Growing up in a home full of architectural drawings, brick samples, floor plans, and construction models, Carmen Alcaraz Gomes couldn’t have imagined a life without design.
“Every aspect of design is part of my DNA,” she says. Family members who worked as engineers, developers, inventors, and creators armed Gomes with pencils and paper to express herself. Through her drawings—inspired by the surroundings in her family hometown of Porto Alegre, Brazil—she freely explored the childhood fantasyland of her mind.
“By age 6, I was developing Barbie doll outfits to sell at school along with my drawings,” she recalls. “By 18, I was giving free advice to my friends’ parents on how to decorate their homes.”
Gomes moved to the U.S. to study at Miami International University of Art & Design, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. After a seven-year stint at Ethan Allen—her first job out of college—Gomes opened Miami’s CG1 Design in 2012. The full-service interior design firm specializes in luxury residences, yachts, and commercial interiors, allowing Gomes to take her natural talents to the next level.
Her proficiency with languages (she’s fluent in English, Portuguese, and Spanish) means she can easily handle projects for international clients, both stateside and overseas. Three years ago, she remodeled a large capacity vessel in a Chinese shipyard; in 2019, she designed a house in Brazil. “Working abroad enriches the experience of any designer,” Gomes explains. “You need to learn the local architecture, design, and work ethic to be able to adapt to a new culture.”
Travel is a major influence for Gomes, who has discovered inspiration in each of the 40 countries she’s visited. She says she’s smitten with China’s opulent buildings; Japan’s simple-yet-elegant furnishings; Greece’s white palettes; Marrakech, Morocco’s oversized doors; and Tunisia’s mosaic floors. Then there’s Vienna, Austria, for its palatial luxury; Milan, Italy, for its functional design; and Colombia for a nearly endless treasure trove of art.
Beyond her travels, Gomes looks to other artists and design professionals to spark her own creativity: the work of early modernist Marc Chagall, what she calls the “craziness” of Pablo Picasso, the simplicity of Italian designers, and the lifelong influences of Brazilian and Mexican architects.
To bring these eclectic points of reference to life in the homes of her clients, Gomes says she scours museums, art galleries, books, and opera sets, and learns all she can about flowers, vegetation, and birds. Clients far and wide praise her unique vision. “Carmen has an inborn talent for design,” says client Erika Tanaka of Miami Beach. “She has a very creative mind that somehow makes all of our crazy ideas look normal and tasteful.”
Gomes’ keen eye, chic aesthetic, and design skills—from finishes, floor plans, and furnishings, to color schemes and customer service—have kept the projects coming. “Carmen knew how to illustrate our dreams and make our home design beautiful, natural, and functional,” says Pinecrest client Flavia Mendes.
While Gomes relishes working with clients to transform an idea into reality, one of her favorite projects has been designing the three-bedroom, five-bathroom vacation home she shares with husband Daniel Berrebi, the owner of Baja Ferries, in La Paz, Mexico.
Gomes and Berrebi weren’t the first outsiders to fall in love with this commercial port city in the Baja California Sur region of Mexico’s west coast. It’s the spot where author John Steinbeck set his 1947 novella, The Pearl, and it’s the current home of the famed Jacques Cousteau Observatory. More recently, it’s become a favorite yachting destination for the likes of Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg.
But it’s also the go-to place for this busy Miami-based power couple to get away from it all. “I agree fully with Commandant Cousteau that La Paz is the ‘aquarium of the world,’” Berrebi says. “That is why we built our dream house facing the Sea of Cortez.” Gomes agrees, admitting that her life in La Paz is far more leisurely than it is in Miami.
The home’s sleek white and stone exterior cuts a striking figure between the impossibly blue background of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez on one side, and the peaks of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range on the other. Cacti and assorted local succulents provide sustainable pops of green against the desert grounds.
