BY DAISY OLIVERA
It was the societal myopia of the mid-'60s that forced Bob Biederman to get a business degree instead of following his true passion into interior design. But despite the degree, the passion and the clients did find him.
Two recent clients are Miami Heat superstar Shaquille O'Neal and his wife, Shaunie.
''It's a magnificent property on Star Island,'' Biederman says of the home he is helping them decorate. 'The feel of the house is traditional, so we've been getting contemporary artwork and accessories to make the house more youthful. The first thing I did was hang all these fabulous family pictures of them, which made hanging pictures at 'eye level' have a whole new meaning,'' he says, smiling playfully. He also custom-made a sectional for the family/media room with an extra long chaise for the 7-foot-1-inch tall Shaq.
''I'm having a lot of fun with them, and they give me a lot of leeway to do what they hired me to do,'' he says.
Biederman's love for the creative profession surfaced as a child in Cleveland, yet that passion was shoved to the back burner, simmering through that pesky business degree and a stint as a furniture salesman.
''Growing up, I was exposed to gorgeous homes in Shaker Heights -- an elegant suburb in Cleveland -- and when I was about 14, I would go home and move furniture around in my mother's living room. She would tell me to stop doing it but then realized she liked it better,'' he recalls.
When he was going to college in the late '60s, interior design was not then considered a serious career.
Biederman married after graduation and within a year he and wife Joyce moved to Miami.
''We had been here on vacation and loved it. Cleveland was great except for the weather. It was always several different shades of gray,'' he says.
His wife had family in Miami. ''They owned a very nice furniture store, M. Stiller and Sons, near the Design District, which had a great following and I went to work for them, starting as a salesman.''
There he met Alice Tauber -- his wife's aunt -- a prominent interior designer, and she taught him the business. After four years with her and three at a commercial interior design firm, he realized he didn't like commercial work.
''I didn't get the satisfaction that I got dealing with people in their homes -- so I decided to go out on my own and worked from home with my wife managing the office,'' he says. ''That's also when we started a family.'' Sons Brandon and Hunter, now grown, have law degrees.
Biederman says he gets the most satisfaction from repeat clients, like the one from Miami who flew him on his private jet to Ohio to work on a project.
''I'm very much in tune to finding out about their personal lives. That helps me create an environment for them. And now I'm working with many of their children.''
''What I'm most proud of,'' he says, ''is that none of my jobs look the same.''
Biederman's versatility permits him to take on a historic 1920s home in Coral Gables and make it Palm Beach-glamorous with as much ease as creating a stark, contemporary, art gallery-style condo on Fisher Island.
''I've done five homes on Fisher, and each home looks entirely different, so you'd never know the same interior designer worked on it. The house needs to look like the client, not like the interior designer.''
And that business degree? 'One of my clients said to me, 'You're like a very fine businessman with wonderful taste' -- you know, that did come in handy after all.''