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The business of living

June 21 is an auspicious day for Paulo Bacchi. It was June 21, 2002 that he, his wife and five-year-old twin boys came to America from Brazil. Like so many immigrants before him, he arrived with no English, no friends and no lack of ambition. Back in Brazil, his family owned a chain of successful furniture stores called Artefacto. The business, started by his father, was small initially, with just four stores. Bacchi inherited it when Dad retired in the mid-1990s, and moved to grow it quickly; within five years, he’d opened 20 more stores in Brazil. But a new frontier had caught Bacchi’s eye: the United States. Specifically Miami. He dreamed of opening an American store.

Fast-forward a decade. It’s opening day for Bacchi’s new 42,000 square-foot luxury furnishings showroom on Biscayne Boulevard in Aventura, and his dream is on full, sparkling, glorious display. It is by no means his first store here—there’s an Artefacto in Coral Gables and this new showroom replaces another one that for years had been just a few blocks north—but this is certainly his most dazzling effort to date. Acrobats hanging from the ceiling pour Champagne into crystal flutes. A huge chandelier twinkles in the evening light. Miami’s stylish high-heeled set is present. The date? June 21, 2012. Auspicious indeed.

In just 10 years—and in the midst of the kind of economic turmoil that causes lesser entrepreneurs to pack up and run for the hills—Bacchi turned Artefacto into a South Florida luxury furnishings icon, an undisputed market leader. How? “I could tell you it was marketing. I could tell you it was our inventory. I could tell you it was our customer service,” he says. “And they’re all true. But by far the most important thing was this: In the first two years I took exactly two days off. Two Christmases. I opened the stores. I closed the stores. I wanted to be there, always, to make a good impression on our customers. Because you don’t have a second chance at making a good first impression.”

As serious as he is about his business, Bacchi, 46, is dedicated to nothing more than his family. With his wife of 16 years, Lais, and the now 15-year-old twin boys, Pietro and Bruno, he lives in a stunner of a 1960s home in the beautifully manicured, private Coral Gables community of Hammock Lakes. He invited INDULGE in to see his home and to show us how he goes about the business of living.

You have a home in Sao Paulo as well as Miami, right?

Yes, that’s where I was born. We still have a super cool penthouse there right in the fashion quarter of Sao Paulo on a street called Oscar Freire. It’s a great street, like a little Rodeo Drive. Very cosmopolitan and right in the action.

When you and your wife first moved here your twin boys were still pretty young.

They were just five years old. And we spoke no English. We didn’t have any friends here. And to make everything worse: our nanny was denied her visa. Can you imagine? A new country, no language, no friends, and no one to help us take care of two small boys.

Those first days were pretty tough?

I used to think: What am I doing here? I had thoughts of just going back to Brazil. But you know what? I would never give up. It’s not in my nature. My father taught me to face my problems, to find solutions. He always said, Paulo when there’s a thousand problems in your head at the same time, just go one at a time. I thought about him in those difficult moments.

There is a strong Italian influence in your home and in your furniture line as well. Why is that?

First, my family is actually Italian from Bologna. I am a fourth-generation Brazilian. Brazil is a lot like America: nobody is Brazilian and people come from everywhere else. My family is like that, too. We have this Italian thing in our blood about design, fashion and style. I think it’s something you’re born with. My father and my whole family, we are blessed with this. We may not be as bright as financiers, we’re not bankers or money managers. Our thing is selling style and building relationships.

At what point did design enter your life?

It was the first time I went to Europe that design really hit me. I was 14 and I was backpacking with some friends for two months. I remember that my vision of the cities was different from that of my friends. They were looking for bars and parties. I was looking for architecture.

Tell me about the first time you saw your Miami house.

It was six in the morning and I was biking through this neighborhood. I’d been looking for a home to buy for six months. And then I saw this one, the only contemporary looking one in the area. It was built in 1961. You could see through the front to the back, and could see that every room faced a beautiful lake and a huge ficus tree. That tree is about 150 years old! Then I saw a guy come out and put a “For Sale” sign in front. I thought: This is it.

What is your favorite spot in the house?

The master bedroom. It has an incredible view of the lake and that ficus tree. I like to sit right on the bed and look out. It’s just beautiful.

White seems to be the color that permeates through both your home and your store. Why does white speak to you?

I love white. White is peaceful. I think everybody has stress and problems. And their home has to be their escape from all the stress. It should be your cocoon of happiness and inspiration. There’s no better color for this than white. Most important, it matches with anything. It matches with the Florida sunshine. It matches with the blue Florida waters.

Tell me about the wall of art in your living room.

That wall is a collection of the most important classic Brazilian painters. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the original oils but I have a drawing collection from them. Imagine the most important American painters. I have the Brazilian version of them on my walls. It’s a collection that always reminds me of my roots in Brazil.

And yet, there is a very casual feel in the house. It feels real and lived-in. As a dad with a family, was that important for you?

Yes, this is a family house. Close to schools, on a lake. It’s the house where we bring friends. I would never bring my clients or business here. We made it so that it would be useful, family-oriented.

What is the one object in your home you will never get rid of, and why?

I have two pieces: an 18th century console made of driftwood. It’s Portuguese and it comes from a Brazilian farm, where we bought it from an art dealer. It has come with my wife and I to all the homes we’ve ever moved into, and it always will. I don’t know exactly why other than it’s unique and irreplaceable. The other is an art piece by Pedro Américo, one of Brazil’s most important painters. He’s the painter who created a masterpiece called “Independence or Death,” showing the moment Brazil was declared independent from Portugal, which is at the art museum of Sao Paulo today. It’s special not only because of this, but because it’s the only material gift my father ever gave me. He gave it to me as a wedding gift. It will always be with me.

You father’s figure looms largely in your life even today. What is the single most important lesson he taught you?

The importance of your word. He told me, Paulo, the only thing you have in your life is your word. Your word will make you successful or it will make you a failure. So make sure that when you say you are going to do do it. And that’s how I treat my life, my business, our customers— even if it costs me money. I’ve been known to put a couch on an overnight cargo plane at my own expense in order to make a delivery on time because I promised it—and it’s my word.