History and Culture of Kovac Design Studio
Michael was born into an Air Force family in coastal Maine, and his extensive travels as a youngster included long stays in Okinawa, Japan. Early influences – aviation, aircraft, and exposure to non-Western cultures – would later subtly inform his work. Michael’s family eventually settled in Las Vegas, from whence he subsequently escaped to the saner confines of the USC School of Architecture on a Trustee Scholarship. Early in his career, Michael worked in the office of noted modernist Jerrold Lomax, before founding Kovac Architects (now Kovac Design Studio) in 1988; he soon earned a number of commissions for high end health clubs, commercial spaces, and detail-rich residences.
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Kovac Design Studio’s Process
Their projects are as unique as their clients. At the beginning of each project, they listen thoroughly to each client to understand their unique requirements. Believing that “a problem well-defined is half-way to being solved”, this allows Kovac to develop a nuanced program, which they further refine with the client to ensure that the end product is perfectly in tune with their way of life.
Their work is guided by principles, rather than by a preoccupation with a particular form or formula. They explore each site’s characteristics to better understand how they can be optimized, taking advantage of topography, views, sun angles, and prevailing breezes. Constraints become virtues. Their work is crafted to be warm and inviting, to maximize the potential of each material, to have a richness of detail, and to heighten the user’s experience. As their work progresses, multiple iterations of each design are developed and reviewed with the client.
They believe it is essential to understand materials and construction options fully in order to assist their clients in deciding where their budgets are most wisely invested. No stone is left unturned when developing details and preparing documents; research, digital modeling and mock-ups are all a part of the process.
4. BIDDING AND PROCUREMENT
In addition to producing documents, they advise clients on their selection of a qualified builder, and carefully review and compare bids for accuracy. Kovac understands the importance of comparing contractors and sub-contractors for their experience, the quality of their work, and their commitment to delivering projects on-time and on-budget. Beginning as early in the process as possible, they work closely with builders to ensure details are worked out in the most cost-effective fashion, and potential pitfalls are spotted. Finally, they draw on their experience to help locate the fabricators and suppliers necessary to achieve the aesthetic goals of the project.
Kovac’s design team remains actively engaged throughout construction. Though they endeavor to anticipate all situations in advance, their active involvement in the construction process allows us to proactively address unforeseen circumstances if they occur. They hold routine site meetings with the project team, and stay in close contact with both the on-site construction supervisor, their consultants, and the client. For geographically distant projects, site visits occur as often as schedule and budget will allow, and progress is monitored via webcam.
The only constant is change, and so their engagement after completion extends beyond merely responding to routine maintenance issues. Kovac understands that their client’s needs are dynamic, and that their buildings and spaces need to evolve with them. While they strive to build adaptable, flexible structures, technology, family dynamics, and stylistic attitudes change. If the need arises, Kovac looks forward to the opportunity to be involved.
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Kovac Design Studio Selected Projects
Pavilion House – Los Angeles
Deep in a secluded canyon above Los Angeles is a large property rich with native flora. The terrain rises from a seasonal stream at the canyon floor, steepening gradually until it becomes an inaccessible slope and disappears into a grove of oaks. On a sunny, nearly level pad in between, a glass and stone pavilion embraces the diverse topography, burrowing into the slope at one side, while cantilevering out over it at the other.
Conceived as a series of interlocking pavilions, programed for entertaining, service, and private living, the home’s palette of glass, water, and stone harmonizes with the surrounding landscape. The primary spaces are glazed and open generously to the outdoors, while the more private spaces are discrete and opaque, clad in locally sourced stone. Spaces for dining and gathering visually embrace the entirety of the site, while more intimate spaces enjoy carefully curated vistas.
Photos by Kovac Design Studio
One Over Two – Los Angeles
Situated on a flat double lot in West Los Angeles, this family home was inspired by South America’s vernacular modernism. The house can be completely opened to a courtyard at the front, and a large private yard, organized around a pool, to the rear. The openness of the lower level was required by the clients in order to accommodate largelarge gatherings. Private spaces on the second floor also enjoy a generous relationship with the outdoors, opening onto deep, covered balconies.
To facilitate clutter-free living in such open spaces, provision was made for generous storage areas on all three levels. Adjacent to the garage, an array of service spaces was designed to support the family’s love of water sports. For indoor recreation, the basement accommodates a media room, bar, and wine cellar.
The home’s openness allows for natural cross ventilation in individual spaces. Operable skylights and a retractable roof above the second floor meditation room encourage natural ‘stack effect’ ventilation, while an array of photovoltaic panels on the roof provide power.
Photos by Kovac Design Studio & Jeremy Bittermann
Madison Desert Club – La Quinta
Inspired by the concept of a boutique hotel, we sought to take maximum advantage of the dramatic landscape views and, through the home’s interior design, pay homage to the Golden Hollywood era of nearby Palm Springs. These factors along with the client’s love for entertaining and indoor/outdoor living served as driving forces behind the project’s articulation.
Upon arrival, one circles into the motor court and is greeted by a still dark water element that seems to rise from the ground, water shimmering down its sides. A commissioned Rogan Gregory sculpture will appear to hover just above the water, under an oculus that pierces through the home’s signature roof canopy floating above. The canopy, ideal for providing shade on hot desert days, connects the main living space to six surrounding casitas and casts an ever-changing pattern of shadow. Walking across the steps that bisect the water element, one enters the main living space and is immediately welcomed by a dramatic view of the surrounding mountains. The back of the house is composed of nearly frameless motorized glass doors that perfectly frame the landscape and retract to make the most of indoor/outdoor living when the pool or views beckon. Outside, Gloster sectionals, a fire pit, William Haines Malibu Chairs, and a bespoke Cremo Delicato marble dining table that seats twelve complete the outdoor living area.
Inside the home, the kitchen, great room, bar, and lounge are entirely open to one another, ideal for easy entertaining. A Tufty Time sectional by B&B Italia, Platner Easy Chairs by Knoll, and bespoke Armadillo rug furnish the great room and provide luxurious comfort to all who spend time in the main house. In the bar tucked behind is an intimate conversation area complete with four vintage Pierre Paulin Groovy Chairs. Metal architectural drapery surrounds the lounge and bar, its rings catching grazes of light that mimic the shadows of the overhang outside.
Photos by Kovac Design Studio & Roger Davies
Do not forget that we will be posting more work by Kovac Design Studio in the coming weeks and months, so keep an eye out for more of their incredible work!! Every Friday we will be posting a new Featured Company, so join us again next week!