Glenn And George The Two Geniuses

With unique projects spanning the globe, his interior design duo is proud to bring their stylings to Miami with the new St. Regis, Bal Harbour, the W Hotel South Beach, and the Apogee condominiums.

By Marla J. Wasserman


 With a dizzying roster of clients straddling Hong Kong to Milan, it’s hard to know what continent you might find Yabu or Pushelberg on in any given day.

If Glenn Pushelberg hadn’t become an interior design guru, he would have made a great therapist. After all, Pushelberg cares passionately about elevating people’s moods. As one-half of the “It” design team known as Yabu Pushelberg, the Canadian-bred designer constantly thinks about how someone will feel when they enter a place he designed. “Our interiors are subtle, so when you go in, you feel them,” Pushelberg says. “It’s about making all the parts fit in a whole so that when you walk into a hotel lobby, you feel sexy, or feel you’re in the grandest place of luxury, or feel a little mysterious in a sensual way.”

For the past twenty-six years, Pushelberg and his partner, George Yabu, who met during their days at Ryerson University in Toronto, have succeeded at wowing even the most jaded. Whether they are designing a hotel lobby, creating the interior of a restaurant, or revamping a luxury store, the men bring a sophisticated glamour to every project. What they also bring to each job is their unique personalities. George “Yabu” spends most of his time in the studio. Glenn “Pushelberg” is the schmoozer. “George is more the pure artist and I am more the eyes and ears of the clients,” Pushelberg says, joking that Yabu also got the good looks.

Even if you’ve never heard of their names, chances are you’ve been in a place they’ve designed. For international travelers, you can find their work everywhere, from the Four Seasons in Dubai and Tokyo, to the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona and the St. Regis in Mexico City. But, hotels are just one element of their impressive resume. Shop for beauty products at Bergdorf Goodman or step into Carolina Herrera’s flagship boutique with a staircase reminiscent of the Guggenheim Museum, and you’ll feel the presence of Yabu Pushelberg. The same goes for restaurants and clubs: whether it’s a meal at Steve Hanson’s Blue Fin restaurant with its sculptural wall, or a drink at one of Rande Gerber’s famed Whiskey Bar establishments, the touch of Yabu Pushelberg is evident. Says Gerber, a fan of the duo: “Working with Glenn and George is always fun… Their design sense is contemporary, elegant, comfortable, and really has that feel of glamour in the air.”

No single adjective captures Yabu Pushelberg’s style. While clearly their aesthetic is contemporary, no two projects look alike. “We are not interested in a singular style. We don’t want to refine one look again and again,” Pushelberg declares. Rather, the location and the aura they hope to create dictate what materials and artisans the team employs. With a dizzying roster of clients straddling Hong Kong to Milan, it’s hard to know what continent you might find Yabu or Pushelberg on in any given day. “We are personally nomadic,” Pushelberg admits. “We like to work in places that appeal to us.”

Lucky for Floridians, Yabu and Pushelberg love the Sunshine State. They even keep a pad in Miami, which they may be spending more time at, given their current workload. Yabu Pushelberg has been selected to design the St. Regis in Bal Harbour, as well as South Beach’s W Hotel and Apogee condominiums. Each project promises to have a different feel. For the St. Regis – set to open in 2009 — Pushelberg wants to create a sense of luxury but vows not to make the hotel “too northern” like he finds some of the competition. “South Florida is about having fun,” Pushelberg enthuses. As for the W, its proximity to the Shore Club and the Delano has Pushelberg planning to trump all prior levels of sophistication and sensuality. “There will be a huge pool scene,” Pushelberg gushes. “It’s about the experience of seeing and being seen.” Finally, the Apogee – South Beach’s most exclusive condominiums – will be contemporary, lavish and full of drama. “It is only 67 units so we don’t have to appeal to lots of people like we do with a hotel,” he says.

Whether it is Florida, New York, or Las Vegas, Yabu Pushelberg has taken America by storm. Proof that now is their moment: they won the coveted job to design Tiffany’s Wall Street store. Pushelberg envisions a modern design – what he calls “a faster version of Tiffanys” – which will attract the young bankers with their hefty bonuses. Yabu Pushelberg is also heading up the Madison Square Loft Residences which will be built in Manhattan’s old Toy Building (sales begin this Spring). “We turn down a lot of condominium developments,” says Pushelberg. “But this one, the owner gave us freedom of expression and the space is so big, we can really experiment. The client is uncalculated.”

While you are sure to fall in love with Yabu Pushelberg’s sleek designs, there is one drawback: the firm steers clear of decorating for the individual. “We failed the course in marriage counseling,” Pushelberg jokes. “We try not to do [people’s homes], it’s a different temperament, it’s a different tenor of working … we try to avoid it.” Looks like you’ll just have to check into one of the many hotels they’ve designed or eat at a restaurant they’ve decorated to get your Yabu Pushelberg-fix.