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Miami design mecca Luminaire has new majority owners, but founding couple to remain

View of the corporate headquarters of furniture store Luminaire in Doral.
View of the corporate headquarters of furniture store Luminaire in Doral. pportal@miamiherald.com

The founders of Luminaire, the high-end modern-design furniture retailer with an international profile that's been a Miami institution since the 1970s, have sold a majority interest in the business to Haworth, the Michigan-based office-furniture giant.

In a letter to friends that’s been circulating in the tight-knit design industry, Nasir and Nargis Kassamali, the married couple who launched Luminaire in 1974, said they will remain in charge of the Doral-based retailer. Luminaire will continue to operate independently, they said.

Partnering with family-owned Haworth, a 70-year-old manufacturer that’s branching out into retail distribution of high-end “lifestyle” furnishings, will “preserve the legacy of Luminaire” and help the Kassamalis expand the business, the letter says.

“Our single mission, to propagate good design and enrich people(’s) lives, has been, and will continue to be, the founding principle for our company and us,” the letter says.

Luminaire’s Modernist flagship store occupies a prominent corner on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in downtown Coral Gables. The company also has a store in Miami’s Design District and a showroom in Chicago, as well as an online store. Its corporate headquarters and warehouse are in Doral.

Luminaire, which represents some of the world’s most important furniture design companies, introduced Miami and the rest of the country to prominent international designers like Giulio Cappellini and Piero Lissoni. The Kassamalis, a familiar presence in furniture shows around the world, have also mentored designers and showcased their work in lectures and displays in Miami and Chicago.

Nasir Kassamali, who is Luminaire’s CEO, did not respond to requests for an interview. A Haworth spokeswoman, Julie Smith, confirmed the company is “partnering” with Luminaire. Smith said she could not discuss details until after Haworth makes a formal announcement this weekend during a convention in Chicago.

News that the Kassamalis had sold a majority interest to Haworth spread quickly among attendees at the annual furniture fairs in New York City in May. Earlier this month, a Luminaire spokesman confirmed that the retailer would be “partnering” with Haworth, but added he had no information on the status of ownership.

The spokesman, Luminaire marketing manager Ghazar Kolian, said plans under the partnership are to open as many as 10 new Luminaire stores around the country.

Luminaire will also add to its roster two lines owned by Haworth, Cassina and Cappellini. Haworth, which is based in Holland, Michigan, began making office furniture in 1948. It has been purchasing prominent haute-design furniture companies, including Poltrona Frau, as it establishes a new “lifestyle designs” arm.

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