In 2003, Marieanne Khoury-Vogt and her husband, Erik Vogt—having newly launched their firm Khoury-Vogt Architects—landed a big job in the Florida Panhandle. Nearly two decades later, they haven’t stopped working on it. As town architects for Alys Beach, the pair have helped design a community that appears plucked from the seaside cities along the Mediterranean—constructed out of white masonry and configured in intimate courtyards with a lush green landscape on one side and the turquoise Gulf of Mexico on the other. But the city planners have an even greater goal in mind: building a community that sustains its residents over a lifetime.
“You’re always going to find those people who want to live away from everything, but there are a lot of people who don’t want that,” Khoury-Vogt tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “They want to be part of a community and a larger neighborhood, where you get to know your neighbors, where you can age in place and you don’t have to be forced out.”
Over the years, the concept of building systems and processes that foster community has permeated the way Khoury-Vogt thinks about her firm, especially as it navigates its next era, with the addition of interior design services and projects beyond Alys Beach. Elsewhere in the episode, she shares why she’s not afraid to get stuck on the small details, and how she strengthens relationships within her firm, her community and the industry at large.
Crucial insight: As beautiful as Alys Beach is, Khoury-Vogt recognizes that attracting employees—especially to a site far from a major metropolitan area—can be a challenge. That’s where the importance of a positive company culture comes in. “We will walk into a room, and we share a lot. We share mistakes we’ve made. We share what has gone extraordinarily right. We solicit opinions and thoughts all the time,” she says. “It takes us time to find the perfect person to come and integrate into our team. We think of ourselves as a family, because we are remote from a lot of other things, so cultivating that sense has been really, really important to us.” Along with creating pathways for internal growth and connection, Khoury-Vogt has initiated strategies that allow the team to connect outside of Alys Beach (company retreats have ranged from Nashville to Reykjavík) and with community members in the industry.
Key quote: “If somebody’s coming to us and they want something in three or four months, we have to graciously point them toward somebody else. We always tell our clients, ‘We’re not going to be the fastest out there—we’re just not. We do spend a lot of time drawing and thinking and redrawing. It’s what makes KVA KVA.’”