We recently sat down with Isabel Tragash, Principal at STA Architectural Group, who provided us with a peek inside both The Estates at Acqualina and The Mansions at Acqualina, together referred to as “Acqualina”. Known for her extensive design experience, Isabel leads the Interiors practice at STA, a well-respected mainstay in the Miami Beach architectural community. She shared with us her design approach and how one can never be too prepared when taking on projects of this scale and luxury. Read on to learn more.
Hi Isabel. You lead the interiors practice of your firm, STA Architectural Group. Tell us about your firm in a couple of sentences.
From its inception in 1985, STA ARCHITECTURAL GROUP has been led by husband and wife principals Todd and Isabel Tragash, together they have built a studio of talented design professionals and a distinguished portfolio of national and international work. STA specializes in high-end Architecture and Interior Design with a diverse breadth of work ranging from exclusive private homes to hospitality.
It’s not every day we get to feature a designer with 35 years of experience under her belt, who’s also at the very forefront of a thriving design community like Miami’s. What’s the best part about designing for South Florida clientele?
South Florida is the destination for the well-traveled to enjoy the relaxed life style in an exciting cosmopolitan city. Miami has become a center for the arts, design and food. Designing for a diverse and well informed clientele who appreciate a sense of effortless elegance and personal well-being is a privilege.
Do you remember the first space that made an impact on you?
Many spaces have made an impact on me but one that I remember most, was my unexpected visit to the Therme Vals Spa in Switzerland in 2008, A year prior to Peter Zumthor winning the Pritzker Price. The building is partially carved into a Quartzsite hillside, the interiors is masterfully planned where you experience total darkness in contrast to perfectly composed window openings exposing the picturesque countryside of Vals. The architect’s play with light and materiality in this underground space is magnificent.
Tell us about working on Acqualina. How do you approach a project of this scale and luxury?
My studio’s approach to projects like Acqualina is research, research and research. We look into design elements which set certain places apart from the rest. We specifically research great hotels, residences and spas in leading cities of the world. We draw ideas and expand or edit them to fit the lifestyle of South Florida. In addition we are attentive to what our clients respond to and what is important to them.
What were some of the challenges of this project?
We always try to exceed what we did before and that can be quite challenging.
For Acqualina, you specified several Dornbracht products throughout including CL.1, IMO, and LISSÉ for the bathroom and TARA ULTRA in the kitchen. Given your extensive knowledge of unique materials, walk us through your thought process in selecting a design and finish to complement the surfaces you had in mind.
For the master shower we always ask ourselves what could be the most indulging shower experience? We appoint each master shower with a flush mounted ceiling rain shower, body sprays, waterfall features and lastly a steam component. I love the feel and the translucent dimension of onyx for a master shower, when pairing the fixtures and accessories I look for fixtures with strong and clean lines that will complement and not compete with the stone.
Your firm has adapted very well to remote work during these exceptional times. What attributed to making the transition so seamless? What has been the biggest challenge?
Our entire studio was completely taken by surprise on how well we are working remotely. Technology certainly contributed in making the transition seamless but technology would have not worked well if we were not good communicators. We are constantly on virtual charrettes, constantly sharing ideas and critiquing our work. We have embraced the situation and I have no doubt that it has brought our studio closer together. We are also having great experiences with our virtual presentations to clients locally and abroad. We can walk through their plans and communicate design ideas through 3D imagery and for the touch and feel we send a trove of samples prior to the virtual presentation. The greatest challenge is getting everyone to login remotely without technical difficulties.
It’s 2020 and we’ve just entered the third decade of the 21st century. What stands out about the current state of the design industry?
Good design is well recognized, I believe that in this decade we have developed a greater sensitivity towards design.
Are you seeing any particular design requests trending among your clients?
The trend has been that the home should cater to one’s wellness. This trend continuous to expand with requests for integrated air purifying systems, therapeutic shower experiences and a designated place for meditation.
What’s next for you? Anything we should be on the lookout for?
People will spend more time in their homes and designing for their personal wellness will be a priority. There will be a need to integrate exercise, relaxation and work from home. Equally important will be the quality of light, air and water.