FAQ: AN INTERVIEW WITH GIUSI
WORKING WITH GIUSI MASTRO AND ORA STUDIO
1) Your experience and education have defined your success as a design expert.
What led you to choose architecture and design as a career?
Architecture and Design have been my passion since childhood – perhaps an instinct I was born with, rather than a conscious choice. Grottaglie, a vivid memory of a Sunday visit to the cathedral and seeing a void where once stood a beautiful building, simple but just perfect because it was part of an urban setting of a typical medieval town with the Piazza, the church, the Municipal building, the prince palace and other prominent residences.
Something was really wrong, why? I felt angry, soon my frustration kicked in, how can a little girl do anything about that horrible slaughter, yes I felt like someone was murdered.
When you are a child everything has a soul and I felt that the soul of that landmark urban setting was unnecessarily vandalized. I promised myself in that moment that one day I would create beautiful Buildings with such quality of design and harmony.
Growing up in Italy in a family of ceramists from Puglia, I was aware very early of the importance of beautiful surroundings; how they can create a mood, make us feel good about ourselves, and about life.
I started very early the process and the pleasure of imagining and creating them in my mind.
The decision to move to Florence to study Architecture was a Life changing experience.
In Florence, a city filled with history and extraordinary buildings, I became even more aware of the design traditions of every era. But the freedom of modern design encouraged me to experiment with my own ideas.
While a student I started working with my first clients, making custom-designed furniture for them that expressed the spirit of contemporary design in an original way, and yet I was always informed of how the past subtly influenced my work.
2) You've enjoyed working with private and corporate clients, but you've also collaborated with design manufacturers, what was your breakthrough and how long have you been practicing?
Yes, I was hired as an Architect and lighting designer by Targetti one of Italy's most prestigious lighting manufacturers, and started to design several of their stores throughout the country. As I mastered the creative use of lighting, I experienced the satisfaction and joy that came from resolving every challenge in the space in the built environment. Understanding how lighting can create the perfect ambiance, and enhance even further the most stunning interiors, made it a signature component of my later designs for residences, offices, and restaurants, so it was a very valuable experience for me, but as much as I loved working with my clients for those years, it was time to expand my profession to the next level.
To create a unique design, you need to have the final word, and that is not always possible within a corporation.
I began traveling, took my first trip to New York, and I fell in love with New York and strangely enough I knew New York fell in love with me.
I returned to the United States in 1996 to begin my first American project—Savannah―a high-end restaurant
in Miami's fabled Art Deco district which was a nominee for the James Beard Foundation Award, and led to productive collaborations with several accomplished colleagues. Finally in 2001 I established ORA Studio as a full-service architecture and design practice to fully express my vision, style and creativity and never regretted that decision
3) Who are your Clients?
I've worked most successfully with clients who have a taste for contemporary design and who want to improve their life and space by achieving an ideal environment for working and living. Beyond their excitement of being part of the creative process with me, I've found that my Clients appreciate that ORA studio’s work will heighten the value of their property.
4) How are you different from other Architects and Interior Designers?
As an Italian, Architecture and Design are deeply embedded in my consciousness. It gives me the advantage of being able to conceive solutions that are both grounded in a powerful sense of history and informed by the latest in modern design options. The words that best describe my work are “complete” and “integrated.” Complete, because I provide not only architectural solutions (from gut renovation, through combining spaces or the design of specific rooms), but also furniture custom-designed for each project. Lighting is, of course, the master stroke that makes all the design elements work together. So integration is always my goal, achieving unique results for each unique client. There is another aspect to my work that makes it stand out: not every architect/designer truly understands the importance of moral and practical support to the client at every stage of the project. There is a curve of expectation uncertainty, despair, and euphoria that I understand fully. With the combination of intuition and assurance built on a substantial portfolio, I am able to guide the client through the emotional roller-coaster that defines renovation, until they become relaxed and confident in the knowledge that their original hopes will be fulfilled by their new home or workspace. (When the project is completed.) With my training, experience, network of contacts, and my team at ORA Studio, I am in the distinctive position of being able to provide an overall design concept, supervise its meticulous execution, and offer help to the client from the beginning of the project to its successful conclusion.
5) What type of personality do you work best with? What do you expect of them?
I work best with clients who may be drawn to a European esthetic and people who are also open-minded open to changes in their life and in their personal/professional space. Especially if they are able to embrace the fact that they need to be dedicated to, and involved with, the project, and can be part of the process if they want something truly personalized.
