Ruben Gutierrez of Errez Design was just 5 or 6 when he started wandering into model homes.
He grew up in Kendall, surrounded by new developments sprouting up as if they bloomed off cul-de-sacs. Gutierrez would ask the understandably surprised model home employees for copies of floorplans and neighborhood layouts. Then he would completely make them over.
He’d bring them home to his Fisher Price table set and pore over the plans, moving bathrooms and bedrooms, reimagining the homes as more creative or livable or simply more interesting inventions of a child.
“Everybody else was playing video games, and there I was designing houses,” Gutierrez remembered.
He toiled alone in his hobby until college, when he saw a fellow architecture student struggling to draw dotted lines. Katie Galea was a third-generation Miamian, and Ruben showed her that it was better to draw a solid line first, then erase bits of it after. Katie was smitten. “I was like, ‘OK, who is this guy?’”
Miami homes with personality
They both got master’s degrees in architecture — her from University of Florida, him from Florida International University — and then got married. All along, they kept building and collaborating on one thought: What makes a perfect house, a home that’s thoroughly inviting and wholly livable?
They just recently came to the answer. Now, as owners of Errez Design, specializing in residential interior makeovers, they don’t start with some perfect house they fashioned as students. Instead, they try to create a home that’s scooped right out of the personality of their clients.
“The best compliment we get is when a client says their friends come over and tells them, ‘This house is so you,’” said Katie Gutierrez. “We want it to look like they designed it, like they bought everything themselves.”
The duo does that by spending a ton of time with their clients. After many hours and over the course of months, an idea forms. Often they’ve spent so much time with their clients that they are close friends by the end. For instance, they’re now godparents to one former client’s child, and they helped another client couple find inspiration for their daughter’s name (Havana).
The final design they produce is going to look different from anything else Errez Design has done, but all their work shares a common thread. “We say our style is fresh and at the same time nostalgic,” she said. “Like you’ve lived there for a hundred years.”
Tackling new design challenges
It’s a style that has caught on, and clients include names you might know, like World Series-winning outfielder Orlando Palmeiro and Orangetheory Fitness CEO Dave Long.
Errez Design has begun to spread out to new challenges. They are selling their own brand of tiles, created with a century-old method imported from Cuba that does not require a kiln. The design is meant to evoke a flooring or wall that has been in the home for centuries.
The couple also runs the online Errez Design Shop. They sell things they have collected over the years, especially from the brands they frequent. In their homes, you’ll often find tile from Ann Sacks in the Miami Design District and wallpaper from Cole & Sons, a London firm founded in 1875. They source furniture from Mecox Gardens in Palm Beach and the mini South Florida designer chain Arteriors. You’ll also find the couple regularly at 86th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, roaming through the aisles of local vintage stores.
To show what they can do, they took a guest to Miami Beach one Friday afternoon for a tour of one of their creations: a Sunset Island waterfront mansion with dramatic flowing curtains that frame a Georgian-style front fascia.
“People say, ‘Oh, that’s the house with the black and white striped curtains,’” Katie Gutierrez said.
Designing with drama
“The drama starts before the gate even opens,” added her husband. “You look at the front of the house, and there’s immediately something drawing you in.”
That drama continues just here and there throughout. Ruben Gutierrez explained that the couple designed this home to be a vacation rental, so they employed mostly muted colors — khaki and black and gray — nearly all against a white background. But then scattered about is something surprising, like the faux zebra skin rug below a coffee table or the dead-grass cloth wallpaper livening up the sitting room. Head up the spiral staircase, and there’s an alcove with wallpaper of black and white saw palmetto leaves in front of a display table with a pair of gleaming silver lamps.
“Here it is,” Gutierrez said with his arms outstretched to the alcove. “Here is the moment.”
The moment? His wife stepped in to put things in layman’s terms.
“It means we want you to come through this house and have little moments of drama here and there,” she said.
Little moments of drama. Like that one time the kid who loved to redesign model homes just happened to give advice to the girl in his drawing class.
Examples of Errez Design’s work in South Florida
Victoria Park Bedroom: Silk covers everything, including the rug, curtains and settee. There also are layers of color, mostly blue and muted but with a pop of pink. Throughout, all the lines point inward, toward the bed, a reminder of the room’s purpose.
Victoria Park Foyer: Zig-zag wallpaper, in gold and turquoise, might sound busy, but instead it gives the walls a depth of texture. Wallpaper is a key component of Errez Design’s aesthetic.
Victoria Park Kitchen: Errez Design combined a contemporary white slab-marble backsplash and gray cabinets with a throwback-looking stove and an antique pot rack under a barnlike vaulted ceiling.
Coral Gables Kitchen: In an otherwise mostly bright and white room, the breakfast nook gives a shock of color from embroidered pillows and patchwork tiles, inviting guests to cozy up.
Sunset Harbour Living Room: The owners of this Miami Beach condo previously had an oceanfront view, so they wanted a room that still felt like it looked out on the water, with a deep-blue wall matching the inset of the tray ceiling.
Hoffman’s Chocolates: Errez Design decided to make the chocolate shop look like a place that was always in party mode. The boutique table and matching striped wallpaper give it a specialty-store feel, and the subway tiles and wood-and-glass cabinet tie in the idea that the shop doubles as a chocolate kitchen.
PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICK GARCIA / PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANCE BY RICARDO MESTRE AND ANGELA BONILLA / HAIR AND MAKEUP BY VICKY MEJIA / CLOTHING COURTESY NEIMAN MARCUS AT MERRICK PARK / WARDROBE STYLING BY CLAUDIA MIYAR / CREATIVE DIRECTION BY J.M. COTO