Architectural designer and master builder Ferris Rafaui’s name resonates with the aura of high stakes glamour. Although Rafauli’s aesthetic is truly of the moment, he has been working with international high profile clientele for 20 years, starting at the young age of 18.
Like fashion icon, Tom Ford, Rafauli is attractive and impossibly elegant. As his social media feeds prove, a Rafauli interior with Rafauli himself posed within it will almost instantly go viral.
The designer is linked to several high profile clients including, Toronto native, Drake, for whom he has designed and built a 50,000-square-foot fantasy home from the bottom up in Toronto’s Bridle Path enclave. Rafauli told Architectural Digest that the connection with the young rapper began through a mutual love of “the finer things” after Drake had a chance to walk through past mansions that Rafauli designed and built. He also designed Drake’s private champagne suite, The Sher Club, located in the Scotiabank Arena where the NBA’s Toronto Raptor’s play.
With all his projects, the designer creates his designs and builds every aspect of his artistic ventures: all the architecture, interiors, furnishings and landscaping are all designed and built by Rafauli himself. From elevations and floor plans to the final walk through in which clients are wowed and wooed by his famed minute attention to detail, Rafauli builds a dream from the bottom up.
Inspired by designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, and the art deco era in art and architecture, Rafauli’s projects evoke timeless sophistication and the sensual comfort of precious natural materials: marble, stone, rare woods, with a touch of gold and other precious metals.
From starting design and building at the age of 18 to full-scale design icon, Ferris Rafauli’s presence in Canada’s design hierarchy is impossible to ignore.
Rafauli is self-taught and believes that design and creativity is a form of artistry that is innate: “The combination of creativity and the ethics of hard work leads to great designs – one cannot be achieved without the other. There are no short cuts. I have been blessed with experiences over the years have been my best teacher. I also never stop studying the past when creating for the present and future.”
Like the self-taught artists that inspire him (citing Frank Lloyd Wright, Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, and Gianni Versace amongst his favorites), Rafauli’s inspiration often comes not only from travel and his 20 plus years of design experience, but also from within the pages of great literature.
“I am always reading,” he says, adding: “One of my favorite spots in my home is the library. I collect vintage and some time out of print design and art books which inspire me.”
Other sources of inspiration for the designer are the timeless, geometric forms of art deco, from its early inception in France around 1910 to its final flowering in the 1930s. He explains that while deco was considered anti-traditional, it still had an elegance and sophistication about it that symbolized luxury, “I particularly enjoy deco design as the distinguishing features are simple, clean shapes and a streamlined look. The shapes of that era are geometric or stylized, varied in precious finishes such as silver, crystal, ivory, jade, and lacquer.”
Rafauli says he often takes inspiration from that era and adds his design to it when creating some of his interiors and designing unique custom pieces of furniture: “My interior spaces are layered and integrated with materials such as bronze, 24 karat gold, precious stones, and exotic fabrics and leathers. Whether it is the detailing on a one-of-a-kind coffee table or the detailing in the exterior stone tablature of one of the mansions I am designing, there are hints of deco inspiration in a lot of my work.”
While Rafauli’s work for clients like Drake and Wayne Gretzky is front page news, many of the designer’s blue-chip clientele are equally well-heeled but less public. Rafauli points out that these clients don’t flock to him through social circles, but from a constant stream of design devotees who’ve had a chance to “interact or see the environments,” he has created.
Rafauli’s core philosophy in creating dream homes for them is simple: “Make it timeless yet make it of our time.”
Rafauli goes on to explain: “My inspiration in designing, is to create something relevant today, for the next 100 years and that also could be something that may have existed 100 years ago.”
As the lucky few who have had the opportunity to experience Rafauli’s spaces firsthand can attest, his modern class architecture, elegant interiors, and custom-built furnishings and finishes make a visit to his mansion interiors like a trip into a fantasy space filled with precious jewels, metals, leathers, stones, marbles, and woods.
“The materials, layers, and textures that I create are not easily executed. They often involve the very complex integration of precious material such as bronze, 24-karat gold, exotic marbles, and fine fabrics to realize a wall detail, floor detail or even my designs of door hardware,” describes Rafauli.
The sources for these rare materials are global and sourced through strong relationships the designer has built with others throughout his travels around the world. A Rafauli home may have materials and artisans involved from Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden – all combined in a single dwelling.
Rafauli’s global inspirations come from his constant curiosity about the world around him. “I am always studying, reading and immersing myself into different cultures from around the world,” he says. But at heart and home, the designer says he is “proud to be a Canadian – Canadians have the talent to produce at a world-class level. Some of the world’s best talents come from Canada, and I am very proud of that. My hard work ethic is Canadian, but great design is a universal language.”
With an enviable portfolio of luxury domiciles behind him, as well as works in progress in Dubai, New York City, Los Angeles, Saudi Arabia, and other parts of the world, the designer says he is looking forward to lifestyle projects that will allow fans to access “a little bit of Rafauli” in their own homes without the price tag of a custom-built mansion or yacht.
Working with manufacturers and other high profile brands “from France and Sweden who have been operating for over 200 years,” Rafauli will shortly be unveiling products and projects that will allow everyone to purchase a small part of the master creator’s dream.
Whether creating richly imagined and expertly crafted homes or extending his imagination to more inclusive access of his opulent aesthetic, Rafauli says he is always learning, always striving and he is his own worst critic. Within all the impressive accomplishments and success, it is of utmost importance to this world-renowned designer that he is proud of every creation and collaboration.
Photo Credits: Cody Bokshowan
Architectural Interior Photographers: Brandon Barré and Gillian Jackson