Architect's idea for furniture design leads to a growing business
By April M. Havens
Young and fresh out of architecture school, Anselmo Di Virgilio Hernandez thought no one would entrust the design of a building to a new grad, so he began designing furniture.
This move eventually led to founding KOSTA, a wholesale luxury hotel furniture manufacturing business, and IDEA, an expanding retail chain of contemporary indoor and outdoor furnishings.
IDEA Home Furnishings, founded in 2005, is in expansion mode, with locations in Brickell and Cutler Bay and stores in Aventura, Doral and West Brickell planned for 2008-'09.
Mr. Hernandez is speaking with Mexican contacts about opening stores in Cancun and Mexico City and hopes to open those stores within the next two years. Beyond that, he plans to open Pompano and Fort Lauderdale stores before expanding outside Florida into other major cities. He also hopes to open three stores in Canada.
The success of the business, according to general manager Eduiska Hernandez, has relied mostly on word of mouth and referral business. She attributes that success in part to customer service, a major focus for the business, and affordable furniture that is designed to be "smart," often flexible and with hidden storage spaces.
Another attractive incentive for customers, Ms. Hernandez said, is free room design. IDEA has an on-staff architect who will present computer-generated room designs to customers, with furniture in place and descriptive notations about each piece.
The information is presented to the customer through a PowerPoint presentation, Ms. Hernandez said. This service is especially well received by those customers who "don't want to have to think," she said.
IDEA's most popular items are made of aluminum or resin, Mr. Hernandez said.
The biggest challenge the business has had, he said, is making timely deliveries. "From the store's point of view, being able to keep up with deliveries is difficult because everything is in stock and sometimes we see five or six client deliveries a day," he said.
The 36-employee company has grown from two smaller storage warehouses — one 9,000 square feet and another 5,000 square feet — to a 30,000-square-foot building with 50-foot walls.
The Brickell retail store, 625 SW 1st Ave., is 4,500 square feet, and the Cutler Bay store, 8750 S. Dixie Hwy., is 6,800 square feet.
Mr. Hernandez said he caught his first big break furnishing a Hilton hotel in Aruba for the parents of a friend. Soon thereafter, he had a showroom in the Miami Design District and began getting local hotel contracts for KOSTA. He furnished The Tides South Beach, Circa39 Hotel, Dorchester Hotel, and is designing furnishings for the Ritz-Carlton Residences.
After fans of the hotel furniture began asking about retail locations, Mr. Hernandez founded IDEA Home Furnishings in 2005.
"Around 2004, there was a big boom in the contemporary, minimalist market," Mr. Hernandez said. "There were no affordable options, so I decided to begin the retail division."
Mr. Hernandez said he looks to Pottery Barn as a model for IDEA Home Furnishings, since most other contemporary furniture designs seem too expensive.
"There's not a Pottery Barn in this industry," he said, "so we want to be a Pottery Barn but on the contemporary side."