Miami has Armani, Aston Martin, and Porsche. New York City has Baccarat. Dubai has Bvlgari. Now, Houston has Giorgetti.

The 120-year-old Italian furniture company broke ground this week on its first-ever branded condominium project in Upper Kirby. The seven-story boutique midrise is a collaboration between Giorgetti, Houston architecture and design firm Mirador Group, real estate firm Sudhoff Companies, and Georgia-based developer Stolz Partners...and it all started with a chair.

 l r  casa co owners jacob sudhoff and jerry hooker with giorgetti chair  photo credit michael hunter gbgqh3

Jacob Sudhoff and Jerry Hooker with Giorgetti's Progetti chair

That would be the Progetti, a handsome, contemporary wing chair Mirador Group principal Jerry Hooker purchased for his home with husband Jacob Sudhoff. Captivated by the chair, it didn’t take long for the couple to fall in love with its maker, Giorgetti, the Milan-based company behind bespoke, finely crafted products. Giorgetti is something of a legend in Italy, where it dominates the annual international furniture expo Salone. Overseas, it’s a household name in certain tax brackets—beloved by “the one percent of the one percent,” Sudhoff says, with customers like Oprah and the Sultan of Brunei—but largely unknown in Houston.

Add to that the fact that Houston is hardly a booming condo market, especially compared to other large cities, and it’s a valid question why Giorgetti would bank on a first-of-its-kind project of this scale in the Bayou City.

“It was 100 percent relationship-based,” says Hooker, who, with Sudhoff, is behind other luxury residential projects here like The Wilshire, Mandell Montrose, and The Sophie at Bayou Bend. “[Giorgetti] has wanted to do things like this before ... it was really a perfect marriage of us being introduced to them, and we happened to be in Houston.”

Pre-sales for the 32 units began in September 2016; by this week’s ground-breaking, it was more than half sold–an almost remarkable feat given this market’s widespread unfamiliarity with the brand. Developers produced detailed renderings (see slideshow above) but still found them incapable of fully communicating the vision for a Giorgetti lifestyle. So they started sending buyers to Milan.

“They come back and they’re like disciples,” says Stolz Partners founder Will Stolz.

Now, there’s an easier way to conceptualize the project—just across the street, in the store and showroom called CASA. Hooker and Sudhoff conceived of the retail outfit as a way to introduce luxury Italian furnishings to Houston, including some for the first time in the U.S. CASA is now a regional distributor for a handful of the exclusive brands, which allows for bulk buying at lower prices to bring a new level of luxury to the condo market.

CASA also serves “to show [Giorgetti Houston buyers] that it’s not just an armchair or just a bed or just the sheets or the mattress or the fabric on the wall—it literally is all of it,” Hooker says. “That creates a lifestyle.”

Giorgetti Houston prices begin at $1.4 million, and units range in size from 2,700 to 6,800 square feet for one of four penthouses. Giorgetti’s distinct aesthetic—contemporary yet time-honored, known for unusual shapes, modern features, and rich materials—will inform the environment of each residence, from sleek cabinetry to luxe lighting and top-notch finishes. Units will also feature 10- to 12-foot ceilings and balconies from 500 to 2,000 square feet. Then there’s the outdoor kitchens, al fresco dining, pet-living amenities (like artificial turf designed for dogs to do their business), a gym, and concierge service.

“We really tried to think, what were the objections to condominium living in the past, and how do we overcome those objections?” Sudhoff says, noting Giorgetti appeals to Houston’s empty-nester demographic—particularly those looking to downsize in space but not value, what Sudhoff calls “a flight to quality.”

It won’t take walking inside to see Giorgetti’s influence, though: The building’s façade is designed to mimic Giorgetti’s Origami cabinet, a sleek piece composed of wooden modules. And, using varying brick sizes and coursing, the exterior literally spells “Giorgetti” in binary code.

The project is set for occupancy next winter, but developers hope its legacy lasts long after they hand off the keys.

“Our goal with everything we’re doing is to bring Houston to that sophistication level so they appreciate the finer things—because people are wanting the finer things, but they need to understand what they are,” Sudhoff says. “It’s kind of like, how do you tell the difference between a Rolls Royce and a Chevy? People are looking for that quality and to have something they’ve never been able to have in their past, and we’re able to give that to them. Giorgetti Houston is the launch of a whole new level.”

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