May 31, 2023


Creative living

Financing, supply chain uncertainty present design-planning hurdles

5 min read

Measures to contain the spread of coronavirus are still shifting by the day — and so are responses by investors, developers, builders, banks and buyers. To track the impact in real-time, RE|source Miami is asking area real estate professionals in various sectors for on-the-ground reports.

Today we hear from Rita Chraibi, founder of International Designers, with offices in Miami and Casablanca, Morocco. The firm designs luxury residential and hospitality projects around much of the globe.

Q: Design is an integral part of the real estate industry. How are you and other designers being impacted at this point?

Many economists think the stock market crash could push future investors to invest in real estate, once the current situation stabilizes because it is a safer and less sensitive value than the stock market. The indices of the New York stock market have plummeted while the world of the real estate industry has just slowed down, and projects may be temporarily stalled due to health and safety reasons. Still, I believe that real estate will be one of the first economic sectors to quickly pick back up once the world economy begins to stabilize.

Due to the changing activity that the real estate industry is experiencing, the designers will see their activities slow down. However, we remain committed to our current ongoing projects despite all the challenges we face. We are grateful to live in a time when technology is available to keep us connected to our clients and each other as a design team. I believe the utilization of technology will be vital in overcoming our current and future obstacles.

While all of this is new, and the situation is evolving daily, we as designers may also anticipate a change or shift in design trends and styles. For example, it’s difficult to escape the stress anxiety the current situation is causing, and people are now confined to their homes. As designers, we are aware of the effects a well-designed space can have on aesthetics, but also on the ability to evoke specific feelings. Clients may become more mindful of the importance of the latter aspect of interior design. Art is often a reflection of life, and these are times when we may see the design world addressing the stresses caused by this pandemic to provide people with feelings of safety and security within their space.

Q: Are you able to continue working on jobs, or does social distancing make that impossible?

We have two types of phases in our business: The conceptual phase and the site monitoring phase. The conceptual phase is when we create and design the interior of a project. At this level, social distancing does not affect our business since everything is generally done internally (e.g., through our interior architecture software, the design phases, drawing and rendering, etc.). Because we can stay connected through technology, social distancing won’t hinder any projects that are in the design phase.

On the other hand, the site monitoring phase will be interrupted as we practice safety measures put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and The World Health Organization and maintain social distancing. The safety and well-being of my designers and clients is my priority. Because we have projects all over the world, I have given the directives to my offices in Casablanca and Miami to close for the time being. Employees will work from home to execute the conceptual phase of our projects. We are continuing to make decisions on how to manage this evolving crisis based on recommendations from public officials and the Centers for Disease Control.

Q: Are you seeing disruptions to the supply chain for materials?

Yes, we are an international architectural firm, and our strength is to offer materials and creations in a variety of sectors and imports from different countries (carpentry, leatherwork, decorative panels, accessories, etc.). We import either by plane or boat. Unfortunately, today imports via plane are impossible, and imports by boat are in slow motion.

Concerning the materials for which we supply locally, most of the establishments and companies involved on the other end are closed. For example, the materials to be delivered for apartment showcases or our private clients have been interrupted. However, we are hopeful that deliveries will efficiently resume course in the near future.

Q: Do you have any clients actually talking about starting future projects, or are those pretty much on hold for now?

Many banks have currently stopped or suspended financing for future projects. It is challenging to plan during this time of uncertainty and to make any projections into the future from the point we are at today. We must remember that this is not an economic crisis or a financial crash where people are looking to take advantage of the economy in an effort to invest and make a profit. We are experiencing a pandemic where friends, acquaintances, and, unfortunately, sometimes even loved ones die. It is, therefore, human lives in question. So, it is difficult to plan, invest, and see in the long term when you fear for your life and the lives of those around you. We are living in a moment where the only thing we can maintain control over is to keep hope and manage our stress as best as we can.

Q: What opportunities do you hope/expect to see in the months to come, and when do you think that might be?

There is an expression in French which says: “Hope gives life!” I have hope in this new treatment from Professor Raoult, who is one of the greatest infectious disease specialists in the world. I think his research, and the research of countless others, for a cure may help to resolve the issues surrounding this pandemic. It may aid in restarting the world economically as quickly as possible without letting the global economic rout and recessions settle. I understand that there’s not currently a vaccine available, but I think opportunities will increase, and we will be able to get back to normalcy once people feel like the shadow of fear and loss has lifted. I am optimistic and remain convinced that we will be able to manage this virus, treat the sick, and go back to life as we once knew it.