the first thing I implemented at the company 25 years ago,” he says.
Artefacto is not just a job for Bacchi—it’s a way of life that began when he was just 12 years old, working a series of summer internships at his father’s factory, learning, as he tells it, every aspect of the family business. At 18, his role at Artefacto was cemented. Ask him if he ever considered another path, and Bacchi seems almost bewildered: “There was no reason to leave this wonderful company to work somewhere else.”
|the St. Bart Chair in gray|
Over the years, Bacchi has imprinted his own influence on the Artefacto brand by traveling the world in search of innovation and inspiration. Of all the destinations he continues to visit, it was Asia—where he lived and traveled extensively in 1990 and ’91—that seems to have made the most lasting impression. The palpable history woven into the region’s landscape really struck a chord with him. “Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam—for thousands of years people have used their natural talents to create handcrafted materials in these exotic places.” The simple functionality of products used by people in their own homes, the mix of natural materials, the modest tools so different from those used by designers in the West—Bacchi has channeled them all to create a signature look for Artefacto.
The outlook also informs his latest line, the Passport Collection, a range that reproduces unique pieces from the far-flung corners of the globe. “It’s named Passport because basically I grab one of my three passports [Brazilian, American and Italian] and travel around the world looking for different products, different ideas, different textures and designs,” explains Bacchi.
One of his most cherished finds has been Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue, whose Bloom chair—an Alcantara fabric construction—is a favorite, with a starring role in the new Passport Collection. “We’ve known him for almost 25 years,” says Bacchi. “But he is still so young and fresh as a designer. He has done some very cool pieces for us.” Bacchi also admires Ann Pamintuan, another furniture designer from the Philippines who is working with Artefacto. “What she creates is more than furniture—it’s sculpture,” he says. “It may take her four weeks to make one chair. She’s so talented.”
|the Bloom chair in light yellow, created by Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue|
While Bacchi enjoys establishing relationships with young designers, he’s also fond of the more traditional design-world names, including Christian Liaigre. “I’m a big fan of the French designers. I love the organic nature and the chicness of French interior design. It’s so human.” This is no small point. Artefacto designs must not only be eco-friendly, beautiful and made with care—they must be functional. They are not museum pieces but designed to be lived with and make a home a home.
“Furniture must be practical, comfortable and showcase good design,” says Bacchi. “It’s not about which of those things is more important. The three factors have to be combined. If you don’t have the three together, you have a product that won’t sell.”
Which brings us back to that inventory. “When we started out here nine years ago,” he says, “the majority of the design showrooms were Italian.” The product was world-class, but customers often had to wait for 12 weeks or more to receive their furniture. Artefacto created a solution: “From day one, we have been top of mind for designers and for consumers who want their home done quickly.”
Which, it should be pointed out, has never meant production-line packages. “Artefacto has the ability to customize the product so it’s made only for you,” says Bacchi. “Nobody will have the same pieces.” The company also gives customers the option of working with a designer to create an entire home on the spot—or to make purchases piece by piece.
As his fellow Brazilians f lock to South Florida, making their fortunes at home while securing futures for their families in the States, Bacchi knows he is in a prime position to grow Artefacto well into the years ahead. With the new initiatives here—and 25 showrooms in his native Brazil—what’s next for Artefacto? “Increasing our market share in South America,” says Bacchi, “in Colombia, Panama, Peru, Bolivia—countries that are growing.” And even though he followed his own father’s footsteps into the Artefacto world, Bacchi is content for his two sons to carve careers of their own design, “as long as they are happy.”
Bacchi, who lives with his fashion designer wife, Lais, and their two children in Coral Gables, believes Miami is the perfect North American home not just for his family but his family’s business: “The level of architecture here over the past decade, and the buildings that are yet to be made, they are perfect for our product,” he says. Model residences designed by Artefacto at Icon Brickell, Trump Towers in Sunny Isles, Marquis Residences and Capri South Beach are visual proof.
But it’s not all about bricks and mortar or floor-to-ceiling views of Biscayne Bay. “Artefacto loves to work with natural fibers and materials, and I think this goes very well with the Miami lifestyle,” Bacchi says. Even his thirst for global roaming is sated here. “I love the mix of cultures we have in this city. The South Americans, the Americans, the Russians, the French and the Italians—everybody. The international mix really creates the spice of Miami.”
Portrait by Ben Shaul