Large windows let natural light pour into the 7,000-square-foot house. Gomes’ clean aesthetic allows La Paz’s organic beauty to speak for itself. Her design is cemented by bright white walls and boldly veined Calacatta marble floors, with accents of blue and gray dotted throughout in fabrics and furniture to complement the couple’s art collection. She consciously sourced a large number of items from Mexican artisans, while keeping the look contemporary. “I buy most marble, stone, art—all works are from Mexican or Brazilian painters—and some furniture and furnishings locally,” she says.
At least twice a week, the couple entertains guests in the uncluttered living room. But the room’s design works just as well for low-key downtime with family. A tufted Chester Moon gray sofa by Baxter Italia, a pair of tan leather chairs, and a marble coffee table sit atop a gray silk throw rug. These subdued, earthy hues and textures provide a calming counterpoint to a vibrant abstract canvas by Brazilian painter Jotape. Across the room, a custom 14-foot-long entertainment unit anchors a secondary seating area.
One of Gomes’ favorite spots is the indoor-outdoor dining room featuring floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a waterfront paradise and pool deck—perfect, she says, for regular visits from the couple’s combined six children or a variety of friends from around the world. Ten people can gather around the custom dining table, made of reclaimed wood with metal legs, from Artex Mexico, while seated on Inlab Mexico’s gray linen Nubia chairs with walnut legs. “We have guests who stay with us from Colombia, Israel, and Tahiti,” says Gomes. “We do big formal dinners and have music playing on the patio and all over the living spaces.”
An Italian Mimosa pendant chandelier made of frosted glass and metal adds a touch of romance to the dining area at night. “This room is so special,” says Gomes. “When the colors of the art blend with the view outside, it is breathtaking.”
The sophisticated, open-concept kitchen is Berrebi’s domain. “I am lucky that my husband cooks,” says Gomes. The couple sticks to a healthy, locally sourced diet, catching tuna and grouper in the nearby ocean, visiting the La Paz organic market for fruit and vegetables, and even growing strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers in their own garden. The niche-filled kitchen where Berrebi prepares meals and serves them buffet style is modern and spacious, with accents of wood and lacquer contrasting against the Calacatta counters and backsplash.
The home’s central architectural feature is a sweeping round stairway made of white drywall with white quartz steps. A large mural at the base of the stairs features the likeness of famed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, reimagined by Mexican artist Jorge Eloy. As you wind your way up the stairway, you come upon the colorful Beoperas de Avignon by Mexican painter Jazzamoart, who creates with music in mind. Reaching the top, you’re greeted by a playfully oversized pixel-inspired sculpture by Mexican artist Otto.
Inside the gracious owner’s suite, Gomes has arranged handmade Mexican wood furniture with lots of open space, so as not to overpower the room’s magnificent mountain-to-ocean views. The artwork over the bed is another musical-themed piece by Jazzamoart. “I wanted the room to be versatile, with blue art bringing the views of the sea inside,” says Gomes. A gray drift wool rug and a cool Barcelona chaise in black leather covered with a light throw offer a cozy indoor retreat. The generous balcony features a set of chaise lounges for private relaxation outdoors.
The ample owner’s suite bathroom repeats Gomes’ gray and black color scheme. Patterned Missoni rugs and towels add a layer of texture to the sparse space. “My husband and I love the large jacuzzi and open shower because we can enjoy the outdoor views while bathing,” she says.
Gomes views time spent gazing at the sea—and unwinding in La Paz—as a matter of professional and personal rejuvenation. “Water is life, and nature inspires me in everything I do,” she says. It’s just the kind of refreshment she needs to stay abreast of whatever design challenge may come her way next. “With the world changing faster than most can comprehend, I intend to stay one step ahead by constantly reinventing home design for my clients and my family.”
With her all-consuming passion for making things beautiful—whether in La Paz or other homes around the world—it’s clear that Gomes has found her true calling. “I don’t know of another profession I could have pursued other than design,” she says. “I love it.”