When you’re an interior designer, maintaining long-term clients is about twists and turns as their lives, tastes and needs change. Fort Lauderdale-based Dawn Elise, who was born in Manhattan, graduated from Columbia University with a degree in art history and launched her firm here in 2006, knows this well: She says that at least half of her business comes from regular clients. (Over time, children of clients become clients themselves; Elise was even asked to design a college dorm room.) Kirk Dotson and his wife became such loyal clients. Dotson, a former aerospace engineer, is the founder and president of the upcoming Reef Discovery Center, a nonprofit formed to help conserve Florida’s indigenous coral reef ecosystems and reefs worldwide. A decade ago, the couple moved from California to Las Olas Beach Club, “but within six months of living there, they decided it was too small for them,” Elise recalls. “He sold it and made a $30,000 profit.” A very South Florida story for this California transplant, to be sure. So, it was onto the Paramount Residences for a preconstruction purchase on a 2,200-square-foot designer-ready unit where only the kitchen and bathrooms were complete. Elise did an upgrade here and there—for example, she installed a marble mosaic backsplash from Catalfamo Gallery in Fort Lauderdale. In the entry, Elise applied zebrawood veneers in a diamond book pattern to the existing doors, then she enlisted local artist Jennifer Haley to match the wood grains to the doorjambs—creating a faux zebrawood—to achieve the seamless look. You would never guess that it’s paint. (Two other Haley pieces adorn the home—one in the foyer and the other in the living room.) Then it was onto bigger things. The clients specified a clean, modern, organized aesthetic; the boldness of the entryway gives way to a more limited, serene palette of neutrals, with the occasional color pop. The dining room shoots the moon in terms of top-shelf brands: Artefacto chairs surround a Roche Bobois table. Of this standout space, Elise says, “I love the organic modernism of the chairs, I love natural flowing shapes that feel like a piece of molded driftwood, and I really like the contrast of the soft shape with the marble table. That’s a pretty iconic table, called the Aqua. They spin the base out of one piece of marble.”

In interior design, a professional’s rise in the industry typically takes time. It can mean starting at the bottom of a company, gaining experience with clients, and finding and perfecting an aesthetic that resonates, all before even thinking about striking out on your own. Plus, in South Florida, where designers and firms abound, the competition is fierce. But don’t tell that to Miami native Brittany Farinas, who’s charting a far-different course at an age when many of her contemporaries are still paying their dues. Instead, the 25-year-old already is an entrepreneurial veteran, having launched her own company, House of One, in 2018. Along the way, she’s not only put her stamp on luxury properties—like the two multimillion-dollar Modernist mansions in Miami Beach that she recently completed—but she’s also checked the box on one of the ultimate measures of success for interior designers: her own products. Farinas’ collection of whimsical wallcoverings—designed alongside fellow Miami interior designer Candice Kaye—adorn the interiors of some of Magic City’s trendiest restaurants. She also recently launched a bespoke collection of mirrored furnishings for the Miami-based company Precipice Glassworks. When asked how clients and potential clients react when they discover her age, Farinas says it quickly becomes a non-issue. “Confidence has been the biggest thing that has allowed my clients to gain respect and trust that I can handle their projects,” she says. “I have a strong work ethic, and my clients see that. … I’ve heard people talk about their [negative] experiences with different design companies. I’m always listening to what people react poorly to, [in an effort to stay] on top of my game.” When Farinas was growing up in Miami Lakes, her mother worked at a furniture store; she says that the exposure to décor and furnishings at a young age helped to inspire her creativity. “My mom always allowed me to use my bedroom as a canvas; I was the type of child who wanted a new bedspread or chair for my birthday, rather than toys,” Farinas recalls. After graduating from high school, she studied interior design at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art & Design. While in school, Farinas also worked at a local commercial real estate firm. “I was assisting on luxury projects all over South Florida, and that’s when I really developed a passion for this industry,” she says. “Then, I had the opportunity to design my first residential project—the gut renovation of a 4,500-square-foot single-family home. “It all snowballed from there.” That momentum shows no signs of slowing down. Since Farinas launched House of One, where she serves as CEO and creative director, she has focused her practice on creating truly personalized settings. “The name stems from our design approach, which is centered on curating one-of-a-kind, experiential interiors for our clientele; we view interiors as art, so every design is just like a rare art piece: one of one,” Farinas explains.