A Miami-Based Designer Draws From Tropical Landscapes For His First Rug Collection

Posted by Jamie Stern on 10/11/23 3:39 PM

1-Jamie Stern Design, Lisa Russman Photography, Zehaus Collection

Kenzie Leon Perry is the founder and Creative Director of the Miami-based Ze Haus Design Studio. A native of The Magic City, Perry seeks to create art and designs inspired by its black and Afro-Caribbean culture and historic neighborhoods like Coconut Grove. A lifelong love of nature also informs his work with coconut trees, palms and flowering tropical plants serving as frequent motifs.

Paradiso represents Perry’s first foray into designing a collection of area rugs. While each of the three designs - Mira, Palmetto and Laurel - is bold and distinctive, an emphasis on handmade production techniques, all-natural fibers and an undeniable sense of Miami flair seamlessly ties this singular collection together.

Read our interview with Kenzie Leon Perry below to learn more about his inspirations, creative process and the designer himself!


Could you describe your inspirations behind the Paradiso Collection? 

Being a Miami native, I’ve always been curious about my ancestry and its connectivity to its historical precedence and the black and Afro-Caribbean diaspora that laid the foundation here. Most of the time, its true core and relevancy are overshadowed and not experienced by the abundant visitors traveling to the city. Since launching Ze Haus, I’ve been on a journey to research, create art and designs inspired by predominantly black and Afro-Caribbean cities in South Florida.

This inspiration derives from the oldest permanent settlement in Miami, the historic Coconut Grove, home to the earliest Bahamian settlers. In addition to my love of nature, which grounds me, inspiration is captured through Coconut Grove’s abundant coconut trees, palms, and flowering tropical plants.


Where does your process begin when designing a rug? 

When designing a rug, I like to take numerous photos of relevant content to create a mood board. This is most successful when I can visit the location and see the content that inspires me. I also read and research so I'm informed and avoid echoing existing designs already on the market.

Although I'm an artist at heart and enjoy working with paint and different mediums, the majority of the designs for this collection were created digitally. Using my photography, I start tracing dominant shapes and lines to create a base. Afterward, I duplicate the forms then mirror and layer them to create movement and rhythm. Getting the right composition takes a lot of trials. However, this technique produces dynamic designs, perfect for bridging all the interior elements in a space together. Finally, the colorways are also inspired by the photography and collection of mood images gathered. 


Do you have any early design memories that still inform your process?

As a young artist in grade school, I fondly remember creating inkblots. It was a simple exercise with grand, yet unknowing results. You never knew what you would make. The process of discovery was most intriguing. I like to borrow concepts from the inkblot technique with mirroring. I also rely on the fundamental design elements and principles of datum, scale, proportion, rhythm and movement. Quick sketches with or without colors are my favorite because I can quickly see if a design works or not. However, having fun and experimenting is the best, as it frees my mind from creating an ideally perfect work from the start. 


How long has the Paradiso Collection been in the works?

Jamie Stern and I first connected about collaborating on a rug collection in May 2022. At that time, I had one design, one concept, and a dream. Over more than a year, I developed a series of designs, renderings and colorways until we agreed upon the right collection. 


What drew you to natural fiber rugs?

Working in Jamaica as a resort designer, I became acquainted with handmade home goods and decor products sold by local artisans on the roadside and inside the properties I designed. I fell in love with intricately woven jute rugs with circular patterns arranged in a radial design. In addition, many palm varieties have husks, a natural woven raffia. It was significant to incorporate natural fibers in this collection to capture the essence of the overarching inspiration. 


Do you have a personal favorite rug from the collection?

All three of the rug designs can be my favorite depending on the colorway. Mira in the green colorway feels rich and luxurious. Laurel in the purple colorway makes me feel royal and it's been one of my favorite colors since childhood. Regardless of color, Palmetto captures my attention the most because the line work is so striking, yet simple. 


Did you encounter any unexpected obstacles or challenges during the design process?

Initially I wanted to work with some hand painting techniques as the primary medium, but I resolved to [work on] the computer for the sake of time, because it's easier to create designs and manipulate the color. Refining the direction and narrowing down the design options for the collection was a work in progress because there were some variances in our shared vision. Defining the colorways that embody Miami wavered as well. It was a think tank of sorts.

The initial concepts were brightly colored with a mixture of oranges, blues, greens and yellows. The colors felt primary and nautical. A few of the designs were a hit, but not the color. So, an additional design was added and more colorways were explored, reminiscent of bright Bahamian carnival costumes with feathers. Some of those colors weren't quite right either. After solidifying three designs, the overarching color scheme became more monochromatic with varying shades, while embracing rich jewel tones that still worked together to support the intention. The process overall was lengthy and required a lot of attention to detail. 


How do you hope the Paradiso Collection will be received?

Being the first focused tropical-inspired collection, I see these designs being admired for their modern style and bold use of color, opening doors to untapped design firms and industries who have yet to discover beautifully crafted rugs by Jamie Stern. Being a BIPOC designer, I am confident it will shed light on Miami's rich culture, community and beauty. I trust it will be found in large-scale hotel rooms, public lobbies and residences that share our love for modern tropical design. 


What is your dream design project?

My dream design project is to redesign an array of small boutique spaces like hotels, eateries and retail stores on a nationally syndicated show on a major network such as HGTV. I want to work with clients who are happy to embrace bold colors and patterns to create iconic spaces that draw the masses to experience its ambiance.  


Do you have a favorite hotel?

The SWEETShotel was the most unusual and best experience I have ever encountered. It's an Amsterdam hotel brand that has converted 28 iconic bridge houses into individual suites on the canal. Each one is uniquely different and all the drawbridges actively work without a lift operator. The one I stayed in is named Wiegburg. Bright blue winding stairs carried me to the top and sleeping inside the modern spaceship-like interior. [It] felt like living in a glass bubble above the busy city streets.  


Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities for food, culture, fun, and music. For a relaxing time, I steal away to Naples on the west coast of Florida to marvel at the breathtaking sunsets. 


Which interior designers currently inspire you?

I'm inspired by the career path of Shelia Bridges and her famous Harlem Toile wallpaper. I admire the tropical design style of Jungalow designer Justina Blakeney, and I'm enamored by the body of work and literary content of Aphrochic designers Jeanine Hayes and Bryan Mason, who intentionally educate and promote BIPOC representation and awareness within the design industry. 


See more from Kenzie Leon Perry's Paradiso Collection here.


Learn More

Topics: Carpet, Designer Collection

JSpecify4 logo

Jamie Stern Furniture, Carpet, Leather & Fabric blog JSpecify4 is a blog developed to educate, inform and inspire you. Educate? We stick with what we know and we know a lot about Furniture, Carpet, Leather & Fabric! Inform? Find out about everything from our newest product releases to industry news. Inspire? View our custom stories or see some of our latest installs for a creative boost.

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts