Michael Buono, CEO of New York developer and contractor Mulberry talks to BHN about attention to detail and evoking emotion in a buildng’s end user.
• Can you give us some background on yourself and your business partner Robert Lavecchia, and tell us when you teamed up to form Mulberry?
“I began my career as an analyst within the international finance sector, and was introduced to both real estate and Robert just over 10 years ago while working at the Sydell Group on the transformation of Manhattan’s ACE Hotel. I was immediately impressed with Robert’s attention to even the smallest detail and commitment to quality – a skill set that he honed first building custom homes in New Jersey and through his later work on luxury residential, hospitality and retail projects across New York City. “
• What was the thought process behind forming the company and what did you decide to do differently from other companies in your space?
“Our skill sets, though very different, are incredibly complementary and cover every aspect of a project from concept, development and budgeting; to project monitoring, completion and close-out. That unique balance allows us to provide our clients with comprehensive service and unparalleled results.”
“Another proud point of differentiation is the artisans that we employ – by having this skilled team in-house, we are able to control the process and create efficiencies throughout a project without ever compromising on quality.”
• Which of the projects you have worked on to date have you been most proud of and why?
“The Ace Hotel is near and dear to my heart as it was the first property that I worked on and it provided me with the opportunity for involvement throughout the entire process of development and construction. The project touched on every aspect from historical preservation of the façade and grand interior spaces; to restoration of the turn of the century elements like the lobby floor and intricate ceilings. The Ace was the first true lifestyle hotel in Manhattan and it was incredible being a part of the team that bridged the past with the future.”
• You are working on the Smyth property for AKA – what are the challenges of introducing an extended stay element to the property and what can we expect to see when it opens?
“Whether intended for extended stay or leisure travel, guests want to be comfortable and enjoy high touch elements that are reminiscent of home. Through the introduction of high quality materials and finishes that have the required durability to meet the needs of the environment, we are able to create a memorable experience that will repeatedly welcome guests back.”
• What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
“We are working on a wide range of projects including residential, retail and hospitality. Most immediately on the horizon is the second phase of the Sound View, where we will be converting one of the freestanding buildings on the iconic North Fork property to luxury waterfront condominiums.”
• Have you learned anything from developing retail projects that you have translated to hospitality projects and vice versa?
“Regardless of scale or size, it is the littlest detail that make the biggest difference. Success in both retail and hospitality stands on the creation and execution of the ultimate curated experience. Scent diffusers that evoke emotion, high-end lighting systems that adjust throughout the day and season, and introduction of rich finishes with symmetrical stitches and touchable textures are just a few of the elements that we share across sectors. “
• With numerous completed projects under your belt, what do wish you knew when you started the company that you know now?
“I began in the industry armed with excel spreadsheets, financial models and fine-tuned formulas. While I still rely on those as my primary tools, I have learned to really appreciate the construction process and embrace the inherent creativity. It is so rewarding walking into a finished lobby or lounge to see the project’s centerpiece being enjoyed by the guests and knowing that I was a part of the process that brought it from paper to reality.”
• If you could work with any hotelier or hotel brand, past or present, who would it be and why?
“We’ve been so fortunate to work with industry leaders and innovators and look forward to continuing to be able to do so. During a trip to Italy, I stayed at Masseria Popenti, a stunning property built in the 14th century. I was struck by the elegant simplicity and seamless infusion of the farm’s lavender, olive and fig trees, and picturesque details. I so appreciated the quality craftsmanship and intricate carvings and find myself continuously inspired by that immersive experience.”