VoyageMIA: Meet Karin Dax of Aire + Partners

Karin was recently interviewed for VoyageMIA magazine, and we’re thrilled to share the article with you here! Read below or visit VoyageMIA to see the original article…

Photo by Javier Ospina

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karin Dax.

Hi Karin, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I got my passport and went on my first overseas trip when I graduated from college. It was during this experience that I absolutely fell in love with the inspiration and sense of freedom travel can give you. I spent five weeks backpacking around Europe with a friend of mine, and one of the cities we visited was Barcelona. I knew someday I would go back there to live.

Several years later, after working in publishing and feeling very unfulfilled, I decided it was time to dust off my suitcase and hit the road again, but this time for almost three years. I started in Mexico, working as an apprentice to a mural artist in Cuautla. While there I met an architect who was pivotal to the career path on which I would eventually embark as an interior designer. From Mexico, I continued on my adventure to art school for a semester in New Zealand, and later to the cities, beaches, and ruins of Thailand and Cambodia, making my way around the world to land back in my favorite place, Barcelona. I spent six months living in this beautiful city with the buildings and parks of Gaudi and architects like Jean Nouvel, Mies van der Rohe, Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, and Santiago Calatrava. Every street, every little nook and cranny of the city was full of inspiration for me, and eventually, after another detour to Mexico, I moved back to the United States to pursue my Master of Interior Design degree at the Boston Architectural College.

After spending several years working for a couple of different architecture firms in Boston, I moved to Miami, where I met my husband, Agustin Salas, an architectural designer who would later also become my business partner. Together we have traveled to South America and Europe (back to Barcelona, of course!), multiple islands in the Caribbean, and all over the United States (including two cross-country trips between Miami and San Francisco!).

I worked at an international design firm in Miami for another few years, learning the ins and outs of the business and getting an amazing amount of experience working on all types of projects, from workplace (office spaces) to multifamily high-rise towers, to boutique hospitality spaces. I led project teams, learned how to staff projects and prepare proposals for prospective projects and clients, and collaborated on multiple interior design projects with various offices throughout the company, but in the back of my mind, I always wanted to start my own design firm. In mid to late 2018, we finally took the leap and started Aire + Partners, Inc.

The first year, we concentrated on our branding, getting the company well-placed and established online and in the world of social media. Initially, we intended to focus primarily on workplace design and multifamily, but then along came the pandemic and upended our plans. All corporate work halted completely, and we found ourselves receiving more and more referrals for private residences. So, we pivoted to meet the demands of the market and keep the office moving forward.

Since then, I’ve done projects in downtown Miami at Zaha Hadid’s iconic One Thousand Museum, an office suite in Brickell, a waterfront unit on Allison Island in Miami Beach, and a project at the Four Seasons Residences in Boston’s Back Bay, among others. Now, as the market is rebounding, we’re finding our way back to the multifamily market and planning to work on affordable housing projects as well, as it’s incredibly important to us to give back to the community that has enabled us to thrive, even during a pandemic. We also have a strong focus on sustainability and regenerative design, in an effort to minimize the impact on the environment of the buildings we work in. We believe that architecture and interior design can inspire and ultimately improve our experience – be it at home, work, or play – while also being sustainable. And we also believe the travel is an eye-opening way to be inspired to find creative new ways to approach each project.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Starting your own business is definitely not easy! In Miami, the competition is fierce… There are so many amazing design firms, so it’s hard to get your foot through the door. It takes a lot of persistence and determination. And of course, when the pandemic hit, that was a major setback in terms of our goals to pursue workplace design projects and multifamily. Everything just stopped. But we were lucky when we started to get referrals for private residences, and that really kept us going throughout the pandemic.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Everything for us starts with our passion for design and the innovative use of space. Creativity is at the heart of what we do. We care about the emotional experience inside a space and out. We believe that design matters and passion and innovation will lead us to the solution for each design challenge.

We are a small firm, so we’re particular about the projects we take on. It’s important to us to be able to devote our full attention, energy, creativity, and passion to each project. Our relationship with the client is paramount… It’s important to us to create a level of trust so that they know we’ll create and implement the best design for their project. We also believe in the importance of our relationship with our contractors, consultants, and vendors in order to deliver the best possible outcome for each project, big or small. We know how important it is to be flexible, and we also know that no matter what the type of project, we’re capable of creating a beautiful space, which is incredibly important in this rapidly changing environment.

For us, no project is too big or too small. It’s about the connection with the client and finding the right design solution for each space, no matter the size. Our primary markets are residential projects, multifamily (from the lobby design to the amenities to the units), hospitality (from hotels to restaurants), and workplace (from a single office suite to multiple levels within a building).

Everything we do, we do knowing how lucky we are to have clients that trust in our vision and our ability to make that vision a reality. Having clients that keep coming back to do additional projects is humbling and inspiring. It makes it clear to us that we’re on the right path.

Our services, to name a few, include architecture, interior design, furniture and lighting design, and sustainable design.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out.
Don’t give up! It takes time to get a company up and running and profitable, but it’s worth the effort, energy, and stress. Stay focused, have a clear plan of action and goals you are looking to achieve. The architecture and interior design industry is very dependent on the state of the economy. There are always highs and lows – times when you are so busy you feel like you don’t have time to breathe, and other moments that are so slow! It’s hard to strike the right balance, and that’s true for large and small firms. For a team like ours, it’s important, since we are small, to take on only what we can and know we’ll find a way to power through the quieter moments. But it’s a learning curve!

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Image Credits: Karin Dax, Agustin Salas, Robert Packar