6) What services does ORA Studio offer?
Full Design Services:
1. Inspect site
2. Create design proposals, schedules and estimated budgets
3. Site survey, design concept and schematic design
4. Perform drafting of floor plans, elevations of existing condition
5. Create space plan, furniture, lighting layouts and details
6. Develop the design concept with full set of plans and renderings
7. Select fixtures, finishes, furniture and fabrics
8. Meet with clients to review each stage of the design process
9. Create client binders and status schedules
10. Track all purchase orders and arrange delivery and installation of all items
11. Provide technical directions to consultants for development of architectural detailing, millwork and reflected ceiling plan
12. Oversee progress of work and installations throughout all phases of construction
13. Work with Architect of Record, Expeditors, Contractors and Subcontractors
14. Complete set up of household for turnkey move in if needed
7) What results can your clients expect?
Clients can expect to achieve the most up-to-date solutions and the most cost-effective design. Saving time throughout the construction process is vital for us as the Project progresses and achieved by selecting the best Contractors, manufacturers and craftsmen. We reduce the stress of changing the client's environment by organizing the process into easy-to-follow steps that inspire confidence. With ORA studio’s knowledge of materials, installation, construction budgeting and safety, we deliver interiors that are sophisticated and timeless with great attention to detail.
8) Can I contact some of your former clients to see what it's like to work with you?
ORA Studio will happily provide you with some contacts upon request. The success of our firm is the direct result of clients who have not only been enthusiastic about our work, but who have also learned a great deal from the experience and have recommended us to friends and colleagues.
9) How can I know I will get the home or office that I want?
We believe it's important to involve our clients in the design concept and design development from the beginning, and make sure they approve each primary design idea before work begins. We choose the best Contractors and sub-Contractors, and carefully supervise each construction detail. We guide them through the entire construction and completion process.
10) How will we work together, and what does the construction process require?
Our aim is to understand the client's needs, desires and challenges. This is the key to creating the perfect environment for our clients. So, we begin by interviewing the client by phone or email and gather information through our “get acquainted” questionnaire. Next, we schedule a meeting at the client's location to see the space, and explore the feasibility of realizing their needs and desires within the space, then discuss in depth how best to realize them. The meeting agenda would also explore options for budget and time-frame. Based on our discussions, we would prepare a detailed proposal with an outline of the scope of work and a schedule of the design and construction phases. The proposal includes; Responsibilities of the Designer, Responsibilities of the Client/ Compensation/ Payment schedule. Through reviews and comments on the proposal, we reach an agreement with the client and prepare a contract with a detailed scope of work; a more comprehensive description of the construction phase; estimated time, and a design fee. Most of the time these are based on hourly fees.
11) How long is the process, and how quickly can I expect results?
The duration and speed of the process are based on the project itself. What the project entails varies,
depending on the square footage of the space, if it's a new construction, a renovation, if it only involves interior design, or a consultation, and the ability of a client to make quick decisions. For each project, we provide an estimated time frame for the overall design and construction process.
12) Will I recover the investment I made in this renovation or newly-built space?
This is a case by case situation. If the Client is creating their home that they will live in for the next 40 years, usually we suggest using high end materials and the top of the line in fixture, furnishing, lighting etc. If the Client is planning to live in the space only for a few years and then sell it, we suggest creating a very nice design with quality materials, but not necessarily the most expensive because the future buyer may have a different taste and change some areas of the space according to their needs or budget.
13) I have a family and a busy life; how much time should I dedicate to this process?
It depends. If it's a home renovation, the involvement is greater. I suggest a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, depending on the scope of the project, to follow the process step-by-step and expedite decisions. During the construction phase, a monthly site visit by the client is suggested, but they can visit more or less often if they prefer.
14) If I'm not sure that I'm ready to get started, how can I sample your work economically to see if it's right for me?
You can choose a 4 hour consultation. We will schedule a meeting to discuss your needs
and requirements, and based on that meeting prepare a report that gives suggestions on how to approach the project's challenges.
15) Okay, if I know what I want to do, how do we get started?
Refer to question #10 which describes all steps of the agreement process. After the contract is signed and a deposit is made, we can start the design/concept phase.
16) Okay, I'm ready to work with ORA Studio, but I have a few more questions. Can I call you?
17) What form of payment does ORA Studio prefer? Do you accept credit cards?
We accept personal checks, or wire transfers if the client resides overseas. We are not set up to accept credit cards