In Miami, Decor Must Withstand Open Windows and Sun, Says Designer Leo Bertacchini

ByMansion Global
April 24, 2023

After splashy projects in London, Hong Kong, Seoul and Dubai—and at sea, with superyacht ocean residences—interiors firm 1508 London has set its sights on North America. Leading the charge is principal and design director Leo Bertacchini.“1508 is the year Michelangelo was commissioned to design the Sistine Chapel,” said Mr. Bertacchini, who worked at luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren before moving to interiors. “It was a competition. This little guy came in with a pencil, drew a perfect circle and won over the pope. We love the story.”

1508 London has offices in London, Dubai and Sao Paulo. Mr. Bertacchini, an Italian-Brazilian who’s lived in London for 25 years, talked to Mansion Global about sustainability, craftsmanship, and how luxury “has to move something.”

Mansion Global: How does the environment in South Florida influence your choice of colors and materials at your latest project the Cipriani Residences Miami?

Leo Bertacchini: We have to keep in mind that the end user will probably have their windows open, with materials open to the elements. We did a huge study: How will those materials react? How do we factor in sun protection? Are our fabrics all suited for indoor and outdoor use? Our selections were honed in to work with Miami weather to the fullest. We also had a base color palette that helps you understand you’re in a Cipriani property.

MG: How do you translate the DNA of a brand like Cipriani to a location like Miami?

LB: We start with recognizable materials. Buyers at the Cipriani Residences Miami have been at Cipriani properties around the globe. How we curate the product to the location is the main focus. The Cipriani brand is a global brand. It’s almost a membership. It’s a watermark in your brain. You recognize a few things here and there, and the magic happens when people recognize it and start comparing it to other locations.

MG: In 2020, you designed a “Covid-compliant” project in London’s Mayfair that generated a lot of attention. Have you brought that approach to other projects?

LB: In that project, which sold out immediately to a single buyer, the design incorporated gesture-activated and touchless technology, along with voice activation. It was designed for people to work from home—where you’d normally have a study, it was designed with high-speed internet and appropriate lighting. Those ideas continue to appear in designs for other projects, even post-pandemic.

MG: Was designing within those parameters like working with one hand tied behind your back?

LB: To the contrary. It was an exciting challenge. We had never done it. To boot, we were all designing from home. It was exciting to design for the end-user while answering to a very day-to-day concern for all of us. We weren’t thinking about those things before, now we are. Nowadays, people are conscious of it, but they want things to be more functional and more comfortable.

MG: Is there overlap between your designs for a superyacht and designing luxury residences?

LB: With superyachts, you’re always considering water in the background when you’re thinking about palette and materiality. We have that luxury at Cipriani Residences Miami as well. Between the Cipriani brand and the yachting world, there are also some comparisons as far as the palette of materials and philosophy. Right now, we’re looking at the collection of penthouses on top of the building. We’re considering typologies both traditional and contemporary that reflect naval culture. We’re in Miami, a city of ports and yachts.

MG: How does your early work in fashion influence your design now?

LB: The biggest influence from brands like Louis Vuitton and YSL was the craftsmanship, and the artisans who created everything from leather goods to wood-carving. I love how their passion translates. When you look into the micro, the macro becomes fluent. A little piece of leather or wood takes on so much passion, detail and craft.

MG: Is sustainability on your radar for all luxury projects?

LB: It’s 100% on our radar all the time, from our supply chain to our selections. We’re always asking: “Where is it coming from? Who manufacturers it? Who works at that facility?” There’s no way to run away from it. Do we always get it right? I don’t know. But we understand it’s a reality nowadays. It’s a challenge, but a challenge welcomed by everyone. The environment is us, as people, as well.  Clients are open to that conversation, and they’re usually grateful for us to bring it up. If we can help each other be a little more conscious and have the conversation, everybody wins.

MG: What’s your personal definition of luxury?

LB: Luxury has to move something. It needs to belong to its place and time, but it must withstand time. Something that is well-designed can tap into all those things. If you design for that place, time, client and architecture, and that design will last for a long time, then you’ve done a good job.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.