A huge bowl in the entrance hall of Italkraft’s Doral showroom resembles a sculpture in a modern-art museum. But when Alex Xakoustis, founder and owner of Italkraft, presses a button, the “sculpture” is transformed. The bowl’s upper half rises to the ceiling, revealing a lava-stone hotplate, a refrigerator and a hood for the entire kitchen. Xakoustis says the “bowl” is made of carbon fiber, the same material that is used for Formula One cars.
“Very few people have it. This is a kitchen for people that definitely have too much money,” Xakoustis says jokingly as he describes his target group of affluent customers: The kitchen costs $125,000.
Alex Xakoustis, born and raised in Greece, says he wants to bring well-designed, high-end kitchens to the United States. “Europeans don’t care about their kitchens, and Americans love kitchens,” Xakoustis comments as he walks through the showroom.
“Americans pay so much attention to the kitchen because it is part of the home,” he says. “It is part of the way they entertain. In Europe, the kitchen is more of a service area. It is enclosed away from the other parts of the home.”
Xakoustis came to the U.S. in 1989 to study business at Boston University. Afterward, he went to work in the Boston office of his family’s stone company; members of his family had worked in the industry in Athens since the 19th century. The company was sold in 1997, and after doing “market research,” he said, he decided to enter the high-end kitchen business.
“I saw an opportunity, a sector with promise, and decided to explore it,” Xakoustis says.
Next, he also settled upon Miami after looking for a growing city where he could start his new business: He loves the weather and the people here. The cosmopolitan city offers a good cultural mix. And Miami is fast-growing, he adds.
When Xakoustis eventually started his business 10 years ago, he had four employees. He spent a lot of time meeting people and introducing his design concepts, particularly to condo developers. “I knew our time would come,” he says. Now, 170 people are working for him, including installers, supervisors, designers, salespersons and office supporters.
Italkraft has a wholeservice division, which makes kitchens for developer’s luxury condo projects, and a retail division, that works for single-family homeowners. It usually sells complete custom kitchens, not individual pieces, although it also does custom cabinetry work.
Xakoustis says the average kitchen designed by the company costs between $35,000 and $50,000, including installation. “That’s about 90 percent of our business,” he said. For ultra-wealthy clients and the highest-end condos, the company designs much more complex kitchens that reach the $400,000-to-$700,000 range.
“They are top-tier in the market in terms of quality, design and execution, and we can always be sure that the final product will look and function flawlessly,” said Carlos Rosso, president of condominium development at the Related Group. “There are a lot of factors to consider when designing for luxury residential high-rises, and they are definitely experts when it comes to combining design and functionality.”
Italkraft has designed kitchens for seven Related condo towers in South Florida.
Overall, the company sells about 9,000 kitchens per year. Since 2011, the revenue rose from $2 million up to $30 million in 2014, thanks to the relationships he forged with the developers, who liked his design ideas. As a result, his company revenues have skyrocketed, rising $28 million in two years.
These numbers reflect the rise of luxury construction in Miami-Dade. Peter Zalewski, principal of South Florida real-estate consultancy Condo Vultures, has analyzed the sales of properties priced at a minimum of $3 million between January and August of each respective year. Since 2013, the sales of condos and single-family houses have increased 23 percent. In 2014, there was an increase of 39 percent, although so far, in 2015, there has been a decrease of 12 percent as the surge of foreign buyers slow.
“As competition for buyers of luxury residential resale properties in Miami-Dade intensifies, sellers increasingly are being forced to offer more value, state-of-the-art amenities and the latest bells and whistles in order to unload their condos and single-family houses in a market where available supply is mushrooming,” Zalewski told the Miami Herald.
This is the market that is propelling Italkraft’s growth. The company has showrooms in Doral, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale. Its kitchens, bathrooms and closets are featured in some of the most luxurious developments in Miami, including Brickell City Centre, Glass Miami Beach, Regalia, One Thousand Museum and Park Grove. He works together with developers such as Hines, Codina, PMG, Related, Swire and Terra. The company has also begun to enter other markets in other cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Houston.
Among Xakoustis’ clients are celebrities like the Colombian musician Juanes, Tico Torres (drummer of Bon Jovi), and baseball player Alex Rodriguez.
Customers begin the design process after they visit one of the company’s three showrooms. Clients explain what style they have chosen for their home and what they would like to achieve. A design is worked up, the material and finishes chosen. And then the specs are sent to one of the seven Italkraft production facilities in Pescara, about 125 miles east of Rome: Each of the company’s kitchens is made in Italy and then shipped to Miami.
“In Italy, we found superior design and quality,” Xakoustis says.
Customers typically receive their new kitchen about 90 days after an order is placed.
On his tour through the Doral showroom, Xakoustis stops by another kitchen that looks as if it is entirely made of steel. And, indeed, the pantry is made of stainless steel, he says, but the rest isn’t. “Look at this,” he says and opens the kitchen cabinet. The silver doors are lacquered, covered with a film of glass. “It gives it a unique finish, very high-end,” he says.
In another section of his showroom, he points at a designed door that’s made of African wood. Under the glossy finish, the door is covered with crocodile leather that has been embossed with a silver print design. “Natural and imitation leather coverings for closet and home doors are a big trend,” Xakoustis says.
The most expensive kitchen he has ever made cost $900,000, a custom design for a private residence in Indian Creek. The 1,500-square-foot kitchen was made out of black granite, as were the 15-by-6-foot sliding doors that reached the room’s ceilings.
He built it before starting Italkraft. Now, he said, his most expensive kitchens run to about $700,000. “That was a special project,” he said. “Very, very complex engineering.”
“I’ve known Alex [Xakoustis] and Italkraft for a long time,” Ryan Shear, a principal at PMG who oversees its Florida projects. Italkraft has made up to 450 kitchens for PMG: Italkraft kitchens are in luxury condos and apartments in projects like Echo Brickell in Miami, Echo Aventura and Sage Beach in Hollywood. “They have never missed a deadline, and the quality of work is excellent,” Shear said.
Xakoustis is satisfied with his company’s progress, and he feels at home in Miami: “My employees are my family.” Even so, he follows the news about his crisis-shaken homeland, which often makes him angry: “Corruption is well accepted. It destroyed a beautiful country.” But when he talks about the lovely islands of Greece, one can’t help asking: Would he like to return there for good one day?
Not now, Xakoustis says. He still has many plans with Italkraft in the USA. “But never say never,” he adds.
Miami Herald staff writer Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report.
Business: Italkraft is a Doral-based, full-service Italian kitchen, bathroom, and closet design and installation company. Clients are developers such as Hines, Codina, PMG, Related, Swire and Terra Group and private house and condo owners. The high-end kitchens are featured in some of the most luxurious developments in Miami, including Brickell City Center, Glass Miami Beach, Regalia and Park Grove. The company designed about 9,000 kitchens last year.
Founder and principal: Alex Xakoustis.
Number of employees: 170
Address: 2900 NW 77th Ave Ct., Doral. 305-406-1301.
Showrooms are in: Doral, 18837-A Biscayne Blvd, Aventura and 4220 N Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.
Revenue: Since 2011, the revenue rose from $2 million up to about $30 million in 2014.