For more than 13 years, Joyce Owens and her team at Architecture Joyce Owens LLC | Studio AJO, a Florida-based architectural, interiors, and design firm, have been recognized for exceptional work and distinguished, modern designs and minimalist interiors. Committed to being an advocate for good design and serving clients’ needs, Studio AJO has become a recognized architectural practice in the community. In Florida, Studio AJO focuses on commercial community projects and island homes, emphasizing designing spaces and places that are both environmentally sensitive and culturally appropriate for their site. The firm currently has work in Florida, the UK, and Italy.
What inspires you about coastal and seaside living?
Who doesn’t love the water? Our projects tend to revolve around the views a property provides. Studio AJO clients love the beach and want waterfront views. In Florida, the challenge is creating stunning coastal residences while accommodating the climate and weather conditions. Studio AJO is true to Florida’s design and builds homes that are part of their environment and not fighting it (stylistically and structurally). We use big windows, lots of glass, and are fortunate enough to have opportunities to create fantastic residences on the beach. We also take advantage of our subtropical climates and have a strong focus on the vegetation we include in our projects.
How does this inspiration appear in your designs?
In Florida and especially along the coast, it is all about the shade. We must design to let the daylight inside the home but not the heat. Our goal is to make sure our residential designs have plenty of shade. The vegetation outside of the house helps create ideal living conditions inside. Ensuring we use plants to create shade for our residences creatively is essential. Clients move to the beach for all it has to offer, including the sea breezes. AJO Studio ensures their homes capture these with sea breezes. Cross-ventilation is essential and always top of mind when we are working with our clients. Our designs include lots of windows and doors to celebrate these sea breezes, but it also means we do not design residences so deep that the wind cannot blow through them. In some areas of the country, homes are designed to not see from front to back. Our designs have full sightlines, so the breezes can easily circulate through the house.
Please walk us through one of your favorite coastal residential designs.
We worked with a German client and his partner on a beautiful coastal home, Villa Captiva. Our clients had very European, minimalist taste. Their design was to have nothing extra, a minimalist beachfront house that was low maintenance. Their lot resides on a tight residential street where the houses are close together. From the street view, they wanted their home to fit in with the others in the neighborhood visually. We went with a modern, simple exterior that fits with the other island designs nearby. Low maintenance was another critical aspect of the house. They reside in the home a total of three months out of the year, so ensuring the home didn’t require upkeep between their three trips was important. Familiarity with the neighborhood allowed them to discover the beachfront property as they were already living a couple of streets over and had wanted to upgrade to beachfront property. Securing this lot led us to design a home with expansive waterfront views that could be accessed from multiple points. With WinDoor’s sliding glass doors, we were able to create easy access to the beach from the downstairs and expansive views from upstairs. My favorite WinDoor product is their Estate Entrance Door. We use this product a lot because no one else can give us the flexibility, hurricane-proof durability, and quality that the Estate Entrance Door provides.
What would an ideal client bring to the table if they were looking to work with you on a project?
The ideal client brings a wish list of what they need in a home. This list could include the number of bedrooms and bathrooms required or how they work in their kitchen. It is also helpful to know what a client may not need, such as a bathtub, because they never take baths. Photos of items that inspire a client are also useful. These images do not need to be of other homes but of places and spaces that inspire them and make them have positive emotions. A client once shared a photo, probably in Greece, in a grotto. The rocks had been painted a beautiful Greecian blue, and the light was flooding into the space. The feeling this photo evoked is what the client wanted in their residence. They needed their home to feel like this unique place. This type of client is ideal because they’re showing you what they need but asking you to design what they want.
What role has material advancement played in designing for coastal regions?
The need to protect ourselves from hurricanes has led to multiple advancements in building products. In the ’70s and ’80s, we were not building homes that were meant to last. We did not have the codes in place that demand a higher quality product, and the technology did not exist to build with improved outcomes. Now, we can create projects that will last much longer. We are always gaining a better understanding of heat and how it penetrates a home. New ways to keep a home cool while dehumidifying it are making them last longer. All of us are learning all the time, and continued advancements in materials will only lead to even better homes in the future.
What styles and/or trends do you see happening right now with residential design?
Slowly designs are becoming more modern. We are happy to see this trend as it aligns with the region and is more appropriate than building a traditional design. For a while, everything went Mediterranean, and it is not meant for a hot, humid climate.
In regards to color, everything went a bit beige (think beige on taupe on tan) for a while, and we are moving into more contemporary colors. We’re moving through that now, and things are more modern in bright, clean whites. Even clients who say they have traditional tastes are now becoming more interested in being led in different directions. They see what fits their environment from a visual standpoint and are leaning more towards this type of modern design. No matter what, one trend for beachfront living is taking advantage of ocean breezes. We are fortunate enough to live in paradise, and our goal is to help all our clients celebrate this by bringing in those soothing cross breezes and natural daylight.
More about Joyce Owens:
For nearly 30 years, Joyce Owens, FAIA has fearlessly pursued openness and clarity in her design concepts, inspiring those around her. She has been a leader in design, favoring contemporary design, and achieving impressive diversity in her work while exuding dedication to innovation, collaboration, debate and cooperative experience.
Joyce recently received the 2020 AIA (American Institute Architects) Florida Chapter, Medal of Honor Award for Design. The Medal of Honor for Design Award recognizes architects who, by the high quality and originality of their work, advance the value and public awareness of good architecture and provide inspiration to colleagues and others.
In Fall 2020, Joyce will be featured in the latest coffee table book published by Benton Buckley Books called “New View. A Curated Visual Gallery of Florida’s Finest Residential Architects.” This 14-page feature will exhibit Joyce’s latest project and two other architects on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “New View” will be found in your local Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.