Rafael de Cárdenas wins Maison & Objet Americas’ Designer of the Year title

the restaurant Asia de Cuba
The New York designer Rafael de Cárdenas has been awarded Maison & Objet America's Designer of the Year title for 2016. Pictured: the restaurant Asia de Cuba in New York. Photography: Floto + Warner
(Image credit: Floto + Warner)

Maison & Objet might be first known as a French fair, but its Miami-based American edition, which is next scheduled for 10-13 May 2016, is steadily gaining a traction of its own.

This week, the fair announced the winner of its Designer of the Year accolade: Rafael de Cárdenas. Founder of the New York City design practice Architecture at Large, de Cárdenas is the creative force behind such sumptuous projects as Nike’s private women-only gym 45 Grand (opens in new tab), the reinvention of the Noughties’ Manhattan mainstay Asia de Cuba (opens in new tab), the seductive London boutique of jeweler Delfina Delattrez (opens in new tab) and more. His client list reads like a glossary of mega brands, such as Barneys New York, Baccarat and Cartier, while the work ranges from retail and restaurants to residences and installations.

Prior to setting up his design firm in 2006, de Cárdenas cut his teeth as a menswear designer for Calvin Klein and then as a creative director for the special effects production house Imaginary Forces. His graphic yet glamourous aesthetic is bold and refined, demonstrating a deft understanding of materials and a creative use of colour. The results are always polished, but never precious, and beautiful but still possessing depth – a formula that de Cárdenas has no doubt been honing over the last decade or so.

It’s precisely this imaginative use of colour and pattern, coupled with an ability to create environments that provoke emotions that captivated Maison & Objet Americas’ selection committee. An awards ceremony honouring de Cárdenas will be held on 11 May. He joins the Brazilian furniture designer, Zanini de Zanine, who won the fair’s inaugural award in 2015.

Delfina Delattrez's London boutique

Founder of the New York City design practice Architecture at Large, de Cárdenas is the creative force behind such sumptuous projects as the jeweller Delfina Delattrez's London boutique (pictured). Photography: Mark Cocksedge

(Image credit: Mark Cocksedge)

installation for Architectural Digest France's Artcurial

De Cárdenas' client list reads like a glossary of mega brands, while the work ranges from retail and restaurants to residences and installations. Pictured: installation for Architectural Digest France's Artcurial. Photography: Mai-Linh

(Image credit: Mai-Linh)

Horatio Street residence, New York

His residential projects are just as impressive with interiors that are always polished, but never precious, and beautiful but still possessing depth. Pictured: Horatio Street residence, New York. Photography: Floto + Warner

(Image credit: Floto + Warner)

Nike women's studio space

De Cárdenas' imaginative use of colour and pattern, coupled with an ability to create environments that provoke emotions came together seamlessly for 45 Grand, Nike women's studio space (pictured), that opened earlier this year. Photography: David Allee

(Image credit: David Allee)

Printing House

His graphic yet glamourous aesthetic is bold and refined and demonstrates a deft understanding of materials, colour and pattern. Pictured: Printing House. Photography: Floto + Warner

(Image credit: Floto + Warner)

Ubiq boutique

Ubiq boutique in Philadelphia. Photography: Floto + Warner

(Image credit: Floto + Warner)

designer Rafael de Cardenas

The man of the hour, designer Rafael de Cardenas. Photography: Tim Barber

(Image credit: Tim Barber)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.