By Andrea Richard
Steven Gurowitz is at the top of his game. Known for his high-end contemporary home interiors that make spaces sing for affluent clients, he and his firm, Interiors by Steven G, have nearly 120 projects in the pipeline.
“We are at a stage now that we don’t have to chase,” he says. “Our business is 75 to 85 percent referrals from happy clients or developers that are asked about our work and experience.”
His recent work includes the oceanfront condominium Vista Blue on Singer Island; The Tides and Fairwind hotels on South Beach; Sabbia Beach in Pompano Beach, two condo towers at Pier 27 in Toronto, Canada; a large rental residence for the Lerner Corporation in Washington, D.C.; Akoya Boca West in Boca Raton; and Privé in Aventura.
The Queens, New York, native founded his firm 34 years ago in South Florida after cutting his teeth in the interior design industry for 10 years. Of Russian, Polish and Jewish descent, his father worked as an air conditioning mechanic and his mother stayed at home, taking care of three children. They struggled. “I watched my father work two jobs until he died,” he says.
In the early 1970s when he was 19, he moved to South Florida to follow his childhood sweetheart, whose father was in the design business. He went to work for him at the boutique storefront, Fine Decorators, in Miami Beach, which eventually relocated to a larger space in Hallandale Beach. As the firm grew, so did Gurowitz’s skills. He began designing within three years on small projects with small budgets.
After a decade, entrepreneurship called. He set up a workspace at his home den in North Miami. “I made a list of all the complaints that I heard from clients in my first 10 years in the industry—can’t get a call back, it takes days to get a response, no one listens—I made that list in detail and really strived to build this company on all the negatives I’ve heard from people.”
He envisioned a better way to handle clients, how to deal with design and trades, he says. His lucky break arrived in the first week, when he secured work with Radice Corp., a national developer building assisted living facilities that he previously had worked with.
“They gave me a million-dollar job the first week I went on my own,” he says.
Within 90 days, he opened a 5,000-square-foot showroom in Pompano Beach. Today, his firm has 84 people on staff and he owns his 100,000-square-foot showroom, with plans for an additional 25,000 square feet. There, it houses an extensive fabric and textile collection maintained by a fulltime librarian. Proprietary products, furniture, area rugs, you name it … it can be found under one roof, with 50 to 100 new items put on display weekly.
Everything is done in house—handmade renderings, computer-aided plans—and he even owns his delivery trucks. To further accommodate his clients, he has a fulltime driver and a concierge.
Not relying on outside sources, he says, allows for more control. If, for example, a customer needs a delivery in New York by Tuesday morning, it can be done. He’s willing to work through the night, if that’s what it takes.
“We are turnkey. We design every aspect of the project down to the television, sound systems, the lighting, the closets. We don’t do a room. We don’t sell a piece of furniture. We are not open to the public,” he says. “Our showroom is a monster in size, and we are always bringing in new and exciting products from overseas.”
His office resembles a colorful fun house lined with artwork, art books, memorabilia from the TV show “The Sopranos,” and gifts from clients. There, from morning to night, music plays from a rotating playlist. Motown is his favorite. “I dance on desks,” he says.
His day starts at 4 a.m., with a 5 a.m. coffee stop at Dunkin’ Donuts (large, three creams, two Sweet’N Lows) before hitting the road to visit projects under construction. He might work 14 to 16 hours.
“He has so many keys on him, you would think like he’s a janitor,” says his longtime marketing director, Lisa Ricci. “He’ll go from Singer Island, to Palm Beach and back down to the Gables in a day, if he has to.”
In his downtime, he enjoys boating. “I’m on my yacht as much as humanly possible. I love the saltwater.” When he tires of the sun, he’ll go inside and sit in his dining room to tackle stacks of paperwork. He’s got a project in Key Largo’s Ocean Reef and a full-blown marina for Turnberry in Aventura. He tried his hand at interior design for yachts, but found it tough to turn a profit the way he had for the residential market.
Recently, he opened another business line called Now by Steven G, in which customers can purchase pre-designed packages at a lower price point. That service features 15 distinct rooms of which the public can tour next door to his Pompano Beach showroom.
He plans to relocate his Sunny Isles Beach showroom to Brickell next year, in time for his 35th anniversary.
While his approach to design has evolved, and clients demand less-is-more minimalism and contemporary designs, his business model remains the same. “The secret in the design world is to give the client what they want and make sure that is professionally done, but the key to success is on-time delivery,” he says.
He’s not one to overpromise to his clients or simply nod his head in agreement. “I have no filter,” he says.
In the lobby at his firm, awards fill the shelves. But it is not the shiny trophies and plaques of which he’s proudest. It is giving back. Last year, he went to Key West after the destruction of Hurricane Irma to deliver truckloads of food, water and clothing. He went with WPLG-Channel 10, which was able to get clearance. And he was there, sweating as he unloaded the truck.
He helped Blanche Ely High School’s basketball team, which was going to the state championships but didn’t have matching uniforms and sneakers. He funded the whole thing, including the buses to transport the team.
“And the reward for that was the whole team came in here with their marching band,” Ricci says. “It was an unbelievable surprise.”
In addition, he donates to a number of charities. “Growing up and having little makes you appreciate more as you get older,” he says. “But being able to help and say thank you is probably the greatest feeling in the world.” ♦