By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17
From South Beach and Singapore to Moscow and Mumbai, FIU alumna Ruby Ramirez has worked on interior architecture projects for clients around the world – and now she hopes to transform the way Miami thinks about design.
Graduating from FIU with a bachelor’s in interior design in 2001, Ramirez says her time at the College of Architecture + The Arts played a pivotal role in helping launch her career. The program provided the perfect balance of skills and creative freedom that gave her an added advantage in the design world.
“Some design schools focus heavily on concept and abstract thinking. Others focus on boosting your technical skills. But FIU’s program is a nice hybrid of both and it makes the school stand apart from other programs,” she says. “I’m pleased and proud to come from there. It helped make my dreams and aspirations that much more attainable.”
After almost three years working overseas as a senior designer in London for residential and hotel design company Yoo, she returned to Miami and co-founded the interior architecture firm Antrobus + Ramirez with colleague Alison Antrobus in 2011.
Ramirez and Antrobus worked together at Yoo’s Miami office before the office was closed in 2008 and the firm they created works on a wide range of projects across the private residential and commercial sectors.
“Career-wise, it will be the most priceless experience of my life,” Ramirez says of her time in London. “I really honed my skills as a designer and learned how to communicate design effectively in the context of different cultural and language barriers.”
It was also her time overseas that helped her appreciate and understand interior architecture in a new way.
“Abroad, they see architecture as an art form,” Ramirez notes. “Coming back to the U.S., I wanted to bring that same sensibility and energy back here, because good design definitely adds a level of sophistication to the city.”
CREATING A NARRATIVE
For Ramirez, each project begins with finding out what kind of emotion a client wants to evoke within a space. Is the space going to have an airy, open feel or more of an urban beach feel? These are the questions Ramirez answers before putting pencil to paper.
“Each project is about the process. Our process starts with looking at the space and figuring out the narrative. What are we trying to create?” Ramirez says. “It’s emotional manipulation, but in a good way and hopefully in a memorable way.”
After that, the design flows as Ramirez and her colleagues begin to draw out plans for the space they are working with, taking in to account how they want people to move within that space, cost effectiveness and building constraints.
Collaboration and working with the members of her team is vital to the design process as well, and the Antrobus + Ramirez office fosters a culture of collaboration with a cozy studio layout.
“Great design comes through collaboration and dialogue,” Ramirez says. “To build great projects, you have to rely on the team you are working with. There’s no ego about the work we do. We know what we know and what we don’t know, we ask.”
Trends and styles are always changing, and finding ways to keep up and remain innovative comes with the territory. One of the constants of the interior design industry is that there are no constants.
“One of the biggest challenges for creative people is being creative. Remaining in a constant state of reinvention in design will always be a challenge,” Ramirez says. “As designers, we always want to evolve. We don’t want to stay the same, be the same, or do the same things.”
FIGHTING TO THE END
Sometimes the desire to push past boundaries and do something unique requires perseverance.
“We like to push boundaries for ourselves and try new things, but some people find comfort in things that they’ve seen before and in tried and tested ideas,” Ramirez says. “We’re trying to get clients to understand the beauty in what we’re trying to do. It’s a fight. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we always put in the effort.”
Most of the projects the firm takes on take between a year and a year and a half to complete. The work can become exhaustive and stressful. Changes – such as budget constraints and creative differences – are often out of a designer’s control.
“It is grueling work. It’s mentally and physically challenging work. It’s about endurance and steadfastness and holding on to your design, wanting and fighting for it,” Ramirez says. “It’s not easy, but you have to keep fighting until the end.”
But in the end, after all the long hours and scrapped drafts, stepping into a space that once only existed in her head and has now come to life makes it all worth it.
“It’s this sense of coming home,” Ramirez says. “Knowing at the end that what you put on paper and set out to achieve at the beginning is now a real thing is pretty incredible.”