Q&A with Maison&Objet Designer of the Year Rafael de Cárdenas

Rafael De Cardenas
Last year, France’s famous interior design show, Maison&Objet (M&O) made its debut featuring the world’s most luxurious decor from vendors all over the world. Which takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center and assorted locations throughout Miami. This year, they are honoring Rafael de Cárdenas, founder of a multi-disciplinary practice of Rafael De Cardenas/ Architecture at Large in New York and London, as 2016 Designer of the Year.

by Rafael de Cárdinas

In addition to accepting the award, the designer, known for his colorful, 80s-inspired vision, will be taking part of M&O’s first Interior Design + Lifestyle Summit. The summit will bring together design firms, renowned architects, retailers and more to share their expertise over more than twenty talks with star hotelier Alan Faena (Argentina), designer Humberto Campana (Brazil) and many more. De Cárdenas is also working on a special pop up project called Neon Jungle, which promises to be “an immersive tropical pop-up lounge.” It will be taking place just one block from the Moore Building, making it a must-see for fair-goers.

The pop-up was created with PopLab, a Miami-based popsicle company and features the designer himself, Emmett Moore, Nektar De Stagni and The Jacuzzi Boys as hosts. The Neon Jungle will be open from May 10-13 from 12pm, with a Happy Hour starting at 6pm, including popsicles. Haute Living had a chance to speak with the Neon Jungle mastermind and award recipient about his design sensibility.

HL: What is the most important thing to get right in an interior?

RdC: Whether you are talking about space or objects, good design will make you feel something more than the sum of materially, it will suggest a mood and ideally, at least momentarily, transcend a reality.


HL: What informed your aesthetic?

RdC: Well I don’t know if it gives me a different approach from others, but my prior experience working in and designing menswear gives me the only approach I know. I’m interested in low and high culture at large, so I’m always applying music, art, and other references to our work too.


HL: How much of yourself do you put into your work.

RdC: I like things that work really fast. Music and fashion by nature work on a more compact schedule: they’re fingerprinting the moment right now. I’m always researching the things that defined my youth growing up in NYC in the 80s and 90s. Certainly [having] the Pet Shop Boys blasting in my studio must have some influence (I hope). In short, my somewhat circuitous path has led me to architecture and interiors, but I’m still bringing all my other interests along with me and folding them into the studio’s work.


HL:  Are you excited Maison & Object has come to the states? What do you think it adds to the design scene?
RdC: France, more specifically Paris, is a global beacon of lifestyle and culture. Its particular form of aspiration is likely one of France’s biggest exports. Miami seems perfectly poised to host Maison&Objet, in large part due to its own multi-cultural population.


HL: What colors, materials and or textures are you especially excited about right now?

RdC: In terms of materials, we use a lot of reflection, whether it be mirror, satin mirror,glass, textured glass, etc. How light gets reflected, refracted and diffused is crucial to the moody effects we are interested in creating. You will definitely see reflection used in our NEON JUNGLE installation. Color-wise, I love a pale blue. It gives a room cool, calm serenity. Whenever I don’t have something already going on with the ceiling, I like to use it there. At the moment, though, I am currently redoing my own apartment and going all white. It was time for a reset and we’ll see where it goes from there.