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Thu 10 Apr 2008 04:00 AM

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Dream decor

US firm Ziccardi Designs creates interiors for high-end clients seeking an elegant look.

Ziccardi designs create interiors for high-end clients seeking an elegant, understated look. Diana Milne finds out why the company is unique to the gulf region and why working in emerging markets is its specialty.

It's very unusual to hear a person describe their job as "a sheer joy" but in the case of Brooke Ziccardi, it's not hard to understand why.

Working in emerging markets is one of our specialties and it's our goal to really understand the culture of those markets.

As principal of Ziccardi Designs - a leading US-based interior design firm set up by her mother Karen Ziccardi 30 years ago - Ziccardi designs dream homes for high-end clients across the globe - turning her hand to everything, from penthouses in China to luxury residential developments in India.

She joined the family firm 10 years ago with one goal in mind - to extend its business from its own backyard to the rest of the world.

Today, having achieved that goal, the firm has clients based around the world and specialises in designing the interiors for luxury built homes, or redesigning existing homes.

"We work on luxury-based products that are custom-made from the ground up," says Ziccardi.

"So we would be involved right from when the architect is hired and we would work as a team together. They will do the exterior structure and we'll come in and review their interior plan and make sure that everything flows in a cohesive unit. Another section of the company does extensive remodelling. We might go into a project that's already existing and completely refurbish it."

Within the Middle East, it has worked with Emaar on its Boulder Hills project in India and on projects in Saudi Arabia, and has created designs for other developers on residential and commercial properties across the region.
Ziccardi says she is particularly passionate about working in emerging markets and about incorporating aspects of the local culture of each country into her designs.

Working in emerging markets is one of our specialties and it's our goal to really understand the culture of those markets.

We pride ourselves on really giving the client what they want — but it always has an understated, elegant look.

"We do an extensive amount of market research prior to going into any new project. Emerging markets clearly provide us with a blank canvas with so many rich design possibilities."

"The nice thing about working internationally is that we'll have an overall global interior design. But we'll bring in artifacts and accessories that are unique to the region."

"So when you walk into the space you don't feel like you are walking into an Indian space or a Turkish space. Instead you feel like you are walking into a space that could be anywhere in the world but you see highlighted artifacts, framed nicely or put about, which give you a sense of place."

She said the firm had a chance to do this when designing the interiors of homes on Emaar's developers in Hyderabad in Indian and in Istanbul in Turkey, creating very different styles for each project.

"One of our top clients is Emaar and we opened up one of their first international projects based in Hyderabad, India, called Boulder Hills.

"That was a fabulous project to work on, India was an inspiring place, the textiles were beautiful. We really enjoyed that."

"We also had a chance to work with Emaar on their villas in Turkey in Istanbul and that was a great project as well."
Really having the chance to understand the local market and see the immersion of the hand-woven carpets.

Although, she says, the firm will adapt their designs to each client's individual needs, it's signature style is "understated elegance" - no matter how big or small, or how unusual the brief is that they have been given.

"We pride ourselves on really giving the client what they want - but it always has an understated elegant look. So whether we're doing something young and fun and modern for a new family.

"Or we're doing more of an elegant 22,000 sq ft home and it's Italian in style it always has an understated, refined, truly elegant look."

Establishing the company's global reputation and wide network of international clients was not easy, admits Ziccardi.

She says that in the early stages of the company's global expansion a lot of time was spent simply "meeting, greeting and networking."

The company's first international assignment was to redesign a penthouse in China for a local client.

This, she says, acted as a springboard for the company, which expanded its empire through word of mouth.
A large part of the reason behind the company's success however is also the fact that Ziccardi and her mother work in partnership - an arrangement which she says, suits them and the company perfectly.

"It's so wonderful to be able to work with my mentor and best friend."

"We really have a very good synergy together. She is very established and she really has a great wealth of knowledge."

"And I am more in tune with the new technology and tech design style so it really blends well. It's great because we're both on the same side. We want the best."

Although Ziccardi has focused a lot of energy on expanding the company's business overseas, it is still has a large client base in its domestic market, where it has designed luxury developments in prestigious areas such as Newport Coast, Laguna Beach, Emerald Bay and Napa Valley.

Currently the company's business is split 50/50 between its local and international clients, but Ziccardi says she continues to be inspired by the design innovation that is happening on her home turf of Orange County in California.

"Being born and raised in Newport Beach, California, I am inspired everyday by my natural surroundings."

"Orange County is my playground for good design but I want to expand the international divison of our company, I can't help but become excited about the growth opportunities that exist within our industry."
"Exploring fresh sights and sounds through travel, and expanding my knowledge of multiple and varied cultures, adds to my desire to introduce the unexpected in my interiors whether at home or abroad."

Indeed it is the "unexpected" element of her work that continues to inspire Ziccardi, particularly when it comes to not knowing what projects she will be asked to design in the future.

"It is exciting. You never what's going to come through the door."

"And with our sense of adventure and creativity it's a sheer joy to do."

But one thing she expects to stay constant is the company's growing success and its international expansion - particularly the Middle East which is sees and an important potential market.

"I see the company in the next couple of years continuing to grow and to strengthen its international presence.

"And the Middle East will play a big role in that," she adds.

Brooke ZiccardiPrincipal of Ziccardi Designs (ZDI), Brooke Ziccardi also serves as an academic and professional board member of several Southern California interior design colleges.

Specialises in: high-end luxury projects

Clients: Royalty, entertainment figures, entrepreneurs, hoteliers and international families.

Focus: Ziccardi Designs work on custom projects that include residential, hospitality, commercial and planned community model home developments.

Where: The company focuses on both domestic and international projects. Ziccardi has completed projects in California, India, China and the UAE.

Education: Ziccardi is an American Society of Interior Designers Professional; undergraduate degree in Business from the University of Southern California (USC) combined with a Universal Design Certificate degree from Harvard and USC.