45 years after its inception, Luminaire’s existence continues to evolve, while always maintaining a leadership role in bringing the best designs from around the world to the American public and making good design part of many lives.
The core philosophies of Luminaire – the necessity of design education, the desire for limitless inspiration and the requirement of impeccably detailed execution – inhabit the company’s roots and extend far beneath the current landscape. “From the age of 16, I dreamt of having something like a church, where people would come to experience good design,” says Nasir Kassamali, who with his wife Nargis, envisioned and created the company. From Kenya and of Indian ancestry, the Kassamalis emigrated to the United States in 1973. Presciently enamored by the work of visionaries such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, their keen foresight stemmed from an intense appreciation for design and grew into a powerful desire to share this knowledge with the public, while making the highest level of contemporary, international products directly accessible to the consumer.
At the time of the their arrival in the United States, the landscape of superior home furnishings was restricted to interior designers who provided consumers with the only means of access to design showrooms open solely to the trade. Propelled by the motivation to remove barriers and democratize design, the Kassamalis distilled their long-standing dream into a singular concept: Luminaire. The company’s first showroom, specializing in European lighting, opened as a 500-square-foot kiosk in North Miami Beach in 1974, boldly blazing the path that would eventually make the finest offerings in international design directly available to the U.S. consumer.
Since its inception, Luminaire has continued to both expand and respond to the needs of an increasingly receptive audience. Within two years, its original store grew to 4,500 square feet as a wider range of products including furniture and accessories was added, many of them available for the first time in North America. In 1984, an award-winning flagship store designed by Mateu Architects, was built in Coral Gables and five years later, a Chicago location debuted. With the turn of the millennium in January 2000, a 35,000-square-foot state-of-the-art corporate headquarters and distribution center designed by Mateu Carreno Rizo Partners was completed near the Miami Airport, garnering numerous design awards, while in April of the following year, the Chicago showroom expanded to occupy three floors of an old timber building in the heart of the River North area. October 2002 saw the opening of Luminaire Contract in the Miami Design District, and in 2003, Luminaire opened the Boffi Kitchen and Bath showroom in Coral Gables, a space dedicated to promoting the concept of “essential living.” The opening of Luminaire Lab in January of 2007 marked a new approach. A deviation from the traditional showroom, the 7,500-square-foot store specializes in showcasing new and exclusive pieces from top manufacturers. With a constantly changing environment, it is an investigative playground that encourages visitors to think outside the box.
Recent concepts include Luminaire’s newest showroom, Outdoor Therapy, which focuses on external environments, and LuminaireX, temporary “pop-up” spaces that feature design objects, fashion, coffee, flowers, music and a gallery with film screenings, discussion groups and book signings. More than anything else, this progressive expansion demonstrates Luminaire’s continual evolution and ability to re-define itself while adhering to the Kassamalis’ original intention. Nearly four decades after its inception, with five locations in Miami and Chicago, and boasting a stable of the best contemporary design in indoor and outdoor furnishings, lighting, kitchen, bath and accessories, Luminaire continues to set the standard as a full-service design resource.
In the realm of design education, the company has annually sponsored and produced spectacular curated exhibitions and an exceptional series of lectures since 1979. Featured speakers have included design luminaries such as Marcel Wanders, Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni, Philippe Starck, Richard Sapper, Ron Arad, Amanda Levete, the Bouroullec brothers, Ingo Maurer, Konstantin Grcic, Massimo and Lela Vignelli and Naoto Fukasawa, among others. Additionally, Luminaire has been involved in the “Design Report Awards,” an annual competition that takes place at SaloneSatellite in Milan. This platform serves as a stepping-stone for upcoming designers and each year only 140 out of thousands of applicants are chosen to exhibit their work during the Salone del Mobile Internazionale. As the only U.S. sponsor of this important program, Luminaire was one of the first companies to support young designers in this way.
Starting in 2004, Luminaire has hosted themed exhibitions in December in the Miami Design District coinciding with Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach. In 2006, the Kassamalis initiated the first of what has become the innovative, philanthropic “Love” series with PuppyLove, in which 36 world-renowned designers adorned Eero Aarnio’s three-dimensional white plastic puppies for auction. In 2008, Luminaire continued its outreach mission by hosting PaperLove, calling upon designers, architects and artists to employ paper as their medium of expression. In 2011 Luminaire conducted DesignLove, an exuberant exhibition and benefit auction evolving from the Kassamalis close friendship with Intramuros magazine. The international design publication donated over 90 original works in DuPont™ Corian® created by a roster of the most influential contemporary designers. In 2016 Luminaire presented the 4th edition of its “Love” series with Glaslove featuring over 30 unique glass pieces by celebrated designers. Altogether, the philanthropic “Love” series has raised over 1 million dollars which is directly distributed to support cancer research.
Today, Luminaire continues to exemplify the Kassamalis’ original ideals, captivating visitors with expertly curated environments and an exceptional event program, while setting the standard for service with an established in-house team that guides clients at every project stage, from conception to the last detail. Prescribing a philosophy of objects and encompassing a way of living and understanding the world, Nasir maintains that “Good design, like good architecture, must communicate silently and stand the test of time.” 45 years after its inception, Luminaire’s existence continues to evolve, while always maintaining a leadership role in bringing the best designs from around the world to the American public and making good design part of many lives.